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German tradition: The Abitur – More than just taking annoying examinations (pt. 1) Posted by on Nov 28, 2011 in Culture, Folklore, People, School, Traditions

I’m quite sure that you cover the topic “German school system” at an early stage when you learn German as a foreign language in school. Thus, you may already know that the Abitur is the secondary school leaving examination in Germany, which allows you to apply for university. But I’m not sure if any of your textbooks discuss what German students do apart from learning and preparing for the upcoming tests. Thus, I’d like to give you an insight into what was, is, and will always be the most fun thing for German students to take the Abitur.


Students usually don’t like to sit tests, and German students traditionally do partially wreak revenge for that on their teachers when they take the Abitur, of which the short form is Abi. The German Abitur contains several traditional customs like: Abifez (= a festival procession), Abistreich (lit. Abi-prank), Abizeitung (lit. Abi-paper), Abi T-shirts, Abiball (prom night), and Abifahrt (final trip).


The Abifez and Abistreich

The Abifez is a during-the-schoolday-party and also contains the so-called Abistreich (Abi-prank). It usually takes place after the last day of examination. And it is nothing else than simply going wild. Our Abifez was May 16th. Traditionally, students form a motorcade on that day and go hooking at walking pace through the city, stopping at other schools, entering them and making a lot of noise with rattles and whistles. To come rushing into school buildings is, of course, not legal but most teachers and principals keep cool. My schoolfellows and I, for example, were requested to leave one of the buildings we had entered and we had been threatened that they would had called the police if we hadn’t obeyed.

Additionally, students usually stick a particular creative and funny saying or motto on the back window of their cars, e.g. “ABIgasmus – 13 Jahre bis zum Höhepunkt” (ABIgasm – 13 years to the climax) – allusion to sex, orgasm, and the long time of going to school for thirteen years; ABIsutra – Jetzt geht’s auf Stellungssuche (ABIsutra – Now we are looking for positions) – allusion to sex positions, Kama Sutra, and vacant position on the job market; ABIlieve I can fly; ABIlity for life, etc.

The Abifez also contains a particular program that is performed in the assembly hall of the school. We, for example, established some fun categories for awarding teachers and ‘forced’ them to take part in games in which they had to improvise and showcase their knowledge.

The Abistreich is a part of the Abifez. What exactly students do depends on their creativeness. My schoolfellows and I papered the whole smoker teachers’ lounge with cigarette packets and filled the non-smoker teachers’ lounge with 3000 balloons. This took, of course, a lot of time, therefore, we camped in the schoolyard and prepared everything during the night before the actual Abifez. But we also did some nice thing. For example, we prepared a breakfast bazaar where teachers and other students could buy sandwiches, coffee, and juice. And we additionally, set up some bounce houses in the sports hall.

To be continued…



das Abitur = German school leaving examination

der Abifez = festival procession

der Abi-Streich – Abi prank

die Abi-Zeitung – Abi (news)paper (comparable to a year book)

der Abiball – prom night

die Abi-Fahrt – the final trip that graduates take together

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


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