Blogging about Country Life Notes from the German Provinces
Sheep, birdsong and the price of milk – more and more thematic blogs are addressing what life is like outside the big cities. Stories on the Internet about life out in the country are also very much in line with media trends.
“Idyllic village with 361 residents. Chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs. Growing my own potatoes, counting beans. Transport connections – none.” This is how Friederike Kroitzsch describes the everyday life she leads in the Odenwald hills on her blog called Landlebenblog (country life blog). She is a journalist who grew up in Berlin, Germany's largest metropolis. Some time ago, she moved to a small community in this highland region in the South-West of Germany. She likes living there, but sometimes she gets an attack of “provincialitis”.
Friederike Kroitzsch decided to do something about it by writing about it – a blog as a form of self-therapy. “I didn’t think anybody would be interested,” she says. But every day hundreds of people read her stories about life in the German provinces. “I have now realised that the contrast between city and country life is a big issue for many people.”
With her blog Friederike Kroitzsch is deliberately swimming against the tide. “Many bloggers are urbanites who tell each other how great life is in the big city.” On Landlebenblog.org she does not want to prettify anything, but actually tell it like it is. “I find it is important to understand how the price of butter comes about, or where the milk comes from.”
Tweets somewhere between romance and everyday routineHonesty, however, also makes people vulnerable. Sven de Vries is a shepherd and tweets using the username @schafzwitschern. He also wants to be authentic and show both the romantic side of pastoral life as well as everyday life. One of the topics he deals with is, in fact, slaughtering. On the web he is forever being attacked for this by vegans and vegetarians. “For a long time I was a vegetarian myself and I actually think the vegan lifestyle is basically a good thing,” said de Vries. But his sheep are farmed animals – livestock. He might well call them “my girls" in his tweets, but they do in fact secure his livelihood at the same time. What he wants to show in his posts is “that you can keep livestock and at the same time still have a heart.”
To his surprise his Twitter channel is extremely successful, its fan base is growing steadily. It already has almost 6,000 followers. Sven de Vries has made a name for himself. In 2016 he was nominated for the Grimme Online Award. This was a great honour for me, he posted on Twitter. His goal is eventually to use crowdfunding to promote the more humane “soft” slaughtering of animals out in the field. That would save the sheep from the stress of being transported and would thus be more animal-friendly. To do this, however, de Vries would have to invest in expensive equipment. “I have actually had a few letters from vegetarians and vegans who would like to support me financially," he says. And meanwhile he has started to tweet combative GIFs.
Videos about the forestGermany consists largely of small towns and villages – no wonder then that life outside the big cities has also found its niche in the media landscape. Lifestyle magazines like LandLust or Landzauber have successfully gained a firm foothold on the magazine market. The longing to be in close touch with nature and lead a seemingly unspoilt life can, as we can see, also be exploited profitably.
“I often get inquiries from companies abroad who want to make some money on my Youtube channel,” says Volker Schmidt. On his channel, Adventure Hinterland, he posts homemade video clips in which he takes the users on a trip through the countryside of the state of Hesse. The clips are complemented by a voice-over and usually underscored with music he composed himself.
Volker Schmidt, however, is not out to make money with his blog. He simply wants his audience to experience the beauty of Mother Nature, especially that of the German forest. “It was always my dream to live in the country.” His latest idea is to produce videos of the forest without any comments or music, the only things to be heard are to be the original sounds of the forest. The voice of Mother Nature should speak for itself. This not only appeals to native German audiences, “I now even have a fan in Pennsylvania who comments on my videos.”
No way, however, can Volker Schmidt compete with the retrieval figures of the big YouTube stars – nor does he want to. It is all a little too commercially oriented for his liking and much too superficial. “There are some videos on YouTube showing how somebody makes a slice of toast in the morning and they get millions of clicks.” Interchangeable “content for the masses” is out of the question for him. This self-image is something he has in common with Friederike Kroitzsch and Sven de Vries. With their themed blogs they want to get their own message across, to contribute to the formation of public opinion - and, of course, to entertain people.
Discuss with us
What is blogged in your home country about rural life? Are such posts realistic or are they more sentimental Mother Nature kitsch?