The Almost Lost Culture With German Traffic Lights

The Almost Lost Culture With German Traffic Lights

Who is the Ampelmännchen?

Traffic lights are typically considered a functional aspect of everyday life. Green is go, red is stop. A glance at the color is all most give. Crossing streets in Germany instead provide a nostalgic ode to a former society. Ampelmännchen (German for "Little traffic light men") is a green man wearing a hat in full strut, found on pedestrian signals in the former East Germany sections.

West Germany and East Germany unified in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. Relief, jobs, peace- these were euphoric words to encapsulate a pivotal moment for both sides. In the name of unification, seemingly everything Western stayed and Eastern discredited, from currency to furniture.

For all of the good, locals felt dismayed to see their culture slip away and their homes seemed foreign. 40 years had separated the cultures and it was more than a wall dividing them. Fears and aches arose for the vanishing Eastern culture, known as Ostalgie, would be at the forefront.

On Oct. 13, 1961, designer Karl Peglau undertook a project in response to pedestrian deaths from confusion and visibility issues with traffic structures. Crossers followed the same lights as drivers. People found difficulty distinguishing the red, amber and green lights. From 1955 to 1960, there were 10,000 deaths recorded. Ampelmännchen would become the country's first pedestrian traffic light symbol. Production stages took tender care to mix functionality and charm.

Peglau sought to define the bodily features under the notion people could relate to someone they looked like, according to the official website for Ampelmännchen. The large size allowed more light to shine and give greater visibility in harsher weathers. Showing Ampelmännchen walking drew a quicker connection with the action commanded. Initially, he feared the stylistic attributes would make Ampelmännchen appear bourgeois and get rejected.

By 1969, Peglau’s green man would make his debut on Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, two major streets in East Berlin. Residents and media took an interest beyond traffic statistics. Beloved, the green man became a mainstream image and brand. He got acting credits through representation in the children's animated television show "The Sandman" and in coloring books.

However, in 1997, traffic lights were next for Westernization. Ampelmännchens were being replaced with the West's smaller, generic and simply styled man. This would be the last straw for East Germans.

Markus Heckhausen, a native to East Germany, found fond memories of Berlin's Mitte fading. Uneasy with the present, he sought to reconnect with the past through traffic lights. Before his eyes, his culture was disconnected, dismantled and left astray on sidewalks. Collecting the glass on Rosenthaler Platz, Heckhausen created a gallery with the Ampelmännchen symbol prevalent. German press took notice and articles covered the story.

Hearing of the passion and artistic revival, Peglau reached out to Heckhausen for coffee. The two would strategize how to save the remaining Ampelmännchen and ultimately form a lifelong friendship.

Rescue the Ampelmännchen! was a committee dedicated to the cause. Lobbying right to the traffic minister, this was something a generation could get behind. Under public pressure, Ampelmännchen's survival was singled via the removals halted.

He has been used as inspiration throughout other German areas. As recently as July 2017, southern German city Augsburg unveiled a puppet-themed crossing figure to celebrate their theatre history. Residents in other parts regularly suggest personalised and themed symbols too.

Now a cult icon, Ampelmännchen went from being nearly extinct to fame beyond sidewalks. Outside of Berlin, you can see him internationally parading on shelves as a mug or key chain.

Cover Image Credit: Ibokel / Pixabay

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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Stop Trying To Make Life So Black And White

Consider that you being right doesn't make someone else wrong by default—and vice versa.


Life isn't black and white.

Perhaps that sounds like an obvious statement, but nonetheless, it still needs to be said.

Furthermore, life isn't just one giant grey area—it's several shades. There are so many twists and turns, so many unknowns and layers, that it's impossible for something to be 100 percent one way or the other.

At least, that's how my mind works.

It's difficult for me to stand stubbornly behind my own viewpoints without first listening to someone else's. For me, looking at things from their perspective is second nature. I could be spitting angry at someone, but I can't walk away from them because their perspective is glaring me in the face.

"Yes, what they did was wrong, but I get why they did it," is a line often uttered. This stance, of course, has its drawbacks. It has kept me in toxic situations far longer than it should have. It has allowed all sorts of people to walk over me like a common doormat. It has built up resentment in me for not having my efforts reciprocated.

It has also opened my eyes.

Democrat, Republican, Christian, Atheist, Religious, or Non-Secular—let's find common ground. Let's understand each other because, at the end of the day, we're all human. We all want to be loved and understood.

Maybe the first step is hearing each other. No, I don't mean listening until you can rebut, I mean really hear them. We all have our worldviews for a reason.

Why do you think the way you do? Probably because of how you were raised. Probably because experiences molded your mind and opinions.

We all have different walks of life. We each grew up differently than the other, so it's only natural that we should view the world through different lenses than our neighbor.

Next time, before you pass judgment on another person, consider the fact that maybe they aren't wrong. Also, consider that you being right doesn't make them wrong by default—and vice versa. Life is too layered for us to be right or wrong. Two people can be saying different things and both provide valid points.

Life isn't black and white, it's high time we stopped trying to make it that way. Besides, a picture is infinitely more interesting when it's shaded in and has more variety.

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