a regular table

I’ve been learning German for decades, at first because I was a young woman who’d been raised in small towns in the southern U.S. and fancied a more European lifestyle, and because I loved language and languages. Then because I was in love with a German man. And now because I’m in Germany for a while. Through it all has woven the idea of the Stammtisch (pronounced SCHTAHM-tish) or regulars’ table.

At its most basic, a Stammtisch is a table in a restaurant, pub, or café that’s reserved for a group’s regularly scheduled meetings. If you see a table here in Germany with a sign on it that says “RESERVIERT” (reserved) – especially a table in a choice spot – it might be reserved for an upcoming Stammtisch.

My husband’s local translators’ Stammtisch meets on the first Tuesday of every month in the same pub. I go to a women’s Stammtisch once a week in a café, just to chat and catch up on each other’s lives. We also know of Stammtische (that’s the plural) for playing cards (particularly Skat, a wickedly challenging German card game), practicing German conversational skills, and drinking after church on Sundays (yep, I’m serious) – any reason for metting regularly at a table is fair game.

If the idea appeals to you, start a Stammtisch of your own. Pick a theme, a frequency, and a location, then invite the people you’d like to join you. You could ask the proprietor at the place where you want to meet if your table could be reserved for your regular get-together. It’s to their benefit, as your Stammtisch will bring in regular income. Pick a good table! If all goes well (and why wouldn’t it?), you’ll be creating great memories at that table.

Here are some Stammtisch ideas and options to get you going:

  • Writers – do free writing together; assign each other free writing topics; read aloud and comment on each others’ work; play with language in each others’ company; write on your own projects, with or without sharing what you’ve written; co-write something; do writing exercises together; write letters to send through the post; do mail art to send through the post; write poems; or any of lots of other writing-related variations.
  • Readers – share great things you’ve read since the last time you met, read aloud to each other, talk about favourite things you’ve read (or movies you’ve seen), share lists of books, recommend great writing to each other, have a book club meeting, or just sit together and read quietly to yourselves.
  • Friends – shoot the breeze, catch up on each others’ lives, stay in touch, get to know acquaintances better, share about common interests, help solve each others’ problems, depend on a regular injection of support in your life, just hang out.
  • Parents – meet with or without the kids; if with the kids, choose a table at a playground; share a babysitter so you can get away for a while; have some grown-up conversations, even if the kids are nearby; offer and receive support and listening ears and helpful ideas.
  • Colleagues – from the same company, from different companies but doing the same kind of work, get to know each other better, talk about work, talk about things that are NOT about work, build relationships that go beyond work, take a break from the work environment.
  • Entrepreneurs – share business solutions and resources, network, unload, fire each other up, brainstorm, pat each other on the back, toast successes.
  • Planners – talk and share about big or ongoing projects, like building or renovating a home, planning a wedding, organizing a big business event, filling out university applications, etc.
  • Players – cards, chess, board games, word games, colouring books, or any other amusing activity done just for the fun of it.

In this digital era, having contact with actual human beings in real time is a boon and a comfort. If you start or join a Stammtisch, I hope you find, as I have, that you can count on its blessings.

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(Thanks to my dear pal Andrea Ballard for suggesting this article during one of our regular phone calls, which are not quite a Stammtisch, but also not quite not.)

Related reading: collaboration vibration, notice what you notice

4 comments to a regular table

  • As you know I love this idea! I especially like the suggestion of the parent’s table being at a park. I always see lots of empty picnic tables and it makes me sad! And that would solve the noise problem Meredith mentions :-)
    This also takes away the potential stress of having people in your home, if the cleaning, cooking and serving you might have to do is not something you look forward too.
    I am off to investigate the ‘drinking after church’ idea…

  • I saw the stammtisch idea in action at a local natural-foods restaurant (sadly, now defunct) when I lived in Acton, Mass. It was of the parents-variety, and seemed like a great idea for both the participants and the restaurant, which had a child-centered area the parents could watch from their table. In general, I think it can get too noisy, either for participants or for neighboring tables. So, the actual restaurant selected needs to be picked with that concern in mind. Love the idea!