Until a month ago, I'd never been to Germany before. And, until a few hours ago, I'd never been to a football fan park. Before I arrived in Deutschland, I'll admit I'd been warned: "Their food is horrible, and they're quite uptight," said a colleague, who visited Germany eons ago.
A relative, who visited more recently, advised me: "Don't smile at someone unless they smile at you - there's no knowing whether they'll actually smile back." So, when I arrived in Germany, I had a big bag of stereotypes (most of which I took with a pinch of salt) to accompany my nearly-overweight luggage.
Turns out the food isn't that bad. And as for being uptight: if yesterday's celebrations at the Berlin Fan Mile are anything to go by, Germans could rival an African party any day. I've never experienced anything like it. The party got started way before the game. People walking to the Fan Mile waved their flags in the middle of the street and drivers hooted and screamed, "Deutschland!" to passing pedestrians.
Surprisingly (and I mean that in the worst way possible), a bunch of hooligans set off firecracker-like devices in the Potsdamer Platz underground station. Believe me, that wouldn't happen even in South Africa - some old "mama" would probably warn them to quit it after the first cracker, and if they knew what was good for them, they'd listen.
As I and a Zimbabwean colleague joined the buzzing crowd at the Fan Mile, the excitement was tangible. People smiled (there goes another stereotype), laughed and cheered their hearts out. One man even asked me to sign his t-shirt, saying he was getting married soon. Everyone seemed to show us the same hospitality the showed any other German supporter. Although, I can't say it was the same for people wearing Argentina jerseys. It could be that they were just drunk, but - with the exception of the World Cup Final Draw in Cape Town in December - I've never seen so much energy in my life.
"These Germans are crazy," my colleague said to me, claiming he'd just witnessed a couple being caught by a policeman while fooling around in the bushes alongside the Fan Mile. I couldn't help but laugh. Evidently I'd been grossly ill-advised by my friends back home.
We - my colleague and I - were two of the very few people who'd dared to go without Germany's colours: red, black, gold and white. I probably looked like a big black blotch on a white carpet, but no-one seemed to care. They treated us with the same friendliness they'd treated the guys dressed from head to toe in in Germany's colours, as if they may as well have wrapped themselves up in the German flag.
I couldn't help but get swept up in the excitement, cheering as Germany scored their third and fourth goal against Argentina.
The atmosphere was infectious - German supporters cheered as if Thomas Müller were scoring right there before their eyes, cringed as Argentina moved towards the goal post and burst out into song at the most random of times. Of course, with my knowledge of the German language limited to about 20 words, I just clapped along.
I felt like I was finally getting a piece of the World Cup. Yet, at the same time, I couldn't help but feel that I was missing out on an even better experience. There I was, a South African, watching on a big screen television as Germany clobbered Argentina in my hometown, Cape Town. It seemed everyone was there - Angela Merkel, Michael Ballack, Charlize Theron, Jacob Zuma and even Leonardo DiCaprio. But I was almost 10.000 kilometres away.