Do you know Bartmann?
The Australian teacher has become a Tiktok sensation in Berlin with a mix of accented German and cringe.
Berlin-You may not know Bartmann, but your kids do.
Bartmann – officially Bartmann1 – is the Tiktok persona of Brant, a 28-year-old Australian who’s been teaching at a Berlin international school since 2017 and has become a sensation on the Chinese social media site.
He has gathered over 1 million followers on his German-speaking channel through a mix of his charming Australo-German and goofy jokes that many adults might find cringe-worthy but speak to Tiktok’s heavily Gen Z users.
“I like to make kids laugh. I like to see them happy,” says Brant, who teaches English, social learning and physical education at the primary school. He first downloaded the app in November 2018 after he heard kids talking about it and took it a bit more seriously when one of his students questioned whether the native of New Castle, 117 kilometres north of Sydney, could ever be a success.
“I’m just having a good time,” he says.
By now, Tiktok is a household word. It was the most popular Android app in June in Germany with 1 million downloads, according to Statista. The app allows users to create videos up to one-minute long with content that is as diverse as its users – originally it was for mimicking dances and songs but has now grown into almost every kind of mostly family friendly content from humorous producers such as Brant to traditional vlogs and even educational content straight from experts.
In February the app had 5.5 million users in Germany alone and over 100 million in Europe, according to media trade publication Horizont. Some 69 per cent of its global users are between 13 and 24, according to figures leaked to Ad Age. Although the figures are from the end of the year, it’s unlikely the app has seen a major demographic shift since.
That demographic is perfect for Brant’s sense of humour.
He at first posted English content and found little approval but discovered his numbers climbing when he switched to German. He then started doing song covers.
“It really blew up for me when I started singing German songs,” he says. Now Brant has an agent and is working on a book that could help his fans learn English. He’s looking to make the jump from social media to TV and is already co-moderating an English-language Berlin Tiktok with state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (@dw_berlinfresh) where he, for example, sampled Sauerkraut at the Hofbräuhaus in Mitte.
Brant admits that Bartmann is a character – a character who is “always at 100 per cent” energy, because it’s what kids respond to best. But he chalks his success up to his ability to speak the local tongue.
Unlike a lot of foreigners stopping by Berlin for a few years, Brant learned German. He used Duolingo and recommends reading a German book for at least 15 minutes every day – like any language learner, he started with kids books and worked his way up.
Hat jemand ein spar Flugzeug für mich? ✈️🙃##bartmann1 ##bartgang♬ original sound - Bartmann
“I didn’t know anything about Germany. I knew about Oktoberfest and beer. I didn’t know a word of German,” he says.
He first fell in love with Berlin in 2015 during a two-month caravan trip around Europe where he says he even learned to love the weather. He then moved here in 2017 thinking he would stay for just a year. His tenure is now likely to be significantly longer.
He’s asked that we not use his last name nor mention the school where he teaches because administrators there only tolerate his side-hustle, when they could be leveraging his online expertise to teach students about the benefits and pitfalls of social media.
But he lends his experience – and reach – to a Tiktok club at the Campus Efeuweg school in Neukölln where teacher Robin Grimm (@herrgrimm) also has a 603,000-strong following. The pair offer students an afternoon Tiktok club.
Brant may be at a crucial turning point. In addition to the book and Deutsche Welle work, he recently moved in with fellow influencer Cedi Solms (1.5 million followers) as part of a social media phenomenon where influencers live together to boost their output. Brant says they have an extra room to film videos.
“I wake up at 5.30 or 6 every day and do two videos,” he says. He has several more in reserve on his phone to ensure he keeps his feed lively.
At this pace, it may soon be a lot more than just German kids who know who Bartmann is.