Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My son is NOT a rat!

I was doing a few errands yesterday and happened to be in an arkadan (mall) because right now that is the closest place I can get cash without a fee from an ATM. (Americans continue reading-Germany rarely uses credit cards so you need lots of cash)

My 2 year old was doing his 2 year old thing which consists of him running around directly in front of me. Some teenage girls were doing their German thing which is NEVER GETTING OUT OF THE WAY!!!

Of course, I couldn't get him out the way fast enough and the girls had to make a quick move to the right and they called him a Ratte (or rat). Ohhh... the horror of having to move 1 step to the right!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now my son is a lot of things but definitely not a rat. Unless it is this rat. I like this rat.
Seriously, I do not get this German culture thing of never getting out of anyone's way. How do Germans know what to do if no one ever gets out of the way? Do you know how many times I have gotten the stink eye and mostly because of my 2 year old son??? HE IS ONLY 2 PEOPLE!!! Of course he is going to get in people's way. That is what 2 year olds are good at!

sigh...maybe not knowing German is better! I would have never known what they said otherwise. I also wonder if they would have said that to a native German or if they even knew at all I was an Auslaender. I obviously speak mostly English to him but I can't be sure if they heard me.

I do understand the importance of controlling your child and believe me, we try to be good parents and keep him reined in as much as we can. When he doesn't want to be carried and throws a fit when he is in a stroller, what can you do? In fact, I was chided in Seattle once for telling him to be quiet in a grocery store. This crazy lady told me I should let children express themselves!

And the other thing-no one ever says "excuse me" or "sorry for stepping on your feet and pushing your child but I have to get on the subway."

I understand there are some cultural differences but this seems like it should be a human common sense of simply acknowledging that one has invaded another's space either intentionally or not.

Enough ranting. I swear I didn't take it personally. :)


Tessa Enright said...

yeah, it can be really frustrating sometimes how unfriendly people are.

i keep trying to tell myself it's culture, and i'm not just stuck in a foreign land full of big meanies.

G in Berlin said...

I was bringing my older daughter to school after a Dr's visit, on the S-bahn. I was holding her hot chocolate, to be safe, when we exited the S-bahn. A woman hit me, hit R, and the chocolte went all over us. She couldn't let us exit the train without shoing her way in, and this at 11:30, long out of rush hour. I just looked at her and was so glad that she was covered with tepid choclate. I explained to R that Germans were rude and pushy and didn't know how to apologize in a very loud voice as we left the train (she was ok- I was soaked too).

C N Heidelberg said...

I too wonder why they don't have the courtesy to share sidewalks well. It's been a constant annoyance over the last two years, but I have come to see it as normal.

You should move to the South; there are children everywhere and they are never reined in. I was surprised when I moved here at how much parents let their kids just run around on their own - in the US everyone worries about them getting snatched or into some kind of trouble. Here they are often unsupervised. So letting your son run around ahead of you would be seen as totally normal!

Kristin said...

Yelli don't take it personal, everywhere you go in Europe you will run into this situation. I learned do NOT make eye contact. I had a Danish girl once tell me she "doesn't understand the American culture, why would we apolize when we are 5 feet away?"

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that "Ratte" is not as bad in German as it sounds in English. For example, when children enjoy being in the water people refer to them as "Wasserratten" and it is quite a term of endearment. Maybe similar to monkey in English. I hear people refer to their toddlers as "little monkeys" all the time in the US. I doubt that German parents would be too thrilled if you called their kid an "Affe" as it has a very negative meaning in Germany. Though those teenagers probably weren't trying to be nice, I'm sure they didn't mean the insult that you felt.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Yes, I agree with CN...the south is much more tolerant of children. You'll get run over by kids in the city center here.

Now, as far as the rude thing...well, that's pretty much the norm and you just have to learn to live with it. You will have to loosen the American ideals of courtesy a bit...they shove, you shove...otherwise they will mow you over :)

G in Berlin said...

It's not correct, acto my German husband- Ratte is a nasty word. Not leseratte,not wasserratte, but Ratte. And if someone called my kid an ape in the US I'd be pissed too.

Anonymous said...

To G:
People might have different opinions about "Ratte". I guess context counts. I'm German (and American) myself and I definitely can remember kids sometimes being affectionately greeted with "Ihr kleinen Ratten". Where do you think Wasserratte and Leseratte, both absolutely positive terms, come from? Why would they be positive, if Ratte itself is such a horrible word? Sure, with the right tone of voice and intention it can be very negative, but that holds true for a lot of things. "Kleiner Wurm" is a common term in Germany for a small baby, but "a little worm" sounds pretty horrid, doesn't it? As far as "monkey" goes, I always thought it was really quite cute when my friend called his sons that. I hear it often on the playground from other parents. But maybe that has something to do with the jungle gym. I stand by what I said before. Ratte does not always equal rat. It's just simply not the same insult.

Yelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yelli said...

(I deleted the 1st post because I thought I could edit the spelling errors but evidently that is not how Blogger works!!!)

@ Tessa & Caff cwgrl- You are right. I have read that it isn't rude for Germans to act sometimes what we Americans perceive as rude! Watch out Germany- My stroller is now a battering ram! When in Rome...

@CN- I love the south. I lived there in a small town outside of Muenchen when I was 17 and I would go back in a heartbeat. However, the job offer for the Mann was in Berlin! We will be sure to visit often though...and let my little guy run wild! :)

@K - I think this just illustrates some people are kind and some are rude no matter what nationality you are from.

@Anon & G - to make matters more confusing -one of our German friends suggested they also said "Recker" (sp?)which is a kind of affectionate term meaning something like little rascal. Who knows? From the context, body language and tone, it sounded pretty negative. But then again, I just moved here and don't have perfect German yet! Que Sera, Sera...I will have to listen more closely next time.

@ G -well at least it was chocolate you were covered in! I can think of worse things to have on me! Your story has happened to me many times - the chocolate

Carol said...

...and YOUR blog makes me "homesick" for Germany! So we're even! Glad to have found you; I plan to continue reading! :-)