Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's Up Germany Wednesday

I am a Midwest girl. I like to talk to my servers in restaurants. I smile at people walking down the street and give the friendly nod of the head. I have even been known to say "Excuse me" when someone else bumped into me...

I moved to the west coast after university and even lived through the Seattle Freeze and found friends regardless of their polite but distant attitudes. But Berliner Schnauze is getting me down! (Berliner Schnauze = Berlin Snout)

What is Berliner Schnauze you might ask? Berliners rarely say excuse me when they knock you or your small child over. Getting on and off slightly crowded trains is a free-for all of elbows and legs. Cutting in line is not only an acceptable pratice but their glint in their eye as they order before you tells you that this was no accident. Snooker also does a great job of describing it here.

So far this week, I have been cussed out (in German) for:
  1. getting on my bike too close to the actual sidewalk forcing an old lady to take ONE extra step around me
  2. stepping off the train too slowly (really-It was quite quick but I waited until the train actually stopped)
  3. Slowly pedaling my bicycle on the sidewalk where I live because my building was right there (Normally, one should ride in the bike lanes but the sidewalk was almost empty and I had to get to my building somehow!)
  4. Someone thought that Baby Bird's hat was too far down on his head and he couldn't see. (Pick your battles with toddlers folks-he wanted it like that!)
It is just the general attitude of all who live here. I think I almost caused the supermarket cashier to faint when I made small talk and said "I hope it doesn't rain!" (again, in German). The horror! She mumbled something to me awkwardly. I won't make that mistake again!

You may be chalking this up to the fact that I am still a relative newbie to expat life here in Berlin but I have evidence! Here is an article about a €200,000 campaign to teach Berliners to smile in German and in English. (This is conveniently timed to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall)

Will it work? I am skeptical considering that while in Paris and someone bumped into me, they said "Pardon." Pardon??? I tapped the Scientist.

Me: "Someone just bumped into me and said Pardon"
Scientist: Really??
Me: Pardon means excuse me in French right?

There you have it folks. Parisianers are FRIENDLIER than Berliners!

Die Welt, a national newspaper, wrote: “The campaign is of course doomed to fail. It’s easier to milk an ox than to convert Berliners.”

Yet somehow, I have learned to love this adopted city of mine. Schnauze and all....


Jane said...

Hello - I've being doing a blog follower catch up today and found myself browsing your lovely blog.

When Husband and I toured on Riverdance, we spent loads of time in Germany and found that if you crossed a road that had a red light showing - even if there was NO traffic, it was 2am and the nearest car was in Belgium, other Germans would glare at you! Also all the food has to be served with three pints of cream and six pounds of potatoes. Didn't bother me but Husband being a New Yorker was always worried about his cholesterol!

In general though the people were lovely - except in Munich. The black guys in the show had to have bodyguards - they had so much racist abuse.

Sherry said...

Wow! That would be really hard for me.

Blopper said...

From here in Bavaria, I have to say it is the same way. There is no "excuse me" if you get bumped into and people will barrel right by. So it's not just Berlin.

Snooker said...

I like to think of the Berliner Schnauze just like the Berlin weather... without the crappy attitudes of most of the people here in Berlin, would we really appreciate the mostly wonderful attitudes of the folks in the States?

J said...

It's not just Berlin, it's the whole country.

Re: the article, I posted it last month as a follow-up to a similar program in 2006 before the World Cup. I guess Berliners needed another reminder.

kwallocha said...

Totally agree with this post. For the past 3 1/2 weeks I had the pleasure to experience my former home town's people and their behaviour again. I have to say, I don't miss them at all. The second day I wished I would be back 'home' in Arkansas again. Smiling faces, polite people etc. Sorry, folks I won't live in Berlin, Germany again anytime soon.