Monday, May 17, 2010

An Open Letter to the Residents of Berlin

Dear Berliners,

I have lived here for almost 2 years now and have come to love this adopted city of mine. I have even come to accept and find somewhat endearing the Berliner Schnauze. What would I do if my cashier at the grocery store didn't find something wrong with what I did and holler at me? (Note to Germans reading this blog: cashiers in Berlin don't differentiate among foreigners or Germans - be prepared)

However, you and I need to have a serious talk. I rode on public transportation a total of about 6 times this past weekend. Public Transport happened to be crowded. Do you realize that not a single person offered their seat to a woman who is 9 months pregnant?

In fact, during my whole pregnancy, I can only think of 2 times when someone offered me their seat when trains/bus/trams were crowded. (and to be honest, I suspect these 2 people were not Berliners from their German accent)

I don't think I am asking too much. I don't usually have a sense of entitlement but it is REALLY uncomfortable to travel standing up at this point not to mention possibly dangerous when the train/bus/trams slam to a stop occasionally. My balance isn't what it used to be.

And to think, you even act surprised when data suggests that your population is decreasing, even more so than most EU countries? If that is how you treat people in your capital city, I am not at all surprised.

Come on, it is not as if I don't appear pregnant!


So, do us a favor.

GET THE *&%^# OFF OF YOUR SEATS WHEN YOU SEE A PREGNANT LADY!!!

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Yelli

UPDATE: An article from the BBC on why people don't give up their seats for pregnant women - they can't tell if they are pregnant or just plain overweight. {{shakes head}} Don't read the comments unless you want you be even more enraged.

11 comments:

fiona said...

Eek! That sounds terrible. Nobody offered you a seat!!? I'm not liking the sound of the shop assistants shouting either. We're meant to be moving to Berlin in June. I'm not sure my German is good enough yet to cope with insults. Michel Thomas hasn't got to that bit yet! Good luck with the birth. x

Sarah said...

You have my sympathies! I had the same experience in Stuttgart during my pregnancy, so maybe it's a general German thing? We visited Paris when I was 7 months pregnant and I could not believe how insistent the people were about giving up their seats on the train. I LOVED it!

Shermanim said...

That flipped me out when I first moved here. Here I was getting on the bus with three children, one of them being a 6 week old and only a few times did people offer to get up for me. It is not just in Berlin that this happens... we are in NRW. My German friends suggested that I just have to ask someone to move and they would gladly give up their seat.

In Israel, people can also be brutal in day to day life, but they will always give up their seat for you on public transportation if you are a. pregnant b. followed by a line of children (especially if one of those is a baby) c. disabled in some way or d. old. Germany is "supposed" to be more civilized than Israel, but they just don't pass the test in this area.

C said...

I feel your pain; this bothered me enormously when I was pregnant and packed onto the train for my commute every day. But all of my Germany friends told me -- and I trust them on this now -- that anytime you ask, people will get up for you. It's a cultural difference, this having to ask to get what you want, but it really really works. Hell, my friend asked a guy to get up from the disabled chair only to find out he WAS disabled when he stood to give up his place; after that, the entire train stood up so they could both have a seat. She just had to ask to get it.

Kristin said...

Easy solution sister - move to Australia. People get up for people all of the time on the buses (even for me and I'm not old or pregnant, maybe I look helpless) and you could have a free babysitter...

Just ask people nicely, and not in a yelli impatient nice

Snooker said...

This may be horribly generalizing, but I've found the average Berliner to be un-observant in public. Those folks on the bus probably didn't even notice that you got on, let alone that you are pregnant. It is simply their way to get a set of blinders on as soon as they enter the public domain.
That being said, I have found them to be incredibly engaging and even polite once they've been dragged out of their "public stupor". I'm certain that if you were to single out some seated young man and ask nicely, he will readily abandon his seat for you.

lettershometoyou said...

Not having to deal with strangers in a crowded setting is one of the many benefits of cycling everywhere, even if you have to put up with some weather hassles. But I guess right now that's not much of an option for you! You look great - and I hope your next few weeks go well for you.
- ian in hamburg

lettershometoyou said...

Not having to deal with strangers in a crowded setting is one of the many benefits of cycling everywhere, even if you have to put up with some weather hassles. But I guess right now that's not much of an option for you! You look great - and I hope your next few weeks go well for you.
- ian in hamburg

Tricia said...

I have to tell you, today a pregnant woman boarded the L here in Chicago, and all of a sudden, your blog post popped in to my head! I asked her if she wanted my seat-but she was only riding one stop...thanks for making me pay better attention to this!

Expats Again said...

You brought up a social difference I wasn't aware of. Being American, I am going to be more observant of how the Munich population, where I live, deals with this; always being careful to offer my seat as well.

Yelli said...

Hi everyone. I really appreciate all of your comments. However, not everyone will get up for you, even if you ask. Once, when I asked a youngish guy, I was told "es gibt noch frei Plätze." Sure- I will walk to the very back of the bus while it is moving where I have to walk and then squeeze in between 2 people who both had bags on the seat. just one empty seat. Egads.

In addition, the trains can be crowded and sometimes people won't even move so I can get near a seat where I can ask. I think I need a car... :)