The Blog Needs an Explanation

Earlier this morning we were waiting at the Strassebahn station with another dozen passengers. When it arrived a young guy with headphones plugged into his years–he couldn’t have been more than 18–entered first, made two steps and just stood there, blocking the enterance and not letting anyone else get in. Which was weird: he had like five meters to step in, but he couldn’t care less and just stood there.

When we arrived at the station we were supposed to get off, I started to pull the Kinder Wagon toward the exit door, but there were at least six people who stood outside and very close to the door, eager to get in. I had to tell them in broken German that maybe they want to try the breakthrough concept of letting people out before the get in, and that the Bahn isn’t going to run off, and only then they parted a way for me to step out.

In general I would like to send all the residents of Berlin to New York for one week of studying the etiquette of riding the public transportation, the whole thing: how to treat oldies and pregnant women, how to behave so everyone would be comfortable, how to maximize the space to fulfill the part of “public” in the ride, how to be considerate toward the other.

But what I want to touch here and what I really don’t understand is why people in Germany are standing on passageways. I don’t just talk about the Strassebahn, it is narrow anyway, but about everywhere. When I walk to the Kita in the morning there are always three parents having a conversation and they will always stand in a circle at the gate, or on the U-Bahn platform where a group will always stand spreaded, blocking your way , and mainly when I go out. There are always people having conversation at the exit, between the rooms and mainly on the way to the toilets.

Can anyone explain this behavior to me?

Kommentare (12)

  1. World to Sven: you wouldn’t find it anywhere in the world. It is a Berlin Charm.

  2. I think it’s a Berlin thing. Every time I get there I am shocked about the rude behaviour. Like the guy at the counter for bus tickets who nearly yelled at me when I asked him about the different tickets: “If you don’t know what ticket you want to buy, don’t come here.” You wouldn’t find that in Hamburg.

  3. Yep, the German “checkout behaviour” is the single thing that annoys me the most from the collection of ignorant behaviours that one often encounters in this country and to my experience the vast majority of Germans didn’t even think about it ever. If you asked someone if standing up for a pregnant woman were the right thing to do, probably 99% would get it right. But try asking about the checkout thing and all you will get are wide eyes.

    I don’t know if I’d want that French police escort though, given that they tend to run around with automatic weapons ;) I know it’s supposed to make me feel safe but it *so* does the opposite.

  4. Christian,

    Nice that you have mentioned the checkout, for me it always so funny: once the next checkout is free, fuck all of our manners!!

    This blog is just heating up, but soon I will deal with manners and virtues that are so important (to Germans) and how they are connected, in my opinion, to the past.
    I remember when my wife was pregnant how people were avoiding looking at her in the tram so they wouldn’t have to give her the seat, and then when we were in heavy Turkish populated neighborhoods, there were plural offers for her to have a seat or to help her with the kinderwagon.

    I think that if you run late for the cinema in Paris and if you shout it, you get a police escort…..

  5. Add blocking the escalators and rushing to an opening checkout as if your life depends on being first no matter what your original place in the queue was and you got a pretty good characterisation of what most Germans seem to consider acceptable behaviour. The escalator and public transportation issues are sometimes handled decently in larger cities. Sometimes. But I don’t think you can teach Germans the level of sophistication that can be enjoyed in other countries: In Paris I was once running with a friend through a very crowded boulevard to get to a cinema in time and people were actually making way as fast as they could and pulling their children out of the way! I couldn’t possibly imagine that around here. People would take the time to shout at me, yes, but never to make way in time. That would need an awareness of the strangers around you that is just unheard of in any German town I have ever visited. That doesn’t keep German conservatives from setting an overly high value on secondary virtues which is where this German punctuality thing probably comes from. Better to deduce them from a simple respect for other people if you ask me but well.

  6. Hello there,

    I am wondering about those issues, too, another pet peeve of mine is kids and teens walking around with their mobile phones blaring music on those crappy loudspeakers in the phone. And it’s mostly some pseudo-gangster track from Bushido or one of those guys.

    Of course, they could play my fave songs and they would sound like hell, too. They don’t give a damn about anybody else.

    I seem to be just from another century (Well, of course, we all are pretty much ^^ ), and it gets really strange when I offer help in a bus for an old lady that needs her Rolator out first, and when I gesture to the thing and ask, she kind of jumps back almost as if I am trying to snatch her handback.

    Well I will keep up that habits.

  7. Max, if everyhting went OK in Cairo, Istanbul (or Tel Aviv) public transportation, then I will be amazed. I am shocked everyday in Berlin from the level of not caring. And actually, I think the systems there are much more Humane–if people see that you are struggling they will run to help you. If you don’t believe it, try to walk up the stairs in PrenzlauerBerg and then in Kreuzberg and see where the assistance will come first.

  8. You should once go to Cairo or Istanbul :-) After that the U-Bahn and Strassenbahn of Berlin felt like a paradise.

    On the other question I don’t have a good answer. I often asked myself this, too, although I didn’t recognize it as a German/Berlin thing. Probably the reason is that nobody has the time for a talk, but if you meet someone you stay longer than expected?

  9. Can’t be attributed ? Maybe , but It so common not only in Berlin and so shocking different do Britain.

  10. Shalom Matthias,

    That’s what surprised me. New York is very rude but also very considerate. In Berlin, there are so many instances where nobody cares.

  11. I don’t think behaviour can be attributed (explained) to a nationality, but I do know that “Berliners” are known by most germans to be somewhat
    rude and even unpopular (frech, große Schnauze)………but hey, as they
    say, if you lived in New York you can live anywhere…….

    shalom
    Matthias

  12. Your view is correct but it’s just not seen by the Germans. They mostly aren’t considerate toward the other.

    Maybe we do not learn right behaviour in school. After two totalitarian Systems and the “unter den Talaren, Muff von tausend Jahren” (try this in wiki) the people are opposing to any instituion lecturing correct behaviour.
    Lecturing correct behaviour is not felt right ( or felt ultra right if you like).
    Not obviously but it’s a thought that came to me after a collegue repeatedly said to another “misbehaviour” in her eyes that you learn it in the Kindergarten. She meant her socialistic DDR Kindergarten so I (western) didn’t understand what she meant at that time.