German National Pastime

I had planned on a pleasant post.

You see, since we’ve moved here, I have been unable to explain to my son why people don’t say “Hi” back to him.  I was a little dumbfounded myself.

Having lived in Germany before, I was used to waving and smiling at Germans and their ignoring me.  Even though I know this will happen, I literally cannot help myself from doing it.  I’m a Southerner, it’s polite.  I don’t begrudge the Germans for not being friendly the American way… I’m pretty sure they think we’re ridiculous as well.  I’ve actually asked some Germans about this “peculiar” way of ignoring smiles and waves and I’ve never even gotten even a knowing look… just a confused one like they are not really sure what I’m asking.  So, the best I can explain is they see no reason to make small talk or even smile at a stranger.

So, Jack, who if you remember, is famous for inviting strangers to our home… constantly, hasn’t really taken to this reality.  I thought since he’s a little kid, people might think he’s cute and say “Hallo” back.  When that didn’t work, Jack learned how to say Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, and Guten Habend.  When Morgen wouldn’t work, he’d try tag, then habend, then he’d look at me and ask, “why aren’t they talking to me?!”.  I don’t know, Jack, really, NO idea.  It’s hard to be offended though when it’s pretty much everyone who ignores you.  Obviously we just have some cultural differences I don’t understand.

Again, I was going to write a pleasant post about how I discovered how to get Germans to talk to you… how to get them to stop and engage you!  Really!  Clean.  Clean your outside windows, sweep your porch, your gutters, beautify your outdoors.  If I have my windows open sweeping out cobwebs, everyone who walks by waves and says Hello.  The big tree in our front courtyard started shedding heavily this week so on Monday, Jack and I spent a few hours outside cleaning up, throwing out dead plants, etc… and let me tell you, I felt like the most popular person in town.  Everyone smiled and waved, children stopped to help, old women fawned over Jack.  It was great!   Of course, the very next morning, it looked terrible again and I told Jack we were in for a big week of leaf sweeping.

Then this morning I get a call from the landlord.  We’ve had a complaint to the city that we aren’t keeping the leaves up, our trashcans are in the way and that there is trash all over the streets.  If I hadn’t lived in Germany before and didn’t know that tattling on neighbors for things that may or may not be true is a National pastime, I might have blown up due to anger.  My landlord (who lives up the street) was mad at whoever made the complaint and we spent a bit speculating at who probably did it, and decided the person we pinpointed just really didn’t like that we got city permission to house our trashcans (in Germany you have a lot of these because everything is recycled) on the side of our house rather than in our courtyard so he threw in a bunch of other “complaints” to pump up his real one.

Kinda hurt my feelings.

We knew this would be a problem living in the direct center of town in plain view of pretty much everyone.  I decided to focus on the dog issue.  Everyone would know I have a dog and they’d be watching me to make sure I was taking him out for the required number of walks and the required time and that I was cleaning up after him.  I’ve know a ton of people who have had the police called on them for this very issue, and for suspecting crating of said dogs.  Really.  I’m not kidding.

But, really, I thought I was doing a good job at keeping my sidewalks and gutters swept, which is the law.

I’m working on my my “I don’t hate Germany” mantra.

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1 Comment

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One response to “German National Pastime

  1. I can’t wait for you to move back home. And by “home” I obviously mean Fort Walton Beach. If you’re stuck there for 2 years, at least you’re already 1/8 of the way done. (Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel better, either.)

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