Sunday, December 18, 2011

German Behavior Observations


Behavior of two opposing age groups in the German context: AKA: Why some Germans suck

            Walking around with two little sponges that are happy to repeat any behavior or words they hear just to see what our reaction will be, I have to say that German teenagers in our neighborhood have to be my least favorite group.  There is of course the group of boys who gathers in front of our door to smoke cigarettes and talk about all the girls they would like to see naked.  That actually bothers me the least of all the teenagers we encounter.  What really grates on my words have to do with two things: tapioca balls and the English language.
            Next to our S-Bahn (fast train of the public transportation system) stop, there is a large office building that is in the middle of being renovated.  One section of the building is not covered by scaffolding and tarps, and this part that is revealed is an entire store-front of windows.  This also happens to be directly across from a ring of benches around a tree and just down from the new local bubble tea spot.  The tiny green space between the benches is constantly filled with wrappers from the nearby sandwich shop, but that is not nearly as disgusting as what happens to the bubbles from the tea.  It seems that the teenagers of Zehlendorf have made a sport of covering the windows of that empty shop with tapioca balls shot from their oversized straws and splattered in a barf-inducing splay all the way from top to bottom.  Tapioca balls as spit-wads?  Seriously kids?  Ewww. Yeah, guess who’s NEVER getting a bubble tea after seeing that spectacle: our 3 year old who thought it looked like fun. 
            Zehlendorf has this amazing JFK school just down the road from us and it is filled with kids who have grown up happily immersed in English bilingual education.  These kids are amazing, and I’ve even been fooled by several of them thinking they were American kids with their flawless accents.  What I DON’T like about them all being such fluent English speakers, is the fact that they like to scream out obscenities at each other, in English.  Not a day passes that I don’t hear some teenager screaming English profanity at another during an argument.  Look kids, I’m all about some profanity being used in the appropriate context, but the bus stop where there are families and grandmothers on their way home is NOT that place.  I know I know, hormones make you crazy, but seriously, cut it out.  I totally remember learning all the cool swear words in whichever language we were studying in high school, but I don’t remember screaming them at the top of my lungs in a very public place.  Is that just me?  I know it’s bad when Annika turns to me and tells me, “Mommy, she just said ____.  That’s not a very nice word.”  Seriously, even our 3 year old knows you are being rude and ridiculous. 
            This brings me to old people.  Perhaps I’m just not around enough elderly people at home, and I am perfectly willing to concede that point, but the old people here seem really cranky.  Riding the bus the other day, teeming with obnoxiously chatting teenagers and standing room capacity only, I was appalled the behavior of one grandma in particular.  The entire ride she stared at this group of 3 boys who were chatting and standing next to the door at the center of the bus.  She was giving them the look of death as if they had killed her puppy, though she never said one single word to them at all.  When it was her stop, the hospital stop on our route no-less, she nudged up next to one of the boys like she wanted him to move as the bus halted.  When the doors opened, she pushed past the boy and proceeded to kick his book bag from the floor at her feet onto his feet all the while muttering in a whisper to herself and scowling at the boy with utter contempt.  Seriously Oma?  What the hell were you thinking?  What lesson are you teaching the kid by doing that exactly?  I was completely baffled. 
            This ridiculous act seemed almost completely counter to the typical complaint that I have about the elderly here, namely that they seem completely hell-bent on telling everyone what they are doing wrong and how they should be doing pretty much everything.  When we first arrived, I thought it was just us foreign parents that where the lucky recipients of these fun little lectures, but as we’ve been here a little longer I’m noticed that’s not really the case.  The elderly here seem to be happy to lecture and/or yell at anyone, anywhere, anytime, and I completely don’t get it.  I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that they all seem to be really grumpy, but is it really necessary to think that just because you are old your “expert” opinion will be appreciated by everyone that you encounter?  This seems to be especially fun for Andy, whose German is cursory at best right now and very often has to come home to me to even understand what the lecture was about in the first place. 

Example:
A: Some old lady stopped us as we were walking down the street today.
Me: Really?
A: Yeah, she was saying something about bei and pointing at Mayzie’s legs in the stroller. 
Me: Did she say Beine? 
A: Yeah, that could be right.  She seemed very concerned. 
Me: Did she say something about frieren? 
A: Yes.  Definitely something about the cold.
Me: Um, yeah, she was telling you that her legs are freezing.
A: Oh.  WTF old lady? 

OK, so the conversation probably didn’t go exactly like that, but you get the point.  I’m still trying to figure out the next strategy for dealing with this particular type of annoyance, though I’m thinking it might involve loudly thanking them and asking their advice about some very private matter that they really don’t have any business discussing with perfect strangers.  I’m still trying to think of the most ridiculous question for this though.  Ideas? 

Lastly, I have to report the annoying behavior that seems to be part of German DNA or something, and that is the staring!  Surely this makes me really American, but I really HATE being stared at all of the time.  I thought it was just because we were speaking English to our kids or because we are all so unbelievably good looking that it is hard to turn away.  Alas, I think that it is just a German malady that I’m going to try not to catch.  Let’s hope it isn’t too contagious. J



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