My friend Stacey told me that her partner’s mother always likes to say that she left Germany because everyone was too interested in what everyone else was doing. This lady is soo RIGHT! Holy crap ze Germans like to stare and listen in on your conversation and it is getting on my last nerve here. Ok, let’s be fair, this might only be a Berlin thing, because I really don’t remember EVER having this issue anywhere else in the country that I have visited. BUT, I’ve also never been in another part of the country for this amount of time and with this amount of language skill. Take that for whatever it is worth.
I recently wrote about several of the things I miss about home, and specifically how the staring and the eavesdropping makes me break my “no-American-Bitch” rule too often. I will now provide some recent examples of my last nerve going on vacation, with one caveat about my husband. Andy is not at all bothered by the staring and eavesdropping. I can’t figure out if it is because he’s so laid back, is unaware, or simply doesn’t have the German skills to know when someone is talking about him. This is absolutely 100% my issue!
1. While riding the bus with Annika and chatting, a lady would not stop staring at us. After multiple times of staring back at her to attempt to aver her, I finally just said to her, “Ja, wir reden Englisch!” (Yes, we’re speaking English!) She simply turned her head away and didn’t reply.
2. This past weekend, while eating breakfast with friends at a shared table with 2 German couples and our two English speaking families, the two German middle aged couples actually started talking amongst themselves in German about us and making fun of what we were talking about. We were having a very normal conversation, for 4 parents with 4 kids ages 4 & under. I was less annoyed at the eavesdropping than at the complete and utter disregard to the fact that we might actually speak German. Being the best German speaker in our group, I turned to my fellow English speaking friends and said, “Hey guys, I have a German word of the day for us. You guys should know the word LAUSCHEN. It means to eavesdrop.” Naturally I turned toward the eavesdroppers as I finished that sentence and then promptly walked away to chase one of our kids.
3. I took Annika to the gym with me today so she could play in their kids’ room with other kids and not get shushed every 2 minutes while her sister was napping. We took the bus to the closest stop and then walked the one block to my gym. As she normally does, she kept running out ahead of me, turning around, and running back into my open arms for a giant pick-up hug. The 3rd time she did this, she passed some old dude about 10 meters in front of me, who promptly turned around to find her parent and proceeded to give me the stink eye from hell. I stared back, shrugged, turned up my palms, and said, “JA?” wearing a look that I hope conveyed the desire to punch him in the face. He looked even angrier as he turned and shook his head in scorn, but I think he got my point and I just wanted to not have to look at his face anymore.
4. Today at the gym, some old dude was staring at me so hard while I was lifting weights that I stopped what I was doing and stared at him until he looked away a full minute later.
Andy is concerned that I’m getting angry at Germany about this stuff. I contend that I’m not angry, just annoyed!
At least in America, when people stare and/or eavesdrop, they pretend that they aren’t doing it. Does it happen there? ABSOLUTELY! But at least most Americans have enough courtesy to at least TRY to hide their rudeness. Maybe that’s just a Midwestern thing though.