hey, you're in my space!
As part of my new "Mausi gets a life" program, I've taken up power walking. Don't get all excited - for me, power walking means just walking a bit faster than usual and not stopping to smell the flowers so often. So far I've been enjoying it.
We live in a pretty rural area. The best place to do any serious walking is on the tractor paths between the fields. Perfectly straight, no curbs to trip over or street lights to worry about. It's just you and your choice of music for the hour. Of course if you have your iPod turned up too high, you do run the risk of being mowed down from behind by a combine, but luckily that hasn't happened to me yet.
I've seen cabbages and cows, sugar beets and sheep, a very impressive pig and hundreds of little birds flying together from tree to tree in a cloud of tiny wings. The one thing I haven't seen is people. On my walks I see maybe one or two human beings, tops, and that's unusual, but just fine with me. I need my space.
Coming from a country with plenty of room for everyone, one of the things that suprised me when I moved to Germany was the population density. And what surprised me even more was the way people deal with that density. Foreigners, especially those from North America, often find it alarming that there is so much pushing and jostling going on in crowded areas. Some say that walking in Germany is a contact sport. After a few months of getting shoved out of the way, stepped in front of or rammed in the small of the back with a shopping cart on a weekly basis, they start saying to themselves, "Hey, what the heck is going on here? Don't people have any manners? Are all Germans this rude?"
Well, are they? The answer is no, not really. I'm a member of various "expats in Germany" mailing lists and message boards where topics like this have been discussed ad infinitum. The conclusion was that this behaviour is neither right nor wrong. It just IS. Germans simply have a different perception of personal space. It's a survival instinct, a "me first" attitude. You know, the guy with the pointiest elbows wins. They don't call Germany an Ellbogengesellschaft (elbow society) for nothing.
Once you realize this and learn not to take in personally, it's a lot easier to deal with and can be quite amusing at times. One fellow on a message board I frequent even joked that living in Germany would give you the perfect opportunity to film your own version of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony".
I agree. And I also love this song so take a look.
Walk on, Germans!