Wednesday, November 08, 2006

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!


At November 08, 2006 1:19 p.m., Blogger Maribeth said...

I love that song too!
I always loved going for walks in the fields when we visited in Bavaria. I would bring my dog Shubi with me, and inevitably she would find a cowpie and roll in that! So after each walk, there was a bath for my girl! Hihi!!

At November 08, 2006 1:38 p.m., Blogger Ms Mac said...

I was only in Switzerland for a month or so when I was at the supermarket discussing some kind of chicken purchase with the Mr when A Swiss reached in front of me, no "excuse me", no nothing. I was affronted beyond belief. Sadly, I'm used to it now. And the people tappig their toes behind me when I'm deciding which cheese to buy. All it takes is an "Entschuldigung" or even an "Achtung!" but no, passive aggressive is the key when shopping with the Swiss!

And now I've made far too many gross generalisations about those delightful people who have graciously let me share in their land so I'll be off!

At November 08, 2006 2:58 p.m., Blogger Sandra said...

I'm glad you're enjoying your walks. I'm loving mine, too. Sometimes it's hard to force myself to go, but once I'm 10 minutes into it, I'm always glad I did it.

I have a hard time believing that anyone could possibly be more pushy and aggressive than Koreans. I guess I'll have to go to Germany some day and investigate. I agree that it's a cultural trait and it can't be called rude. Being pushy just isn't considered rude here. There's not much you can do about it except push back.

At November 08, 2006 3:46 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

HA! I love the video. So apropos to your post. I can see those fields and am proud of you for this "getting a life." Donica just bought a treadmill which I can reach out and touch while I type this. So, see ya later. Gotta take a walk with my iPod :) (This will not always take the place of being outside but is something I look forward to on those rainy, cold days, which we're having right now!)

At November 08, 2006 5:45 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I never really watched that video before... crazy. It's great you are walking. I wish I would be in the mood for it. Maybe I just miss the openess I had in Switzerland that is so lacking here... I'm not sure but at least I'm still atthe pool.

At November 08, 2006 7:36 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love that song.

French people also get very rude on pavements. You get used to it and learn to duck and dive and dodge and push back. :O)

Happy walking! I am too lazy and it's far too cold to go out until next May. I'm hibernating.

At November 08, 2006 10:01 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried Nordic Walking? It's just power walking that works out your arms too. That's my new sport of choice, and you can get the poles at Real for €10. I've lost 28 pounds so far.

At November 08, 2006 10:04 p.m., Blogger Betsy said...

Love that song and love powerwalking! Can I come along the next time you're out?

At November 08, 2006 11:03 p.m., Blogger woman wandering said...

Had to laugh ... some of the first Dutch I ever actually asked that Gert teach me, over here in Belgium was, 'No no, you just walk on through me/over me and etc' ...

So different to New Zealand, and obviously Canada too.

The shopping trolley in the back when there's no place for me to go in the checkout queue was the worst initially but hey ... it's not personal, and perhaps that's the problem.

At November 09, 2006 12:08 a.m., Blogger Dixie said...

I swear, I don't have much trouble with people bumping into me or trying to run me over. And people do say excuse me a lot here or "May I pass through?".

Then again maybe our population density isn't as great as it is on the other side of the country.

Love that you're doing the power walking.

At November 09, 2006 8:00 a.m., Blogger green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Hello From Canada !
I seen you on another blog and thought I would drop in for a read , you a have a terrific blog , the photos are great .I am on the east coast of Canada , it is really cold here tonight , and old man winter has raised his head and snow is starting .Hope it is warmer where you are tonight .

Good luck with the walking and watch out for the tractors ,and the shopping carts ,who knew you would have to shop at the roller durby !tee hee ,, LOL take care


At November 09, 2006 1:24 p.m., Blogger christina said...

maribeth - It's a great song. No cowpies where I walk, thank goodness, mostly fields of vegetables.

mrs. mac - You do get used to it after a while, don't you? But yes, we must not complain *too* much or they will kick us out! ;-)

Sandra - It was your walking post that planted a little see in my head, actually. I'd mostly been exercising indoors but outside is a whole different ball game and I find I can switch off my brain and just go for it.

I guess wherever you are you just have to accept the cultural mores as they are and yes, learn to push back. Sometimes it's kind of fun!

Ginnie - Well, even if I don't get a life I'm hoping to be able to fit into some smaller jeans! We have an elliptical trainer at home that I've used on occasion and I'll probably start using it more once the weather gets really bad. But I'm truly enjoying the outside walks.

Expat - YouTube is so great, isn't it? I had no idea that so many of the songs I like have videos attached to them. I'm sure you'll be more in the mood for doing stuff when your PR finally comes through.

Wendz - It's like doing a little dance, trying to judge if someone's going to actually move aside or plow right into you. I'm afraid I've been hibernating for too long. Time to face the bad weather. :-)

Christina - Wow, 28 lbs! That's fantastic. Sounds like you're well on your way to winning the battle of the ExpatFat. I haven't tried Nordic Walking yet but a friend of ours is an instructor and she's told us all about it.

Betsty - Wouldn't it be fun if we could all walk together?

wandering woman - Ahh, the Belgians use their shopping carts as weapons too? Interesting. Mr M is always flabbergasted when we're on vacation in Vancouver and people say "Excuse me!" when they cross in front of him or "Sorry!" when HE steps on THEIR feet by accident. Completely different world. Oh well.

Dixie - I'm starting to believe that you've found the Nirvana of Germany. :-) Could be the population density or the East-West thing again, but SO many people I've talked to have experienced this so I don't think it's just me.

green eyed girl - Hi and thanks so much for dropping by. Yep, the roller derby is a pretty good way to describe the supermarket.

I can imagine it must be pretty frosty on the Atlantic right now. You're in Newfoundland, right? I really should visit there some day.

At November 09, 2006 1:55 p.m., Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Spaniards don't bump. They're actually very polite people.

However, they do tend to walk shoulder-to-shoulder at snail's speed on narrow sidewalks--essentially acting as an impassible barricade.

In my younger days, I used to run behind people, place my hands on their shoulders and leap-frog over their heads. I only did this to friends, of course, but I fantasize about it whenever I'm on a Spanish sidewalk.


At November 09, 2006 3:50 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Sal - Just what exactly do you mean by "actually"? :-)

And leapfrog, huh? You must have had some really short friends.

At November 10, 2006 12:01 a.m., Blogger woman wandering said...

It's a pity we don't live a little closer ... we could power walk and talk and improve ourselves 10 times as fast.

I got to sniff some nasty tasting spray last time I walked near any Belgian fields ...

P.S ... that wasn't an apple fritter on Sal's post was it? Looked like cat's brain to me ... I'm still traumatised by it.

At November 10, 2006 12:28 a.m., Blogger Dixie said...

Oh I know it's not just you. For all I know it's because they had to rebuild all the sidewalks in this city from scratch and they made them wider! Heh!

At November 10, 2006 8:17 a.m., Blogger christina said...

wandering woman - Yes, we all live much too far apart. They should have made Europe smaller. They haven't been spraying the fields here lately but it can be awful at times.

And yes, that was the most interesting apple fritter that I've ever seen. :-)

Dixie - Wider sidewalks! That's it!


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