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Little old ladies in Germany

(93 Posts)
SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 09:28:07

How do you manage these little old ladies? Berlin might be a special case. People from different parts of Germany always tell me that Berliners are very errr... let's say outspoken.

I do try to remember that they probably got bombed out in the war and worked as Trummerfrauen and had a really hard life etc. but they're a tough bunch, aren't they? I used to find it so annoying that they'd always be telling me how to bring up my child "she's too warmly dressed, she's isn't warmly dressed enough, don't let her eat in the street...". I tried to tell myself they were caring and showing an interest so it wouldn't get on my nerves too much but it did bug me.

Yesterday took the bus and sat dd down in the seat with a cross above it near the door (so meant for elderly/disabled). The bus was full and dd would have had to stand otherwise. So this old lady, she was sitting next to dd, told me off and said dd couldn't sit there, only someone with a disabled pass. I would have given up the seat if an elderly person had gotten on the bus. When the old lady got off, she stood in the door screaming at me over and over that dd couldn't sit there. What should I have done? Should I have made dd stand up in the bus and leave the seat empty?

nickiey Tue 16-May-06 09:42:54

Tell her to mind her own-I had this in Darmstadt in a cafe that had a kiddies play park attatched, an old lady sat next to me even tho the cafe was huge and she culd have sat anywhere well away from the play area, anyway kids were all running around and playng and she went ballistic-I tried to talk to her nicely explain that it was a family cafe and that in fact she could have choosen to sit anywhere but she choose next to me, she wasnt having anyof it so im afraid i turned into a brit abroad and told her to bugger off not my finest hour but it did make me feel better and with some people they will not see past the preconception they have of you no matter how polite you are, but i wouldnt jump about singing "who won the war?, we did!" althoug at times.........

frogs Tue 16-May-06 09:53:09

I do sympathise, since I have a collection of elderly German relatives who are in many ways charming and delightful, but do suffer from Little Old Lady syndrome. You undoubtedly get this worse in Germany than in the Uk, because:

(a) all Germans, even the nicest ones, have a tendency to assume that if you are doing something differently from the way they would do it, that by definition means you are doing it wrong, and moreover that it is their duty to point that out to you;

(b) Germans do not suffer from the agonising self-doubt and embarrassment at the possibility of a scene that affects the Brits. You won't get a German person apologising if you stand on their foot on a bus;

(c) Issues around PC and cultural sensitivity have not made big headway in Germany, and both in print and face-to-face people will say things that would be pretty much unthinkable in England unless you were actively trying to pick a fight or get yourself reported to the equal opps people.

For batty total strangers, you could try smiling sweetly and say "kann nix verstan"? Or affect a sympathetic smile and point to your forehead (known as showing someone a bird, for some reason, but pretty universally understood).

I'm happy to supply you with a range of German insults to suit more or less any occasion, but it would probably just inflame the situation. If it's any consolation, little old ladies in Russia are worse. We used to call them 'Gulag grannies' to make ourselves feel better after a particularly savage dressing down.

ks Tue 16-May-06 09:59:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nickiey Tue 16-May-06 10:05:18

ks I believe that is right-walking on the right i mean-we lived in a small town outside of the city where seemingly lots of old folk lived and my life was a daily old lady dodging mission. My top advice tho is get a dog, seemingly all germans like dogs (the bigger and more scary looking the better, and on a lead natch) I could never get over the fuss made over certain things like no recycling on a sunday or sweeping your path each morning before 7 etc etc yet the amount of dog sh*t everywhere was a nightmare!

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 10:09:35

"but i wouldnt jump about singing "who won the war?, we did!" althoug at times......... "

Nickiey, you crack me up. I might even do it you know, the day I leave Germany for good...

Frogs,I like tapping the forehead with a looney smile on my face. Although I'm a bit worried how they'll react.

ks you didn't KNOW you have to walk on the RIGHT? I had that step-to-the-side tango with an old lady once when I was pushing dd in a buggy. She came up to me and said "in Germany we pass on the right!" How did she know I wasn't German?

A Ukrainian friend of mine told me that during the WW2 occupation, the Germans taught Ukrainians to cross the bridge on the right only. Apparently they still do it to this day.

ks Tue 16-May-06 10:19:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

emkana Tue 16-May-06 10:20:23

I am amazed at the walking on the right thing! News to me, and I lived in Germany for 25 years...

frogs, I agree with your points b) and c), but take objection to a)

I'm not like that!!!! {wail}

And I know at least a few Germans that are not like that, even though many many many are, I grant you that.

frogs Tue 16-May-06 10:35:22

I stand by point (a) emkana! With long exposure to England the tendency can be minimised, but I have a theory that Germans who choose to live in UK are inherently less German than the stay-at-homes.

Even my ma who has been here 30+ years and is sufficiently anglicised to pass as a native has occasional 'German' moments, usually when contemplating the state of public transport, healthcare provision and the efficacy of her cleaner. It's the ultimate cricket test for Germans: can you honestly say you could listen to UK network rail station announcements of the type, "This train is cancelled due to there being no driver available for this train", and not feel your inner German struggling to the surface?

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 10:37:28

How true it is about the dogs! Dd and I have re-christened our street - dog-poo street. It's revolting. I was really struck by the old ladies (yet again!) with these HUGE dobermans and alsatians. You do see people with little dogs too but I agree that to Germans a dog means a BIG dog.

I also have the impression that in Germany there is one correct way of doing everything - not various possibilities. My dd is quite dictatorial, telling me this is not right, you have to hold your fork like this and so on. I had the impression she's learning that approach in kindergarten. I do try to balance it and explain that in England, people hold their fork differently but both ways are ok.. I'm so pc.

When I used to teach English, people were always baking me delicious cakes, so I baked a cake for some of my ladies. They were really shocked at the way I cut it. I just asked how much would you like? A slice like this, bit more, bit less? They told me I have to place a form on top of the cake, mark it into so many pieces all the same size and then cut the whole cake. You don't give people individually sized portions. They were adamant about this. They were nice about it but I also felt it was important to them that I learn to do it the right way.

emkana Tue 16-May-06 10:39:47

frogs, you did make me laugh then!
I'm afraid you're probably a bit right...

nickiey Tue 16-May-06 11:15:52

Whilst living in Darmstadt my ds turned 2 so I threw him a party and invited all the kids he knew from his swimming lesson and kindie so mostly all Germans.
I did a typical English party spread, jam tarts, saus rolls (all beit veggie) cheese and pineapple on sticks, little sarnies cut into triangle and so on-lets just say we were eating party food for a week, they didnt touch it!
But in fairness it was the germans who introduced me to raclette (sp?) and fondue so thanks where thanks is due.

ks Tue 16-May-06 11:19:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nickiey Tue 16-May-06 11:19:32

Ohh just remembered about a month after we moved to Germany I still hadnt found a vet for my dog (of the big variety so approved of by germans) anyway out walking him in the forest one day (where i have to say i always felt safe) I made myself ask the next person i saw with a dog where the vets was, i had rehersed the german phrases and everything, saw my target, went up feigning german absolute self confidence and began my speech, my target (middle aged couple with fellow big dog) fell about laughing-They were brits! And very nice people too-tuened into lifelong friends really-small world huh!

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 11:21:55

I really like the food here.

I had the impression the kids don't settle for food at birthday parties. Whenever I go to pick up dd the cake is still uneaten on the plate and they don't seem to have eaten anything much. Don't know why, so it wasn't just your food.

We took kids to a magician for dd's 5th birthday and then came back for some games and food but they were too over-excited to eat anything. I had choclate cake, little sausages, pizza, meatballs, salad, baguette and those teddy-bear crisps and sweets. No one ate anything.

nickiey Tue 16-May-06 11:31:19

My fave german food was flammekuche, scuse the appalling spelling but unless you use your german i think you loose it! anyway its the pizza thing with the cream base instead of tomatos-lush! and the huge salads with so much in them! bad pasta-spatzle i think or something like anyway. kase mit muzic!
and beer, oh the long hot evenings in beer gardens with kids running all around, lots of beer, cheese and bread.
I really miss those bits of germany.

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 11:38:17

No doubt about it the food is great. You can go to any restaurant and you get a huge plate of delicious food - and it's reasonably priced. I wonder why I bother cooking at all, I'm such a crap cook.

I really love the Mohnschnecke, that pastry with poppy seeds in it, twirled round and covered in icing... Spatzele is yummy too. I like that. I even like Eisbein covered in grease. I like ALL German food. At least can't think of anything offhand I don't like. I'm not big on quark with bread but that's all that springs to mind.

nickiey Tue 16-May-06 11:46:22

I had a morbid fear of Quark, it was as if all germans had it in their homes, in every trolley you'd turn to there would be quark sitting there taunting me and my lack of quark knowledge.
What exactly do they eat it with and more to the point me thinks, what exactly is it.
I always walked quickly past the quark, pretending i hadnt seen it or already had a fridge load of it at home but secretly, inside i was screaming in quark torment.

I am nickiey and im quarkaphobic

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 11:49:27

he he he I'm laughing so hard my tummy aches. This must be doing wonders for my abs!

foundintranslation Tue 16-May-06 11:55:14

Ooooh, I've a few little old lady (and middle-aged lady/man) stories:

- Walking with dh and 4mo ds in a spa town, ds in his Baby Björn, elderly couple walk past us and the woman says loudly 'The poor child' wtf?

- Berlin U-Bahn - I (pg) am sitting on one of those long benches that go all the way down the carriage - plenty of space either side of me. Older lady comes in with suitcase and plonks herself down half on me and my bump, saying 'I want to sit here'

- Bus stop in an affluent suburb of Berlin a few years ago. Using very polite language, I ask old lady if she could possibly tell me the time, if it's not too much trouble. Nobody could have conceived of that as anything but polite, and of course I intended to say thankyou - but she said 'Please and thankyou would have been appropriate'. [wtf emoticon]

- Couple of weeks ago: I am walking along the footpath (shared footpath and cycle path) home. Cyclist comes whizzing behind me and rings bell at some distance. I go to the (right-hand) side of the footpath. He rings again - I turn round and see he is whizzing at me on the right and clearly not intending to budge .
- dh witnessed this one: Young black lad starts to go across the road on a red light in Berlin. Older gentleman gets worked up and says 'Aren't you German enough to wait for the green light?'

Those who 'know' me on here know my Germanophile credentials are impeccable - but I do think most of these incidents could only have happened in Germany...

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 12:08:25

I've adopted the telegraph style nowadays. I used to do the "entschuldigen Sie bitte, aber koennten Sie mir sagen...." People would tell me to just get to the point and say what I want! Where I live, people are forever coming up to me and barking "KaDeWe?" without even a smile.

I am often tempted to answer, "no I'm not, are you?" just to see them nonplussed. It's not that much effort to ask "where do I find the KaDeWe?" is it? I've found when I march up to people and say very loudly "Bismarckstr?!", they're actually quite nice and helpful about it. Kind of weird.

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 12:10:45

"- Berlin U-Bahn - I (pg) am sitting on one of those long benches that go all the way down the carriage - plenty of space either side of me. Older lady comes in with suitcase and plonks herself down half on me and my bump, saying 'I want to sit here' "

Gawd I know. You feel like asking with great concern, wouldn't you be more comfortable sitting on the bench?

foundintranslation Tue 16-May-06 12:30:37

Sandy, on the subject of the U-Bahn - just saw what you wrote on other thread about people in shops etc being nicer to you when speaking English, and it reminded me - have you ever noticed the electronic signs on the U-Bahn:

Haben Sie Ihren Fahrschein entwertet?
and the translation:
Dear passenger, did you remember to validate your ticket?

The politeness of the English compared to the German version always makes me

SSSandy Tue 16-May-06 12:39:27

Have to admit wimp that I am, I've resorted to pretending I don't understand German when I go shopping. Shop assistants are so much nicer. Why would that be though? Is it because they get to practice the language?

JanH Tue 16-May-06 12:45:48

I think you ex-pats would appreciate What it really means to be British esp the bit near the end:

<<Ah, the lumpen, louty, beefy-bummed herd of England, as A A Gill puts it in his book. The Italians don't set foot outside the door without official clearance from the fashion police and the accessory taskforce. The French line up to spit on anyone who eats more than a cup of bouillon and a Gitane a day (which, incidentally, makes it a miracle that their essentially crepe-based economy stays afloat). The Germans shoot on sight anyone in a non-coordinated outfit or need of a haircut. And the Americans have an orthodontist on every corner and shops called "Just because you're 84 stone and weeping pus out of bedsores don't mean you can't look nice".>>

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