Berlin: Germans Have No Sense of Personal Space

Posted on September 19, 2006


rushhour berlin.jpg 

by michael scott moore

Is this true? Or is it just Berliners? Since I moved here I’ve noticed that German strangers, as a rule, don’t try to maintain the regulation* 18 inches off my person when I walk down the street or try to shop in a crammed grocery store. What they do, instead, is lurch in front of me if I happen to be in the way while I scan the cheese.

As a rule they just have a higher tolerance for crowding and huddling; they don’t seem to mind being close to strangers. ** But I can handle the habits of strangers in the street. What I can’t stand are certain German marketing tactics. The quickest way to get me yelling into my cell phone is for you to call that device, as a representative of _my own phone service,_ and try to sell me something. "I’m from America! This is illegal there! Take me off all your call lists!"

I really did yell that. I also explained that I thought I was being charged for these calls. I wasn’t, but the kind lady said she would try not to call again. The very worst example involved a pair of Deutsche Telekom "representatives" who knocked on my door, flashed cheap-looking ID, and said they just wanted to sit down and examine my phone bills and explain some new services to me.

"You want to come into my apartment?" I said. "And go through my bills?"

"Yes, that’s our job."

"Why don’t you just send me something in the mail?"

"We have. But these notices have been ignored."

"My phone bill’s paid up, right? You’re not here for money?"

"Oh no, we just want to inform you of some new offers."

"Please," I said. *** "Please go away."



 * American estimate.<br>

 ** The big exception was a neo-Nazi in "Thüringia": last year.
He got all up in my space, then looked annoyed that I hadn’t moved. This may
explain Hitler’s foreign policy.

 *** I may not have been quite so polite. In fact I may have raised my
Photo credit: Lunaryuna