Saturday, 27 April 2013

Germany - A Nation of Starers

Some time ago I wrote a post about  10 Things I Like About Germany . Well, now I have to tell you about "1 Thing" I absolutely loathe about Germany. No, it's not the "ruthless efficiency", not the towels, and not even the ubiquitous beer which, granted, I'm not that keen on.

It's the staring. Germany is a nation of starers. Germans stare at you... well, all the time. On the streets, in the underground, in restaurants, in shops - everywhere. There isn't a single refuge from being stared at (maybe the cinema, but just because it's dark).  And I really really don't like it!

Why do they stare? You could of course give it a flattering spin: Be glad they're staring at you, it means they find you attractive. Or: Being stared at is better than being ignored. Or whatever. I've tried to convince myself - but a) it's not true, b) it doesn't work. They stare at everybody - women at women, men at women, men at men, they stare at old people, at children.. at anybody. Do they know they're staring? Is it automatic? Have they gone half-way to sleep and just forgot to take their eyes off you? I don't know.

In Anglo-American countries staring at people in a consistent manner it considered extremely rude. Nobody does it. Ever. On the tube in London, people go to extraordinary ways in order not to meet each other's gaze. And frankly, first thing in the morning when you're only semi-awake, awaiting the working day's tribulations whilst being squashed into a stuffy train, really the last thing you want is some nosy stranger staring at you unabashedly.

But in Germany, children don't get told that it's rude to stare at people- it simply isn't a concept. People obviously don't mind it. They don't see it as an intrusion of private space. I'm not sure where this cow-like behaviour comes from - is it a sign of provincialism, of curiosity, of just not being bothered?

I often think what might happen to these starers when they indulge in their favourite activity in a less harmless environment than most German towns present. People there might not take so kindly to their intrusive stares...


  1. Gosh, if I were there and knew how to speak German, I'd probably ask, "Why are you staring?" But I'm a rude American, I guess :)

  2. Margrit - do people still say "Mahlzeit" when they get up after finishing a meal? It's probably very old-fashioned. And what would you say in English? Your description of mealtimes is delightfully precise. There is nothing like falling asleep, drooling on your desk after lunch. Eter

  3. Marisa - A friend said staring was even more pronounced in Turkey, and the only way to deal with it was either to ignore it or stare back. Any form of challenging would make it worse she said.Myself, I never know how to deal with it - but you would have to ask people all the time...

  4. Anonymous - Oh yes, they say "Mahlzeit" all the time. I always find that weird! I guess the only way to translate it would be a kind of US nowadays lingo: "Enjoy". But they say "Mahlzeit" here even on the streets whenit's around lunchtime...