I used to do my make-up on the tube in London almost religiously. I had it perfectly timed between Hackney and Highbury & Islington. No one battered an eyelid, ever.
I imagine I was not the only woman on the train doing her make-up. Aside from iPhones and “The Metro”, this is one of the most common commuter activities.
In Berlin however, if I do my make-up on the u-bahn, everybody stares. And not just in that crafty catch a sneak peak kind of way, but outright stares. Like they’ve never seen anybody put on make-up before, and certainly never been taught as a child that it is rude to stare.
As a Brit, and for some time a Londoner, this is just not the done thing.
The London underground is famous for people not looking at or speaking to each other. Everybody just minds their own business.
But this “minding your own business” doesn’t exist in Berlin. Not with Germans. They love to stare. And they don’t seem to think there is anything wrong with this. As far as they are concerned, your business is their business.
So eventually I got fed up of the staring, and I learned the German phrase for mind your own business: “Kümmere dich um deine eigenen Sachen”. So the next time somebody stared, I was prepared with a comeback in German.
Needless to say, I didn’t have long to wait. One morning on the U1 I was doing my make-up, and a guy sat right next to me and started staring. His face right next to my face.
So I turned to him and gave him my practiced comeback (which luckily rolled correctly off my tongue) and he was so shocked that I had actually said something that he did stop staring, and then got off the u-bahn.
So my advice is not to suffer in silence, if you want people to stop staring you have to call them out on it!