Saturday, 1 February 2014

Rant No.1: The Red Light

Cross when the lights are green. We all learned this rule as children. Part of the green cross code.

But we learned many rules as children that we break as adults, because at a certain age, when the rule is obsolete, common sense usually prevails over the rules.

I wouldn’t wait for the green light at 3am when there is no traffic coming ever. But a German would.

It’s a strange sight watching as all these Germans wait patiently at the side of the road to cross, when there isn’t a car in sight. But the light is red. So they cannot cross.

Something bigger is at play. The rules. The need to obey. Doing the right thing.

When I first moved here, there were many things to get used to. But the one thing I couldn’t cope with was this pointless waiting at the lights. It would wind me up standing still, faces blank and waiting to be told that it is ok to cross.

There is no car in sight. I think it will be ok.

No. We must wait.

I think it might be ok.

No, we must wait.

Apparently they used to be fined for crossing the road when the lights were red, and this is why the obedience is so in-built. But that doesn’t explain why they give you such bad looks when you dare to cross on the red man.

I’m guess I’m just far too impatient for Germany.


  1. it's just about the way of living in Berlin in my opinion. where are you rushing at 3 am? nowhere. is there a last tram coming that you cannot miss? no. so why to rush and break rules if not needed? 30 seconds is really not so long.

    i think it's important to learn how to be patient. not only in terms of waiting for a light to change, but in general.

    1. seriously? if that were the case, why does everyone rush at the supermarket when a new checkout line opens up?

    2. because the checkout line has nothing to do with the rules or law that Germans love to obey. it opens, so who is quickest takes the first place, that's also quite logic. no law broken for nothing.

    3. actually what is logical, is the next person waiting in line should be served next. The quickest is not the most logical..

  2. At times Berliners seem to have all the time in the world. They wait for those green crossing lights, they block escalators (the stand on the right, walk on the left rule never made it here apparently), they take weeks to respond to your timely email. But, then, at other times they seem to be in a big hurry: ringing you to get the hell out of their way as they bike aggressively past you on the (pedestrian) sidewalk, rushing past you into the shop you are trying to exit while you hold the door open like an idiot, ramming their supermarket trolley into you numerous times as you wait in line . . . need I go on?

  3. I think all of these things are either funny, interesting, or not so important. We live in another country, things will simply be different. I find for instance, that letting you go in front in the check out line when you have 2 things is really cool. I love it, and I find the "Hallo" thing funny usually....just me I guess

  4. Being German I recognised me and my fellow Germans, you did a great job observing. Thank you for "holding up the mirror" and pointing out those things that bug you and many others. I totally agree!!! I consider myself not being too "German" as I have worked in various organizations of the US, Thailand, even Iceland so I had the chance to look "over the plate's edge" and working with people from different cultures. But as Michael McJilton said, "being in another country things simply are different." Germans are rude, but sometimes you'll find really nice ones, too. Good luck, I think you're very brave, Berlin isn't the easiest place to be. I hope you have good friends and people you can rely on. Take care and continue to be ambassador of British politeness and friendliness, we desperately need you here!

  5. I have stayed in Berlin for 3 months and I was really surprised by the amount of impoliteness the natives hand out.
    This is not easy to take or accept, even for a German and it's quite different in most parts of Germany. So I recommend to you to travel in Germany, there are lots of places that are more beautiful than Berlin and have a lot nicer and politer population.
    What you find everywhere in Germany is the completely disinterested clerks about which you also ranted, who couldn't care less if you buy something or not (of course not all of them), but you find them in most of the bigger stores.

    They get paid badly and they have no motivation to identify with their companies, as they know that they are only ein Kosten-Nutzen-Faktor to the management, despite verbose propaganda to the contrary ("Personal unser größter Erfolgsfaktor, bla bla bla"). But as soon as any "key process indicator" points in the wrong direction, they are the first to get kicked.
    Don't underrate the stress the German worker or clerk is under.
    Every second day they get told to not complain, there are lots of people from other countries who would take their jobs with a kiss of the hand.
    It's a time-honoured tradition to threaten workers with moving the factory they work in to Czechia or Poland.