“By learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nurture a friendliness toward ourselves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul.” Thomas Moore
“A little bit chatty” was written on the first report card that Miss Eight ever brought home. Even today, I can’t tell you what else the report said, most of it wonderful I suppose, but this, I remember.
It struck home with a blow. Most of my life, I had pretty much the same thing written on every report card I ever brought home too. The sound of my voice seemed to aggravate my teachers beyond despair, to the point, that a certain math teacher once resorted to throwing a chair at me, in a vain attempt to get me to shut up.
Recently, in a passing comment to Mr Dear Husband, I mentioned that people don’t seem very friendly at the supermarket.
“Well, what are you doing to them?” He inched a little to the right, and put up his hands into a classic boxing pose.
“What do you mean doing? I just chat to them while I am waiting in the queue!” I am feeling a little indignant… could I have made another blunder in the complicate world of German etiquette?
Mr Dear Husband cleared his throat a little, took a deep breath… “It could be, in fact quite possible, well maybe…”
“Oh get on with it please!!” Now I am sensing that something unpleasant is coming.
“Honey, people just don’t chat with complete strangers here.” He started doing that squinty thing with his eyes… and twisting his hands together.
HUH? Confusion. “How can it be that they don’t chat… what else is there to do while you are waiting in a queue? It’s not like you can flick through the latest magazines as your groceries are shot-gunned through the Aldi checkout.”
Mr Dear Husband did that tiny shake of his head and slight nibbling on his bottom lip. That is code for ‘No chance she is going to let me get away with this one’. I let him go… very Diane Fossey of me.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised he was right. The reactions to my ‘chattiness’ have ranged from a half-way friendly nod to outright hostility. On one occasion, there I was just chatting away about some product or other with the lady in front (she was a non-German born chick too), when she mentioned that it wasn’t her groceries we were discussing. I turned slowly to find the tallest woman on the planet staring down at me with such a grim face that it gave me nightmares for a week. I didn’t even attempt to chat to her…
It is something so Australian to chat when you are standing in a queue, be it about the weather or the lousy service, what you are cooking for dinner tonight… it doesn’t matter, you just chat.
Germans don’t do chat, it would appear. It goes a long way toward explaining why I get strange looks when they see me coming… the sort of looks usually reserved for the weird, wild-haired lady that lives with 47 cats.