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Monday, December 7, 2009

“A little bit chatty”

“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.

NoTalking 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.

7 comments:

Lydia said...

A chatty kathy would be welcome here in Rexburg! At least by me . . people here are friendly and can be talkative. I think sometimes it's more out of politeness than other, but you don't shun someone outright b/c they're "chatting" to you!

verena said...

we need badges that say something along the lines of 'don't worry I'm foreign - humour me'!!

Beth said...

Don't ever lose that ability/desire to be chatty & friendly. It is very much appreciated and reciprocated in other parts of the world!

Connie said...

Better to be too friendly than not enough. Just feel sorry for those who are missing out. I met a lot of friendly and chatty Germans during my few visits... but some were definitly NOT chatty... I didn't want to talk to them anyway :p

oreneta said...

Funky template!!!!

Chatty kids in class...there is a time and a place. Once they figure that out...

Chatty folks in line? I am so with you. I used to think that people talk to me everywhere, but no, in fact, I talk to strangers all the time.

All. The. Time.

Catalans seem to be cool with it though.

Lynda said...

Lydia: I just think it is a cultural thing, Germans have a whole different take on "friends" that Australians. And my father always said I could "talk the leg off a wooden chair"...

Verena: LOL Yep, that might work... except that we have flashing neon signs over our heads the moment we open our mouths anyway.

Beth: Canadians and Aussies always get on.. we have a similar outlook on life and sense of humour.

Connie: Too right.. some are quite happy to chat.. those that are 104 years old and haven't spoken to another living being for a month.. and want to chat just when you are in a hurry! LOL

Oreneta: Thank you, you are the only one that noticed.. I figured new hair cut, new template.
I agree.. it is like those days when you are feeling grumpy and find that everyone is grumpy.. and vis a versa...

G in Berlin said...

Well, I generally read you in my Reader, but I came out today and I also notice your pretty new template.
I understand all the sociological differences between Germans and "us"- that is, friendlier and warmer folks. I just think I married in under false pretenses, because my husband pretended he was shy, rather than aghast that I was striking up conversations with him. Americans chat all the time too, and we don't think we have to have gone to kita with someone to pass a few sentences. And we don't ask the age of stranger's, either.
Like the word verification: uncat. We are thinking about a new cat now (the longest time in my life without one, ever), and are discovering that folks sell cats here, rather than give them away. Another Teutonic quirk?

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