02 April 2016

The German Omniscient Radar and the Excuse-Me-Allergy

Recently I have had some interesting and semi-bizarre experiences in social settings. It mainly has something to do with Germans, and the fact that they seem to be allergic to the phrase "Excuse me." Yep, it seems that they just want people to sense that they are there, and that other people should make way for them.

One evening, I was in the supermarket. I finally finished getting everything I needed, and I was lining up at the counter. I then noticed two girls behind me, and they were talking loudly. "Eine Banane, ich habe nur eine Banane..., ehem, ehem." That phrase repeated over and over again. They weren't talking to me, mind you, they were just there giggling and coughing, and while doing so, they were saying to no one in particular, that they have just one banana.

I pulled my phone out, and faked a call. I talked to myself in English, wondering what they would do.

Suddenly, I heard one of them say "Oh nein, er versteht uns nicht (Oh no, he doesn't understand us)." So guess what happened?

"One banana, I only have one banana..., ehem ehem, and the snake is so long..." The German word Schlange translates to both the snake, the animal; as well as to the queue, when one is waiting for something.

At that time I was just amused, and since they made an effort, I let them go before me, telling them in German, that they were too funny to ignore. But at the same time, I was just tired and therefore didn't want to make a big deal out of it.

Other situations were different. There was another time, in the supermarket again, where one guy just said "Darf ich mal... (May I...)" to another person waiting in line, but without even waiting for an answer, he already budged his way to go further. I was wondering why he even said it, when he wasn't interested in the response.

And the other day, we were lining up again at the supermarket, and apparently the person in front of us was not alone. Her companion just budged through and forced her way through us, without even saying a simple "Excuse me."

So this leads me to conclude that Germans really think that everyone else is omniscient, that everyone can sense whatever else is happening around them, and therefore they don't need to ask permission, apologize, or say excuse me. It's like they all have an allergy against saying these words. And it comes out as rude. Or at least, very impersonal.


  1. Well, in Canada, people apologize for no reason. All the time. It's cute, I guess... but sometime really silly, because the words lose their meaning.

    1. Zhu,

      So I wonder what would happen if a Canadian and a German should meet... :)