The other day I was shopping with a Japanese friend of mine. She wanted to buy some presents for her friends back in Japan. We were wondering around a store for a long time. While I was checking some face creams, she left me to have a look at body lotions. Some minutes later, she came to me and complained that an old lady (another customer) told her not to check lotion flavors by opening the bottle caps. My friend said she ignored the lady and pretended she did not hear her.
Actually, I have seen people opening packages in a shop. Some want to check flavors, others mix up the testers with products for sale, some do it for other reasons unknown to me. Shall I scold them next time I see them opening a bottle of shampoo?
Once, a friend of mine suggested getting some Chinese food. By Chinese food she meant a box of fried noodles. The name of the fast food restaurant we went to is Hao Box (Hao means ‘good’ in Chinese). So we got our ‘good’ boxes full of oily vegetables and fried meat. The weather was sunny, and we stood by a bench at a riverside to have our Chinese snack. As we were eating, a German lady came to us to ask if the food was good. ‘It is OK’ I said. ‘You better eat fresh vegetables’ commented she. I smiled at her. What a small talk!
This kind of interaction between strangers is not new to me. On the other hand, many of my foreign friends who live in Germany find it irritating. ‘Why do they like to point at somebody else’s mistakes, but not at their own? How dare they to tell you what to do when you do not break any rules?’
My husband used to live in a WG with German students. One day, he wanted to vacuum the floor around 8pm. He was advised not to do it, because landlord’s children liked to go to bed early. Some days later, his flatmates were partying at 1am. They also used to leave dirty dishes in a kitchen sink for days, and take kitchen gadgets I bought for personal use without asking my permission. At the same time, when I used the last piece of baking paper there was a drama. I was planning to get new parchment paper the next day, but had to hurry up to a supermarket the same evening.
I believe, before you point out at somebody else’s mistake, it is better to look at yourself first. Have you never done anything wrong? Really?
I am not saying that we shall keep quiet when we see somebody is breaking the law. I also support the woman I saw on a bus telling young German girls not to put their dirty shoes on a chair in front of them. I support a German man who reproachfully looked at teenagers littering on grass.
Whom I do not support is a curvy woman who intentionally pushed me as I was trying to get on a bus. Yes, I did wait for people to get off. No, I did not see her coming. I also have a hard time to get off a bus while people cannot wait to get in, but I do not push anyone.
Let’s be reasonable. If you cross the street on a red light and through away old glass bottles on Sundays, do not boss others around as you see them doing the same. Look at yourself first. Also, do not create rules that do not exist. For example, my neighbors distract me by playing the guitar, but I do not complain. They do not break the Hausordnung rules by playing the music at 9pm. So, why did my other neighbors complain to us that we were loud at 8pm? We cannot change the fact that walls are thin in the building, and we did not break the rules.
Some Germans online say that many of their countrymen enjoy ‘smart-ass talks’. Let’s just be fair. We shall speak up when there is a legitimate reason, but we shall not preach others about mess in a kitchen when we leave all the dirt from our shoes in a hall.