Saturday, December 22, 2012

"He's behind you!" – Oh no, wait, no he's not.

That's right, German pantomimes would be very different to English ones (if they even had Pantomimes that is). The Germans are definitely never behind you, they are alway one (or perhaps five) steps ahead of you. The Germans may be efficient, but the Germans don't queue. No ifs or buts – they don't queue, end of. What they are absolute masters of however, is the evasion of the dreaded English-style queuing system (which I long and crave for, I have to admit). Don't let your guard down for even a second; otherwise they will slip straight ahead of you – taking the last butter breze that you had been craving in the office for the last 3 hours (true story). The sneaky Germans can begin their queue-jumping approach in several ways, all beginning with a seemingly innocent tap on the shoulder followed by:

"Can I...?"

"I don't want to buy anything, I just have a quick question."

"I was here earlier, I just nipped to the toilet"

I have now learned the responses to all of these potentially duping techniques: GET.TO.THE.BACK.OF.THE.QUEUE

I'm ashamed to say I fell for all of these at first though, being the nice, trusting English person that I am who has faith in those around me not trying to outwit me to the best baked-goods. A fifty year old know what...decided to cross me when I was hungry and queuing to buy cream cakes (always a bad idea). I had already waited over 15 minutes in the non-existent queue (it involves hovering around the counter and hoping you catch the eye of the baker first!) and was getting impatient. She leans across me (she knew what she was doing the devious woman – a blatant body block if ever I saw one) and says, "I just have a quick question!". Turns out, unsurprisingly, that the quick question was about which cake she wanted to buy, which she then spends 15 minutes choosing while I was standing behind, money in hand. The most shocking part is that nobody around me was outraged by this. In England there would have definitely been some tutting, or curt comments. Or, better yet, the baker would have said, "I think this other lady was here first". Not in Germany. It's Darwinian – you snooze you lose – and in this case I lost the strawberry custard tart that I had greedily had my eye on for a full quarter of an hour. 

What is amusing though, is when a German tries a similar technique when surrounded by a group of British people, like at the airport. I was waiting to board when a German guy comes over and self-righteously pushes in front of me. I was not amused. Before I had chance to breathe and open my mouth though, the British cavalry were already there: "Oi mate, the back of the queue is behind you!". To which the German replies *in a very German, comedy-style British accent*: "I vos on thee toiLET, I vos ere before." Naturally though, the Brit didn't back down: "Well I didn't see you mate and it sounds like a classic queue-jumper thing to say. I'm afraid if you go for a p*** , you lose your place." Safe to say, this brazen British attitude actually worked. I smiled inwardly – God Save the Queen and her queue-obsessed citizens.

German queue behaviour is pretty strange too. I feel like as British person it is innate to queue in a straight line, one behind the other and, naturally, make sure you don't skip ahead of someone who was there 2 hours before you. The Germans? They do the drip effect. This can be best seen at airports (regardless of whether you are flying EasyJet or Lufthansa). As soon as that boarding announcement echoes over the airwaves, the Germans jump up from their seats and swarm towards the desk, in drip-like fashion.

One of the most frustrating habits though, involves the U Bahn. I can be standing waiting for the U Bahn to arrive for 10 minutes, with my prime spot where I know the doors will open (yes...I'm sad...I actually now know this...) and then, low and behold, a German comes and stands directly in front of me. DIRECTLY! It doesn't matter that the rest of the platform is entirely free, oh no, they just HAVE to stand there. Maybe it's the competitive side coming out again; in the same way it surfaces in sports shops. Perhaps there is something in that though, I definitely feel like it's always girls that do it – usually really pretty ones too. They are usually tall, blonde, tanned and flick their hair in my face as they do so. Lovely. I think this is definitely an underlying queue right too – your points on the hotness scale. These pretty girls seem to feel like it is their birthright to be first in the queue, no matter what the queue is for. A generalisation? Perhaps. Then again, if you had had blonde locks thrown into your face as much as I have, then you would understand where I am coming from.

Queuing at the supermarket checkout is also another stumbling block to master. The conveyor belts are a lot shorter in our supermarkets here – meaning a lot less time to load your things on and off, and you can be sure you have a pushy German huffing and puffing behind you. Yesterday I even had a woman stepping on my shoes in a stress to put her cat food tins on the conveyor – calm down love! Parents with no control over their children are also mildly enraging, even more so when they ask you for a favour. The other day I was in the supermarket queue and a woman asked me to get some stickers and give them to her, as my shopping would be expensive enough to get them free. Sure, why not help a lovely mother? She wasn't that lovely though. She let her irritating kids pull, push and shove around me (and actually me too), and then patronisingly interrupted my conversation with the cashier to tell me that she didn't want THOSE stickers, she wanted the OTHER stickers, followed by a massive sigh of frustration and a look which said *stupid British woman*. Meanwhile her children were mishandling my oranges – little buggers. I felt like telling her to stick her stickers where the sun didn't shine, but instead...I kept my cool.

Speaking of children, I had a very irritating toilet-queuing situation recently (don’t get me started on there only being 2 toilets for a place filled with hundreds of women). Everyone was dying for the bathroom, that much was obvious, (blame it on beer), and then a woman waltzes in with her son and pushes to the front. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a child-hater...quite the opposite in fact. However, if he had been under five it would have been fine...under 6...acceptable. But seven or eight?! That's just wrong to me on too many levels. What's going to happen to him if she sends him to the boy’s bathroom? He's not going to get lost in the lavatory bowl. Even if he did, at least he would learn something. I'm almost 100% sure that he was a decoy because she was dying to go, and knew that would help her get to the front. Never underestimate the power of a desperate, queue-jumping German Frau.

Oktoberfest queuing is another thing entirely. Luckily the bouncers are well trained for the regular lines though, such as: "My friend is in there and has a table". Luckily for me too, they weren't trained in regard to boobs, exceedingly good dirndl bras and bunches of single women – I can unashamedly say that I got into tents every time this year with little trouble (am I turning into a queue-jumping German?!).

It's not all rudeness and pushing and shoving through. Oh no. The German's can be extremely polite – just in the most awkward of places: the sauna, and the changing rooms. You can be standing starkers in the changing room and the Germans will always greet the room with great gumption when they enter and leave it and if they think you may not have heard their hearty hello, they will probably come closer and say it again (regardless of your naked state), so make sure to respond straight away to avoid having a close-up and personal version. In the sauna too, it's the same: "Grüß Gott" (Greet God. Welcome to the catholic state of Bavaria – this is how we say hello here) is said to the whole room upon entering. For the first time in their day too, the Germans actually shift over and look almost eager for you to sit beside them. Hmmm.

On second thoughts, maybe I'm not so unhappy with the impolite attitude. Actually, I would definitely welcome it in the wellness area if it means no more awkward sauna situations– go ahead Germans, spread meanness across the spa world, you have my blessing!