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The German Space Bubble

During  Psychology class in junior year of high school, our teacher talked about the psychological “phenomenon” of the so called space bubble. The space bubble defines how close or far away a person stands from you while communicating or interacting with you in any other way or form and the size of the space bubble varies from culture to culture. So some people may stand very close to you while talking and others may choose to keep a certain distance.  I believe that we mentioned the American space bubble, the Arab space bubble and maybe, if I remember correctly, there was something said about an Asian space bubble but I am sure that Germany was not mentioned.

I remembered that scene from Psych class again today while having a conversation at the university cafeteria with my friends this afternoon, and because I have been looking for new topics to blog about lately, I thought I tell you guys about the people of Germany and their horrible perception of the space around them because surely, if you ever find yourself in Germany, you will have to deal with that untactfulness, so you better know what awaits you.

The people of Germany may be good at making cars, producing energy efficient lamps, or telling other countries how to handle their finances, but apparently using their space and surroundings efficiently for the good of all the other people around them is not one of their specialties, just like building airports.

I am not using the word ‘Germans’ in this post because as many of you know, Germany’s society is composed of so many people from different nationalities and cultures that I cannot limit the issue to Germans alone. That simply wouldn’t be fair, would it?

I noticed this behavior first while living in the district of Wedding, surrounded by various fruit and vegetable markets. The streets were almost always crowded with people and getting forward quickly was anything but easy. What made the process even slower, were the women who would just stand in the middle of the street out of nowhere, like mushrooms in the forest. They would kiss each other on the cheeks three times and start chatting about anything and everything. While doing that, they probably did not waste a single thought on the people who now were somehow trying to get past them. Because surely remaining in the same spot is much easier than just going to the side where you are not bothering anyone, right?

To the defense of the women I must say though, that going to the side is not as easy as it sounds. I really don’t know what is going on with the people here. They are either very lonely human beings and are constantly in search of the closest thing they can get to physical contact, or they really just ignore everything around them. Whenever I try to go to the side while checking my phone or tying my shoelaces, I still have people who are passing THIS CLOSE by me. The surprising thing is that there is not even a lack of space. There is plenty of free street or floor or whatever to walk on, but no, people are still almost stepping on me, pretending like I am in their way and not the other way around. How about you guys spread out a little more evenly? I am sure the empty floor to your other side is all sad now because it is being neglected so much. You don’t want to hurt its feelings, do you?

The same applies to busses or train wagons. There may even be free seats left, but the people of Germany will nevertheless choose to remain in a huge human mass, nearly squeezing each other to death against the walls and doors and eventually other people. At least some let the elderly sit down. Faith in humanity not completely lost yet?

Speaking of the respectable elderly…depending on where in Berlin (or any other German town) you live, you may run into a lot of them at the same time. Most elderly people here walk very slowly, take up quite some space and prefer holding hands with their husbands and wives and grandchildren. So, if you think there is any chance you will get past any of them quickly, I have to disappoint you and say that in order to do that you’d have to be pretty rude and probably move them to the side, because German elderly have all the time in the world so get ready for some slow strolls.

But the space issue goes even beyond walking in public. Remember that fuss about people who just keep standing on the left side of the escalator? Well, nowadays I have noticed a new trend, or maybe it has been around for a while already. Today people just looovveee to take a seat not by the window but on the outer seat while the seat next to the window just stays empty. I would get that if the person would get out soon, but nooo they just sit there until the very end of the route and have no intentions to move a bit to let other people sit down. You’ll literally have to climb over them to get that spot.

So if I was in Psychology class again and would have to discuss space bubbles one more time, I would say that the people of Germany don’t even need a bubble at all. That would be waay too complicated to abide by.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    It was always amazing to me that I could walk through my college campus at NIU with hundreds of other students all rushing to class and NO ONE ever even bumped into me. In Germany there can be just two people walking down the street and they will run right into you 🙂

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