Monday, January 17, 2011

Playing Well With Others

Ryan and her friends at Lawnton State School welcoming this years preppies.
We ran into another ''recovered German'' a few weeks ago on the bus. She came to Australia as a 10-year old. Still remembers her German but speaks English with an Aussie accent. Would never consider going back. And just doesn't understand why they are all so rude over there.

She thinks its the schools. ''They just don't learn HOW to be nice to one another.''

I wonder still if the education system reflects the faults of the society or the society reflects the failures of the education system. (And not just in Germany.)

One thing we agreed on is that playing well with others is just as important, and maybe more so, than math scores. (Why are we always worried about the MATH scores?!)

Playing well with others is something Aussies do well. (Our math scores aren't bad either, since you ask!)

1.Aussies- men and women, all colors and races- willingly give up their seats on the bus or train to children, elderly, young mothers and other people in need. WILLINGLY. And they insist. I have given up trying to argue that I can stand while we squeeze the twins in.

2.Aussies give up the right of way on the sidewalk when they see children coming. Young adults too. We thank them politely and tell them it was unnecessary and they look at us like we are nuts. ''But you have kids. It's only natural.'' Explain that to the German men who insist that the pavement is theirs and refuse to give an inch as my family tries to get around them. It may mean that we swarm to all sides, but Goddamnit that sidewalk is theirs.

3.I've had strangers at the mall – kids in their TEENS – offer to keep an eye on the kids while I head to the counter for food.

A kid-friendly society.  Happy kids make happy adults?

4.People in the movie theatres try to sit so that adults don't obstruct the children's views. They apologize if they can't find a way around it and we work out a seating arrangement together- sometimes with the kids mixed in with theirs – so that everyone can see

5.People help eachother with groceries and bags on the bus. I tell them about all the hassles I used to have with the double stroller – and about how all the Germans would just sit and watch – and they can't believe noone ran over to help me.

6.People constantly ask us if we are in line when we are a good six to nine feet (two to three yards )away. They want to be sure they aren't going ahead of us. In Germany, people TRY to cut in front of you so they can get to the front of the line faster. If you are IN line and look down to answer an SMS – beware, because someone has just taken advantage of your inattention to jump right in front of you. And oh yes, they are well aware of what they are doing.

It's been a lot easier for me to learn to accept help when that help is so freely offered.

The thing is, everyone is happier this way. Noone is fighting over their spot on the sidewalk. It just seems so silly, doesn't it?!

I'm not going to insist that everyone should be as friendly as the Aussies. I personally like having people I don't know – yet – strike up conversations with me. How else are we going to find universal consciousness if we aren't conscious of others?! But it's not for everyone. Yet.

Respect for families and love of children can only help Germany but good luck with that. Large families are met with such disdain there. Like we didn't know how to prevent having all those children. Or worse, were low class enough to WANT that many. How gauche.

People here come up and ask us if those four are ours. And if those two really are twins.   And then shake our hands, give us a high-five, or tell the children how lucky they are. It started in the airport on the way here. People telling us what a lovely family we had and how beautiful our children are. In Germany all we ever heard – if we heard anything – was how much work we must have with all those kids. Joy, Germany, what about the JOY?!

Christmas Eve with friends.  Ages 2 to 13 played together. 

You want to raise the birth-rate, stop thinking about children as a burden and a responsibility.

Or make your immigrants feel welcome. Yeah, like THAT'LL happen!

Europeans often say that they find American friendliness to be artificial, that it doesn't really mean anything.

Yeah, sure is nice when someone ''artificially'' holds the door open for you while you're struggling with that double stroller though isn't it? (Oh, sorry, MY FAULT I had all those kids to begin with. You go right ahead on through, sir, don't worry about us standing here. Sorry we're in the way. If you push my four year old just a little harder he'll step aside and you'll be able to get where you want to go.)

How much does it have to MEAN to give up your seat on the train for an elderly woman in a walker?! (The nerve of her coming on the train with that walker!)

Are Germans as a society really so unhappy (and I say yes) that they are UNABLE to think of someone besides themselves and put themselves in someone else's shoes? Is the lousy education system a reflection of the society or the society a reflection of a failed education system?

It's not about your right to be on the sidewalk, it's about your willingingness to share that sidewalk with others.

The Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, has asked us to treat victims of the flood by asking ourselves how we would want to be treated if we were in the same position.

Didn't some Jesus guy say that too?

All I know is that I'd rather be right here, surrounded by floodwater and a massive relief effort, than fighting for my place in line in Germany.

Playing well with others. Put THAT on the international school scores.
Lucky and privileged to be part of a large family.

1 comment:

  1. For the record, the German school system does fairly well with academics - IF your kid can keep up.

    And yes, I do realize I would have affected more change - on however small a scale - if I had kept up my sense of humor there and led by example. I did a bit. My shrink - who was German and who had to listen to quite a bit of these rants herself - told me that she dealt with it by complementing anyone who WAS friendly and helpful.

    That helped me begin to do the same. I thanked the lady who didn't cut in front of us in line at the Subway. (and then let her go first since we had six people) I complimented the friendly folks at the checkout counters in Real. (April/May 2010 I believe those posts - and that attitude change occurred.)

    I DID smile and I did stay friendly despite the looks I got for it. (I also made snide comments in English fairly certain most folks would understand them! SOrry - I never ever professed to be perfect! Just working on compassion!)

    Am I defending myself? Apologizing for my views? Na, just feeling a tad bit guilty (I AM German after all!) that I couldn't do more while I was there.

    I love so many folks in Germany that its really hard for me to realize that I can never go back there. SO many people complimented me on being strong enough to leave. I replied that I was sorry I wasn't strong enough to stay,

    BUt oops....that sounds like a blog in waiting!