Thursday, March 25, 2010
The German Stare
I am going to introduce y'all to a new concept. The German Stare is often interpreted as a reaction to you being a foreigner. At least I thought so- I couldn't speak German, I might have worn clothing that shouted "American" though I didn't know it, and I didn't behave like a true German. However, I can at this point pass for a German in brief conversations, and I dress subtly enough that no one suspects I'm a foreigner until I open my mouth too far. The German Stare is simply a part of German culture. It's not as if we don't stare in America- I've certainly done my fair share of staring- but we tend to look away quickly and pretend we were doing something else if the person we're staring at looks our way. We hide the fact that we're watching, we look out of the corners of our eyes, watch people from behind our magazines or in window reflections. In Germany, if you are at all interesting, people will stare. They will stare directly, look you up and down, and even make eye contact with you if you look at them. Sometimes they'll twist an opinion into their facial expression- of humor, contempt, or distaste. They don't hide it. In some ways it's good- you don't have to wonder if the person likes you or not, as you do in America when people hide behind a fake polite mask. If someone thinks you're dumb or dressed funny, you'll know.