Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why are the Swiss so pushy?

Since most of you could relate to the Migros Moments post (thank God, it's not just me going crazy), I wanted to share an excerpt from the book, When in Germany, Do as the Germans Do, by Hyde Flippo. While I know we're talking Switzerland here, as I read this book last night, I realized a lot of the things in this book are useful for describing the way people in Switzerland act and may help explain the unexplainable.

There is a set of questions in this book and one of them is:

Why are Germans so pushy? They don't seem to know what a line/queue is.

Ah, welcome to Switzerland too. But the book tells us that "pushy" behavior is a European thing. It means that the meek (in other words, us Anglo-Saxons) will wait forever in doing things like getting off a bus, getting waited on at a store, etc. The books says that we need to adjust to a mentality that regards politeness as a sign of weakness, and smiling for no reason as a sign of a weak mind.

Dang.

What do you think? Is politeness a sign of weakness? Have you trained yourself not to smile while living here? I have, and it makes me feel depressed. How about you?

16 comments:

krystal said...

thanks for the welcome comment on my blog! :) this is interesting...i definitely noticed the pushyness while trying to get help at the migros electronics store :) it was also like this in sarajevo at the grocery store - it was kind of like your migros moment except this person was dashing to cut in front of me in line at the cashier!

i don't know if I think politeness is a sign of weakness, but I guess they think that here!

mrsmac said...

This is so interesting. Reminds me of something Brian told me months ago. He told me that I was just going to have to change and become more pushy if I didn't like all the "Migros moments". He continued that he has become more like the Swiss because he realized everyone was so it was either that or be walked over.

I told him that I shouldn't have to become an ass because the people around me are. So no, I don't see politeness as a sign of weakness or a smile as a sign of a weak mind. I think that mentality is sad!

Anneliese Mostert said...

Oh this really bothers me here too! Especially when waiting to get on a train. The other day, also at the station, my husband stood back to let a woman get on the escalator ahead of him. Before she could get on though some other guy pushed passed to get on first. But the lady really appreciated it and gave my husband a big smile! I could see she wasn't used to that happening very often. Where I come from, that's just what most nice guys do so I find it quite rude when a guy pushes past me to get onto the train and that while other people are still busy getting off the train! Grrr..

Kathy said...

You are onto something with this. The other day I stood in line around the buffet at Tibbits and watched as all of the foreigners were just overrun and pushed aside. I wanted to give the one in front of me a little encouraging push forward and say don't be afraid. Get in there. Use your elbows :)

Susan said...

I have learned to be a bit more assertive when walking through stores or entering buildings, but I draw the line at pushing through people in line.

As for smiling at those around me - I'm going to keep doing it, because that's who I am - if people want to take that as being simple-minded, that's their problem. My goal is to be myself in whatever society I'm in, and surviving ... all at the same time!

La Mom said...

No one can do pushy politeness like the French. You can tell someone to go to hell while still using the "vous" form and referring to the other person as sir or ma'am!

La Mom
An American Mom in Paris

Chantal said...

Welcome to the expat bloggers, Krystal, glad to have you join us!

Mrs mac, I agree. I try not to be an ass because of the way others are, but I notice that I've completely changed the way I move my body. And when I shop in the States, I go to push someone out of the way, and then I feel bad.

Chantal said...

Anneliese, I do notice that sometimes people are pleasantly surprised when you are polite to them. I let an old lady get out on the train the other day and she smiled like she couldn't believe it.

Kathy, use your elbows is right!

Susan, that sounds like a good tactic. But I hate when I smile and they don't smile back. It creeps me out.

La Mom, that French conversation sounds perfect for this situation. I think I'll try that using Frau and Herr and see how the Swiss react.

Kristi said...

Who knew all my years of basketball would come in so handy. I just box the hell out of anyone who tries to pull the rude, pushy nonsense.

I am not certain the Swiss do it more than any other European city. I have experienced line/queue issues in every single European country/city I have visited.

Chantal said...

Yeah, I think I've come to the conclusion that it is a European thing. Although I don't think you can count England in this because when I acted "European" there about getting off the Tube, people gave me looks of hate and then I remembered who I used to be.

Angela in Europe said...

Hi. I just stumbled onto your blog, but I HATE the not being friendly thing in Europe. I've been here for 4 years and I still have to fight the urge to smile. I've heard the whole theory so I know that it is a cultural thing, but still!

Kate said...

Many years ago I lived in Germany. I remember clearly my first trip to the cinema. In England, the cinema queue is right up there with bus and bank queues, so imagine my concern as more and more people amassed outside the closed doors of the Hamburg theatre in no discernible order. "What will happen when the doors open?" I asked my German boyfriend. "We use these" he replied, pointing to his elbows. And we had to. It seemed so bizarre in a country that was otherwise so ordered.

Sean said...

There is some behaviour which is dated. One is politeness, two is ethics, three morals, and four humility. I think you can attribute all those things to all countries in the world, the only difference being that they differ in degrees, depending on the country or continent in which you live. Problem is that it has left many of us confused and lacking direction in life....

Chantal said...

I seem to be getting quite good at using my elbows.

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