Out of Line

Despite having a reputation for by-the-bookedess across the world, Germans actually tend to march to the tune of their own drum, which manifests in some odd ways. None of these is more frustrating than the seeming inability of Germans to line up properly.

Lining up in a clear and orderly way is especially important in a country like Germany, with its wealth of rail and bus lines, but whether you hop on the train or take the bus, you won’t find any neat queues forming up at the stops. Instead, people tend to mass around the doors when their line arrives, sometimes even jostling for position. While this might seem logical in certain circumstances, considering the ratio of riders to seats at rush hour, this behavior can be observed even when seemingly no benefit exists. In general, regardless of the circumstances, people just don’t line up in Germany.

This is especially strange because of how observant Germans are of other traffic laws. If traffic is light but I don’t have the green light to cross, I’ll usually look both ways and then jog to the other side. Jaywalking isn’t that unusual in the States, but this is one behavior that makes me very much stand out as a foreigner here. I’ve seen people waiting for a traffic light to turn at 2:00 AM on a deserted street in a village that even in the daytime only has a few cars worth of traffic every hour.

I sometimes ask myself why nobody seems to have figured out that it just makes more sense for everybody to form an orderly line before boarding the train, and no sense to wait for a light to tell you to cross the street when there’s no chance that you’ll ever be hit by a car, which is the only reason for the light to exist in the first place. But dissonance between my expectations and reality is one thing that I love about living here, despite the many frustrations that sometimes come with it.