Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Swiss run ins

A couple of weeks ago we were walking home from the train station when we met an older couple. They started speaking to us in German so we quickly apologized and asked if they spoke English. They did and we had a lovely conversation for several minutes before walking away and wishing each other a good evening.

Brian and I walked away from this encounter stunned. It's gotten to the point where I expect to be yelled at when someone stops me. This meeting was a breath of fresh air. Nice people who just wanted to say hello and compliment me on my kids? Where am I?!

I have replayed that encounter in my head multiple times in the last few weeks, even telling some friends about the nice older couple I met.

And then I was yelled at by an older woman at the grocery store that reduced me to tears.

The woman started in German. And when I stared at her blankly, shocked by this woman's outburst and meanness, she switched to English.

I walked across the parking lot (distance of 15 feet or so) 5-10 feet away from the crosswalk, with kids! How dare I, I was told, I should walk in the crosswalk when with kids.

I could draw a diagram or take a picture when at the store the next time I go to really illustrate just how out of line she was. But it doesn't matter. She thought I made the wrong choice and felt the need to point out to me what a bad mother I was. I felt I was doing the safest thing for my kids.

In the end, if someone here thinks you are doing something wrong, they will tell you. I just haven't gotten used to it yet. I want to remember the nice couple we met walking home from the train station, not every person who tells me how I am a horrible parent (no hat! no umbrella! walking five feet away from the crosswalk! disciplining your kids too loudly! your 3 year old is yelling! etc)

Expats, how do you deal with Swiss 'policemen'?


Chantal said...

Ha ha! This is so true. I used to have Swiss and Germans trying to correct my English. I mean, give me a break. They just don't think they're ever wrong...

grammie said...

Ah,Megs.. How about a big smile
and nod. Then continue on.

You are a fantastic Mother and
you know what to do. Be strong...

Who knows...they were probably having a horrible day and just decided to take it out on the beautiful Mom and her adorable little angels in front of them.

Smile :)

Love and Hugs,

mrsmac said...

Chantal- That's just hilarious!

Grammie- Oh I did just walk away, don't you worry!

Susan said...

I don't have little ones with me (my kids are grown and live in the U.S.) but ... I do have a dog!

I was scolded (twice!) for being near a dog park with my dog on the line - he is a scent dog and cannot be trusted off leash. I was told in English, once it was clear I wasn't catching the drift, that I did not belong there (meaning the park) ... but it felt like a slap in the face. Basically I was told to go home!

This happened 2 1/2 years ago, and it still stings to think about it.

But that doesn't compare to how it must feel to hear someone scold you about your kids and how you care for them. I am so sorry.

I think Grammie is right - smile, nod, say Danke and walk away.

There are nice, helpful, friendly Swiss - but they're not the ones who stick in on our brains, are they? Hang in there, Mrs. Mac!

mrsmac said...

Susan- What a shame! And I agree, I would love to remember the nicer couple but it is harder to do when they are the exception and not the norm!

Hoppy said...

I've been thinking about this a little.... maybe this happens in Switzerland more that the US because in the US people might be afraid to confront someone for fear of them going postal.

Love to all.

Reama said...

Meghan, you might enjoy this:

I was in San Francisco about three weeks ago and had two German speaking tourists ask me for directions in English. They had thick accents and a poor grasp of English. You should have seen the look of shock on their face when I gave them directions in German.

Also, when I lived in Turkey I was frequently shocked by the way people would speak to me or the questions they would ask. There was no beating around the bush with the Turks.

Also, to understand the German mentality, remember: Ordnung muss sein. (Orderliness must exist - and this point is non-negotiable)

Kristi said...

I was yelled at by a naked woman last week for using the sauna wrong and for not shutting the door properly. I wanted to ask her if she was hugged as a child, but I didn't. Of course all the things I thought of saying back happened 10 minutes later after the initial shock wore off. Fortunately this was my first experience of being yelled at. I can handle it once every 2.5 months I suppose.