No, you’re not welcome!

No, don’t be afraid. I’m not talking about you, dear readers… I’m referring to the public services in Germany.

Those who have spend some time around our country may have expierenced the incomparable “friendliness” of shop assistants, cashiers etc. Yeah, well, to clear things up for those who haven’t,  there’s no such friendliness. Germany is generally known as public-service wasteland. And that’s so true.

I remember when I first was in England at the age of 14. I was amazed by the friendliness of everybody. People used a lot of “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”… As I adapt to my surroundings quite quickly I also started using these words and was laughed at when I came home. “You’re so formal” was the exclamation of my friends and family. But I thought it was rather an act of friendliness and continued this habit.

There have been more than one cashier to look up suprised, if not shocked to find me greeting her when I got to the chash box. And just imagine her face when I wished her a “Good afternoon!” after I had paid… Of course, there is also friendly staff, like in our local butcher’s or veggie/fruit shop where people are addressed by name. But generally its a wasteland.

Just the other day, I was in the post office. The package was huge. It weighed about 15 kg (around 25 lbs). I had parked right in front of the office, but still had to carry it into the shop. There were tons of people, but there was no-one who’d help me. No they didn’t even bother to get out of the door so I could walk through properly…

When it was my turn I put the package on the counter. The lady behind was already looking really unfriendly.

I said: “Hello. I’d like to send this package. It’s already post-paid.”

She looked at me, then at the package then back to me again. Then she took her bar code scanner to read the bar code and print out the receipt. Still she hadn’t said a word. Unfortunately the scanner couldn’t read the bar code. So she sighed loudly, put back the scanner and started typing the code into her computer. Still no word.

I was like: “I hope it’s not a big problem, that the bar code can’t be read.”

That finally pulled her from her muteness, because she literally barked: “Yeah, well, could be that the package is returned, because the code can’t be read!” (To be honest I can’t imagine that they’re going to return a package that weighs 15 kg, just because the bar code can’t be read and the address is completely readable!)

By then, she had finished typing in the code and printed out the receipt. She thrust it into my hand and turned away. Without a word.

As I asked if this was all, she turned around nodded once and turned away again. She didn’t even say “yes”.

I was so baffled at that moment. I didn’t know what to say. I mean. Everybody can have a bad day, but a tiny bit of friendliness wouldn’t hurt either! What’s so difficult about saying hello, please, thank you, you’re welcome and goodbye??? A smile, a nice word, anything can make your day.

So here’s for you: Thank you for reading all my posts and leaving all those wonderful comments. And be sure that the following always applies here:

Have a wonderful day…

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3 thoughts on “No, you’re not welcome!

  1. I know what you mean. Having lived in the US for quite a while now, I’ve gotten very used to the – admittedly, often – superficial friendliness.
    I miss it, when I go back home.

    People are not unfriendly everywhere and I’ve been positively surprised a few times. However, German customer service needs improvement.

    I really try to make an effort to be friendly, even when I met with suspicion or surprised faces.

    I do have to say one thing though: I take “no words” over a forced, not genuine “Schönen Tag noch” any day. Then I would just feel “verarscht”.

  2. It’s true what you’re saying. Though friendliness often has the touch of being superficial, I prefer a superficial “Have a nice day!” to no goodbyes at all…

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