Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin
Friday, 19 February 2016
Peace begins with a smile. (Mother Teresa)
"A half dozen recent studies demonstrate the power that a simple positive interaction with a stranger has to make us happier " they write in Psychology Today.
Well - for this Berlin is the right place.
I have lived in many towns and cities - and even succeeded to have wonderful conversations with unbeknown Scots in Edinburgh (while English people had warned me that this would be almost impossible).
I have very interesting conversations in trains.
And in Berlin people very often smile at you often, quite unexpectedly. At first I was really surprised - 'What did they want?' my Northern soul asked cautiously.
They smiled because they are (often) happy and content with there life here.
And I smile back.
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That is so nice, i must visit Berlin one day.ReplyDelete
It is worth a travel, Yael. We live here now for over 6 years, and love it - so much to see!Delete
Although I love Berlin very much and have visited many times I have never found the people particularly friendly towards me and smiling, never. Perhaps it is because I don't speak a word of German.ReplyDelete
I would also like to know why you are so fascinated by Hyacinth Bucket.Delete
I was surprised too, because 'die Berliner' have the reputation of being more rude or cheeky. Your explanation - that you do not speak German - can't be true, because they smile at me when we meet in the street, without having spoken a word before. And it is not a question of age - it might be a sort of silent consent. Maybe it is my way of looking at them, I'm really interested in people and look into their eyes, and often friendly.Delete
And I'm not?Delete
And why are you so interested in Hyacinth Bucket, you missed that bit.Delete
As to your second question: don't forget Onslow! :-)(And Rose, by the way :-)! As you know I studied literature, language and linguistics - and Hyacinth is a wonderful example for using the rich English language of people trying to be more than middle-class (wich she not even is) - so amusing in its verbosity (of course with hilarious results).Delete
But you should know that my heart beats for Joanna Lumley - and in two very different parts of England I got the beautiful compliment of two men who don't know each other that I am "Germany's answer to Joanna Lumley". Now isn't that absolutely fabulous? :-)
Rachel, I start to wonder... I was just writing that peace about Hyacinth - it takes me longer than in German, and I get the feeling that you are not only impatient but also intent on feeling wronged, so I set my words with care.Delete
Sorry, because I cannot see a time on your comment replies I didn't realise you had only just written your reply about Berliners. I would have been more patient had I known. I understand. I do not know people who talk about her, Hyacinth, and I noticed that you often do so I just wondered.Delete
I believe in the power of the smile. Because I was raised in small towns I was taught to greet people with a smile and a spoken word. Even walking on the street if we met someone coming from the other direction we were expected to smile and say hello. I missed that so when I lived in the big city. Now that I am back home I revel in the happy greetings from others and being comfortable doing the same.ReplyDelete
Yes, Emma: I love the way that people say 'Grüß Gott' in Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg - in smaller towns or villages. In other parts of Germany it sometimes happens when you meet someone in open nature - I think it is a sort of reassuring the other person that you come with good intentions.ReplyDelete
Nowadays it sometimes happing in apartment buildings that people don't know the name of their neighbour.
But that is why I am so surprised that total strangers, passing by, smile (sometimes; and definitely more often as in lovely Hamburg)
Mother Teresa was violently unpleasant toward her nuns. Beware sadists who smile.ReplyDelete
That was new to me, Tom. I read a bit now, and, being not attached to her, am not that surprised: a lot of people in high places (and a lot of little people with a little power) are using their power in an unpleasant way. Maybe it is not good for someone to be adored (and obeyed) too much. Nevertheless, her quote is fine to me.Delete
I have the sort of face that looks utterly miserable even when I'm not, so I try to smile often which makes people smile at me in turn.ReplyDelete
A face - and eyes - that smile are always a treat for those who are genuinely smiled at.Delete
Since up here I don't see much of anyone unless it's arranged, it's a pleasure to go down to NYC, where it's common to have pleasant encounters with neighbors and local shopkeepers. (Mother Teresa, sadly, is apparently not as advertised, as noted by another commenter here. Such a shame.)ReplyDelete
Yes Sue, I thought the people in NYC very friendly too (though those living near the Hudson river were even overtrumping them!) And as I wrote to Tom: I am not that surprised at Mother Teresa. There are saint-like people who can really handle their power - but a lot are becoming despots (behind closed doors - think of Joan Crawford).Delete
I live in a small town. I always smile at the people who vote for me (or not). And they smile back at me, or not. And the transaction ends. I think I smile more than anyone else, because I smile at everyone.ReplyDelete
And the good thing is, Joanne: smiling makes us a lot younger - as in "The quickest facelift is a smile". So both sides benefit :-)Delete
In spite of what my parents tried to teach me, I have ALWAYS talked to and smiled at strangers. I figure they're just friends we haven't made yet, right? It used to embarrass our kids when they were growing up, but now? They do the same thing! And people have always responded. Sometimes they look surprised at first, but they respond, and seem to be happy to do so. So I think "Psychology Today" is absolutely right. :)ReplyDelete
Susan, I see that instantly: people who are curious and extrovert and humorous are burning to discover how other people tick! Which gives me one explanation I haven't thought about yet: in Berlin live many, many extroverts. (In Hamburg people are cute, but often very posh and a bit wary - though when they trust you, they are good reliable friends). As to the kids: I was embarrassed when my father talked with strangers (my mother even more embarassed).Delete
My job is to talk with thousands of unbeknownst youth - but in Berlin it fascinates me the thing that happens between strangers - without words, without something happening then - though it is easy here to make aquaintances.
I also smile (and talk) to strangers. I always think I have a scowl-looking appearance but, when I see small children smiling back at me, well then, it must be the contrary. Greetings Maria xReplyDelete
When you smile, Maria, and children smile back, your impression of yourself must be utterly wrong, because children - in my opinion - have a very good sense for whom they like or not (and they will stubbornly refuse to like someone they don't like). And their smile is without "wanting" something from you. Greetings! Britta xDelete
Re Joanna Lumley,I wore a "Purdy haircut" back in the 70s. XDelete
That is sweet! Do you have a photograph? Looking it up it reminds me of this French singer, Mireille Mathieu.Delete
I think that Joanna's "Ivana Trump"-hairdo (in Absolutely Fabulous' is très chic!
I was in Berlin about 10 years ago. I remember people being quite smiley. I did my bit. I think it's contagious. I was told not to smile at too many strange women ;-)ReplyDelete
And of course, Gwil, you followed that sound advice?? :-)Delete
I've always felt my mood lift in everyday crowds --well-behaved ones-- whether they smile at me or not. I guess we're fundamentally pack-animals and need to be around each other sometimes.ReplyDelete
Definitely - pack-animals. If it is not too crowdy (meaning: you can't go forth or back) I love "a bath in the crowd", though that depends, as you say, at the behaviour. Sometimes you wish to read Hardy instead - "Far From the Madding Crowd". :-)Delete
In all my travels I have found that if I smile at people, they smile back. That said, in some countries people must be raised to be just that little bit more polite - as in Bavaria, or in the southern US or on our east coast. I like it when people say 'hello' and here on the island often find that people will say 'hello' back....I practice on my morning walks.ReplyDelete
That is such a nice habit, to say "Hello"! And yes, people are different - that's why I was really surprised in Berlin. We lived in so many Bundesländer - here they communicate easy - my impression - though politeness is not the first characteristic of the Berliner...Delete