First of all . . . I KNOW! Don’t get me started . . . While I really try to avoid making sweeping statements about people and cultures, I do find that this (along with the ever-grumpy old women who stare rudely on the 33 bus) to be totally spot on and true.
I wish I had an answer for you. I think maybe they need barricades? Everywhere? A knowing American or Brit assigned to stand with flags and assist and teach them how it’s done? Perhaps we get the 10,000 signatures needed and propose this formally and legally and institute it throughout the land. Just think of it. Switzerland. Only better.
I’m in line at the Migros, and it’s my turn. MY turn, damnit. There is an unspoken rule (at least in my head and where I come from) that I get to place myself in front of the cashier while she/he scans and then I pay. Then I will go and bag up my shite. But no . . . there is always some person - many times the same old biddy from the 33 bus who was giving me the evil eye that morning - who is all up in my business. Mere inches from my body. From my personal space! Perhaps this is a particular issue of mine. Perhaps I am more sensitive to the invasion of my personal space than others. But still. Personal space. It’s a basic human right. Everywhere but Switzerland, apparently.
So what do I do to combat this plague? I spread my elbows out. I hang back and give the person in front of me lots of room and piss those behind me right off. They want me to crowd the dude in front of me but I won’t. I am giving this dude his space whether he wants it or not. I am clearly not Swiss and this is upsetting for some; a thrilling fact for others.
When it gets really bad, I turn around and channel my inner grumpy woman from the 33 bus, look them in the eye and say indignantly, “Entschuldigung!” This seems to work as it both alarms and scares them and then they back off, likely scared of what I’ll do if they don’t step down. Mission accomplished.
My friend - let’s call her Emily from New Hampshire - lives here and is married to a Swiss man. The personal space thing and lack of lining up skills thing was also bothering her and so she asked him how to say, in Swiss German, “Get behind me.” He told her, “hinde ashtoh”. Easy enough, right? BUT what she heard was “hinde arschloch”. For those of you who do not understand the hilarity of this tiny little mix up, allow me to translate and enlighten you:
When Emily encountered someone breathing down her neck in line at the Coop, she would turn around and command, “hinte arschloch!” Which she thought meant, “Get behind me!” (Which, you might be saying to yourself, is a little harsh, but when you don’t speak much German, you are just happy to be able to get your point across with or without niceties.) When in reality, she was saying, “Get behind my asshole”. Get. Behind. My. Asshole. Yes. To old bus ladies and hipsters from Kries 4 alike. Yes. Brilliant. I’ll give you a moment to take it in and laugh some more.
It kills me. I make her say it every time I see her. And the only reason she realized that what she was saying was somehow not correct is because her lovely Swiss husband was with her in line one day and she said it. He asked, stunned, “What did you just say?!” Emily calmly repeated, “hinte arschloch!” Her husband, likely more mortified in his country than he’d ever been before, threatened divorce and dragged her out of the store, half laughing, half crying. She’s lucky she’s so cute.
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