In the U.S., when we pass by somebody we don’t know in the grocery store, we say, “Excuse me.” If we are looking at the same clothing rack at the mall and we’re standing within 3-5 feet of them, we say, “Sorry.” And when we walk past them in the post office, again we utter, “Sorry!”
These apologies and excuse me’s have become a sort of greeting when you are within a certain distance of someone’s space bubble here in the United States. In Germany it’s wayyyy different.
If you pass by someone in the grocery store aisle in Berlin, you don’t say anything. If you want to walk in front of the yogurt display they’re looking at, you just walk right in front of them and grab your yogurt. If you need to buy a ticket in the tram, you push forward, cut in front of whoever’s standing there, and buy it.
The only time someone says, “Entschuldigung” (excuse me), is if they accidentally bump into you. And even then they might not even say anything.
In the tiny, crowded country of 82 million people, Germans have a much closer personal spaces (although not as close as in some Latin countries). Some Germans actually find it amusing that Americans walk around excusing themselves for no apparent reason.
Despite Americans’ penchant for perpetual apologies for coming within 3 feet of each other’s space bubbles, it’s ironic that so many people refuse to take personal responsibility for their own lives.
The Excuse-Making Mommy
A few years ago, I was meeting with a kiddo and his mother to discuss his educational placement. His bleeding transcript, chock full of F’s, indicated chronic truancy. I asked poker-faced, “What happened these three years? What were you doing?”
His mom answered, matter-of-fact,”Oh, he had court a lot so he couldn’t go to school.”
Yeah, right. Plenty of kiddos are involved with the juvenile justice system, and no one has court that much. Judges and probation officers WANT THE KIDS TO BE IN SCHOOL! What was this excuse-spouting mommy teaching her son by claiming such crap?
In our litigious land, the United States has become a hot bed of frivolous lawsuits as a way for non-responsible citizens to hit the jackpot.
Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for $10,000 for false advertising in 1991. Despite drinking copious amounts of Bud Light, no women in tropical settings ever appeared, like in the TV commercials. Thus, Overton purported that he suffered from emotional distress in addition to mental and physical injury from getting too sick from drinking too much beer. Unlike the TV ads for beer in which ladies flock to beer-guzzling men, he didn’t any attract gorgeous gals. The court threw the case out. How did Overton’s hokey claim even make it into the court?
Another man sued Michael Jordan for $832 million dollars because he claimed that the athlete looked too much like him and that it caused him undue pain and suffering because people constantly told him he looked like Michael Jordan. Hello?!
In Colorado in 2005, two teen girls baked cookies and share them with their neighbors. Sounds sweet and generous, right? One neighbor didn’t think so. Wanita Young claimed she had an anxiety attack from seeing the two girls on her doorstep at 10:30 p.m. delivering cookies. She sued for medical damages and actually won. Ridiculous!
When my daughter was little, she received a birthday party invitation to go jump on trampolines. Included in the invitation was a waiver of liability form that I was supposed to sign so that she could attend the birthday party. What in the world are legal documents doing in birthday invitations?
Take Some Personal Responsibility
Instead of pardoning ourselves every time we walk by each other in our local market, how about people start taking some personal responsibility for their own behavior? This country will improve when we stop making the blame, shame, and complain game, and own up to our foibles and failures. We have the costliest legal system in the world. Liberating the legal system of frivolous lawsuits would drive down the costs, as well as allowing judges to get back to hearing real court cases. 87% of American voters perceive the number of lawsuits in this country as a problem. How about you?
No excuses. Take some personal responsibility, America.
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.- Jim Rohn