Germany summed up in one picture 16

OK — two pictures, but one is just a cropped close up.

There aren’t many countries where you can summarize the nation’s personality in one picture, but I think this does a pretty good job for Germany.

Simply put, Germany is a country of rule followers. This is no better shown that at any an average intersection in the country. You must be at an intersection to see it, because no one jaywalks — that would violate the rules.

No one, I mean no one, crosses against the light.

As a side note, I dislike when people say something “never” happens or is “the best ever” or other authoritative statements of absolute truth. Look – its not the best pasta made on the planet. Its not the best song ever written. Its not the worst speech ever given or the most stupid managerial move in the history of baseball.

One of the best? Sure. Almost always? Absolutely. I’ve never had better? Great.

There is always room for a bit of flexibility in any authoritative statement. Nothing is the best anything. No one is the most evil person on the planet. And nothing happens every single time. Well, except that the sun will rise in the east, the tax man is going to want his share every year, no one will live forever, and . . .

Germans don’t cross against the light. I have seen this in numerous cities and under numerous situations. Today in Dresden it was driven home once again — about five or six times, I would walk up to an intersection, see the red light, look around, see absolutely no traffic at all (not a lot of car traffic in downtown Dresden), and walk across the road, usually a pretty small two-lane one.

And no one else crossed with me. In fact, they all looked at me like I was an alien from another planet.

I would so want to see what they think of Cairo or Mexico City. The thoughts running through their heads there must be priceless.

By the way — here is the important part of that last picture.

And although you can’t see far enough in this picture — rest assured, there isn’t a car, bus or other vehicle anywhere in sight.

About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

16 thoughts on “Germany summed up in one picture

  • Reba

    Hmmm, I am beginning to think I have more German in my heritage than I thought (I am a rule follower…well, more so when I was younger). That is interesting. I had no idea!

  • Laura

    I was a bit shocked by this when I touched down in Berlin as well! I thought it was weird that no one jaywalked when I did but apparently it’s a big faux-pas to do in front of children. My tour guide told me that she jaywalked once and a man whacked her with his umbrella to prevent her from doing it. I asked my German friend about it and she seemed adamant about not jaywalking in front of children as well. An interesting cultural difference.

  • Andrew

    Great piece. Yeah, the walking against the light thing is big and actually kind of annoying. Especially in the freezing cold or the rain, I’m more than happy to run across against the light if I am not going to get run over. In Freiburg as a student town, there are more rebels that cross as they can, but still the bulk will hold.
    To add to your story about being hit by an umbrella. I got yelled at by kids at one point. I had waited calmly for a full cycle of the lights and when the red didn’t change despite the button being pushed, I went. Then these two little kids maybe 5 yrs old started yelling at me and confusingly asking their dad what was wrong.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I have no problem with crossing against the light, but then again, I am sure the traffic ticket would be costly if I get caught. Your kid story is funny. Thanks!

  • Yvonne

    so I guess I’m not German at all. And maybe living in a totally un-German part of Berlin… but I always jaywalk (and so does everybody around me). but not if there are kids around. seriously.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Didn’t know you were German. Very cool. One of my favorite countries.

  • Lee

    This reminds me a lot of Calgary, as well! I rarely see people jaywalk here. I’m not sure what it is; this is also the kind of place where people get annoyed if you don’t hold doors open for them at train stations and such.

    When I went to New York, everyone there were ALWAYS jaywalking! It was as if they didn’t have walk lights at all! It was quite a bit of a shock.

    Anyway, this just makes me look forward to going to Germany! Thanks for the insight 🙂

  • Nadia | Gap Daemon

    I do love Germany. I actually got told off once by a middle-aged man near Alexanderplaz, Berlin for crossing on a red light. Never made that faux pax again…

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I’ve been told off a few times also… and still cross against the red. I am such a rebel.

  • Erica

    HAHAH! Looking at that right now while being in Mexico City is funny. What would they do if a car came honking through the red light?!

  • Mariella

    Hmmm. I’m a go with Yvonne and say I’m not German in that case. Mostly not, at any rate. Actually come to think of it, when I have time, I like waiting at the red light. Forces me to slow down a bit, take in my surroundings. The kid thing is very true too. Gotta set a good example. As for the question what Germans do in other countries, I’m sure quite a few are aware that we are a ridiculously overorganized country and that it is different elsewhere.

  • Fabian

    Actually there are a lot of differences between german cities concerning jaywalking! It´s common sense, that you don´t jaywalk if there are kids around you, but for example in Cologne people always jaywalk, whereas in Munich they would wait forever. That´s an insight of an insight 😉

  • Peter

    I’m German and I always jaywalk if traffic allows. And no one has ever told me off! However, when there are kids around, I wait for the green light.

  • Beeph

    I happened to make a nice young couple gasp for air the other day when I jaywalked the streets of Munich WITH my two underage kids. They were SHOCKED as they had deliberately stopped because we were approaching. If I had been aware of that I might have waited at the light to do them a favour 😉 Normally we prefer to teach the kids to use their eyes and ears rather than just the traffic lights. And yes, I am German….. With multicultural background (hence the rebel?!)

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