I read a funny story this morning on one of my favorite forums for English speakers in Germany. Back in 2015, someone posted about being confronted by an aggressive driver. The person was in the left lane, next to a bus, and another driver cut her off. She made a hand gesture at the aggressive driver– maybe not the middle finger per se, but perhaps a WTF gesture– and the aggressive driver then came up beside her and pointed to his phone, indicating that he was going to report her to the police for “insulting” him.
As I have written before, it’s against German law to insult people, particularly in traffic or when they are public officials. If you “shoot the bird” at someone, you can be hit with a heavy fine, particularly if there are witnesses or someone has a photo. Since everyone carries a camera these days on their cell phones, it’s probably pretty risky to let your fingers do the talking.
The thread died in 2015, but someone recently revived it with a story about being honked at in traffic and responding with the rude finger gesture. The person wanted to know which was worse, the insistent horn honking or the middle finger in response. Because, by the poster’s reasoning, the horn honker started it with the rude honking. My guess is that they’d probably both get in trouble if it was reported; but much to my surprise, an interesting discussion commenced. Here’s how the story went:
We were taking the kids to the dentist appointment. One of the kid was feeling unwell so my fiancee were sit with the kids on the back seat. When the big boy was feeling better my fiancee decided to change seat to the front, bcoz we had to go on a longer journey after and she has licence too so it’s better she sits at the front. So I pulled off to a side road where I stopped and turned on the emergency light until she was changing seat. Than an other car appeared at the back of our car and start to honk repeatedly and long. On the day I met some other drivers were really screw me up with stupid things and I was on the top when this thing happened. He could have just drive pass me but instead he honk unnecessarily. I felt really insulted so I showed my “stinkyfinger” up out the window. Just this week I recieved a letter from the police they want details who drove the car that time.
Just as an aside… I think it’s funny that the middle finger is called the “Stinkefinger” here. Cuz why does it stink? Eeeeew!
When Bill and I lived in Germany the first time, Facebook was still kind of in its infancy. Consequently, this particular forum was more popular with American military types. Now that we have Facebook and other outlets for communication, that forum has less participation from Americans affiliated with the military. It’s more populated by Europeans who speak English. However, there are still a few folks working for Uncle Sam who hang out there. One of them got involved in this thread, and he has an appalling inability to use punctuation and capitalization. He wrote this:
This is what happens when you have a country of people which are entirely reliant on the government to solve their problems.
Well… yeah, I guess I can see his point. I think it’s stupid that a person can be fined for flipping someone off or insulting another person. Especially since I don’t think that particular law gets enforced a lot. I mean, Bill and I have seen people use their middle fingers in traffic. Once or twice, it’s even been directed at us. Big fucking deal. Especially since Germans don’t seem to have any issues with dropping the F bomb. I guess cursing is only forbidden if it’s done in German. In any case, the guy above identified himself as an American who works for the military and has been to war a couple of times. He’s made a living out of fighting. My guess is that he votes for conservatives, too.
Then another poster, clearly one who is more in touch with the European mindset, wrote this:
The alternative been people getting out of the car and having a physical fight in order to “solve” the problem.
American guy came back with this:
This is an unpopular opinion im sure in a country full of emasculated men and millennials but what is so wrong with that? Someone drives around aggressively like an ahole and is at fault, risks other peoples safety and property and someone calls him out on it by beeping his horn. ahole gets mad and starts with the driver who called him out on it. Instead of both of them threatening to tell their mommy (the German government) about their petty squabbles; pull over and handle it like two grown men. Animals do it, kids do it, lots of people do it in other countries not full of guys wearing skinny jeans and scarves.
Im not saying it solves the problem but its a solution and I guarantee both people will remember it for years to come. You either dont drive like a dick cause someone will bust your head over it or you learn to mind your own business and not to honk at people because someone will put you in your place. Im not advocating they murder each other but sometimes pain solves problems more than monetary fines. If you make 100k a year, a 200 euro fine is not a learning lesson to anyone but if that guy wakes up sore every morning for a week and has to be embarrassed with his black eye in public that is way more effective than a ticket at changing behavior.
At this point, I had to stop and laugh. I have seen a lot of German guys wearing skinny jeans and scarves, although they’re usually younger people. Most German men of a certain age are sensible enough to know when a certain fashion is “more for a younger person”. But then someone wrote this:
“… in a country full of emasculated men and millennials …”
While I don’t disagree with your statement as a whole about people being too whiny about a honked horn or a middle finger waved in the air – this quoted part alone deserves an “ok, Boomer…”
American military guy writes:
Im only 35 but its hard to ignore the skinny jeans with attached rhinestones and scarves
Hmm… Now, I haven’t seen any men wearing bedazzled jeans with rhinestones. Where is this dude hanging out where he sees something like that? Because I would like to see it for myself! I have seen women with bedazzled jeans, but even that isn’t a common sight for me.
A few more people came along and took the American to task for embracing violence. He left a couple of snarky comments. Actually, I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and I had a good laugh because I could practically hear him in my head. I’ve been around a lot of Americans like that– guys who think a knuckle sandwich and a handshake can solve any problem. It’s a fairly common attitude among people in the military. Like I said– they make their living fighting wars… or planning wars. Anyway, the more peace loving Europeans told the American guy that he shouldn’t be encouraging violence. He wrote this:
Look im not some violent psycho that solves every social issue with his fists and as someone whos been to war a couple times, I totally understand what violence can do; Im just saying that someone people earn a punch in the face and theres zero reason to run to the police and complain that someone gave you the finger and hurt your feelings. People need to be a little more self reliant and handle their issues alone without the governments help. If two people get into a road rage issue, pull over and figure it out like adults.
Okay… so it’s best to solve road rage by beating the shit out of someone? That seems counterintuitive to me, responding to rage with physical violence. My guess is that I’m seeing a collision of cultural values here. In Europe, violence isn’t necessarily something that is embraced, probably because of how incredibly horrible World Wars I and II were. But in America, we have many cowboys who like to kick ass and embrace their inner animal with a good old fashioned fist fight. A lot of them take jobs in the military sector where it’s allowed to kick ass from time to time.
The woman who confronted the American guy continued to reject his assertion that physical fighting solves anything. American guy continued to protest:
No im saying be a self reliant adult and dont involve the government in every petty life issue. Something that very few people here do.
I don’t necessarily disagree that people should handle their issues privately. In a perfect world, adults can come together and solve their problems without involving the government or physical violence. Unfortunately, as Bill and I have discovered, some people are just plain unreasonable and uncooperative. And, short of knocking the hell out of them, which most normal people would rather not do, sometimes it’s necessary to go to the government for a remedy. Now, that doesn’t mean I think that people should run to the police every time someone shoots the bird at them or calls them an asshole. That’s ridiculous. However, I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into physical altercations with most people in most situations, tempting as it may be. Resorting to physical violence only means that the biggest, strongest, and toughest always get their way, and that’s not fair. Besides that, it’s just kind of stupid to beat people up over petty disagreements. Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch said it best…
Although, if I recall correctly, Peter Brady did end up using his fists against Buddy Hinton, knocking out his teeth. And then they shook hands and became friends. Hmm… maybe that’s where the American military guy got the idea that sometimes might makes right. Or… as Kenny Rogers put it, “Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.” But speaking for myself, I think it’s better to pursue a remedy without physical violence whenever possible. And I sure as hell don’t want to be clocking someone or being clocked on the side of the Autobahn.