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Old 07.10.2011, 00:46
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No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

I have been living in Switzerland for about 10 months now and I continue to have the same problem every single time I go for a walk, grocery shopping, down the street, basically anywhere that involves people. At first I thought that maybe something was wrong with "me" or that I was over thinking things, but now I have come to the conclusion that it isnt just me. So this is my problem, whenever I am out and about walking on a sidewalk and there are people walking on the opposite side heading my way hardly anybody ever moves out of the way, if ever! There has been many times when I have even had to move on to the street because they simply do NOT move even a tiiiiiiny bit.
Before I use to always look ahead and obviously if someone was heading in the same direction as me I would slightly move to the side to give them room, it was just automatic thinking, basic common sense. I really got fed up with that, always being bumped into or having to move to the road even while walking with my fiance. So now I hardly ever move, there has even been times when I have stopped and just stand infront of the person(as ridiculous as that might look) when it has become obvious that they are heading right at me and they stand there confused, they just dont get it. I have been bumped into numberous times, even by men. Once my fiance and I were walking at the trainstation and there was a group of girls crossing into our direction, we all noticed eachother, but I promised myself I wasnt going to take a detour or stop, so I simply didnt, i continued to walk and guess what? I bumped into them pretty hard. I am trying to be as civil as possible, but its become very difficult. I never had that problem in the U.S, ever. It was always common sense and courtious to at least move a few inches to allow everyone a chance to get where they are going in PEACE!

Last edited by vwild1; 07.10.2011 at 04:54. Reason: removed hard to read font
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Old 07.10.2011, 00:51
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Re: No common sense?

Here is one thread with links in it to at least 4 other related threads on this subject:

Walking in the streets

and welcome to the forum!
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Old 07.10.2011, 00:58
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Re: No common sense?

My eyes hurt
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Old 07.10.2011, 00:59
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Re: No common sense?

welcome to the forum

yeah Im lucky cause I am so tall, people move , when they dont they run with their face into my shoulder. I dont do it on purpose but sometimes I guess you gotta be like them...

oh and forget about comparing USA people to the Swiss....they have nothing in common and are nothing alike (generalization) so better buckle up and get used to it.
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Old 07.10.2011, 01:05
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Re: No common sense?

Thank you! :-)
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Old 07.10.2011, 01:16
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Re: No common sense?

It can take some getting used to but don't worry, you're definitely not alone in experiencing that. Just try not to let it exasperate you too much, if at all.

A couple of times I have had to literally stop dead in my tracks ever so quickly to avoid being bumped. For sure, being able to do those awesome side-to-side dodging moves like Neo in The Matrix would help with that!

Anyhoo, welcome to the forum and take it easy.
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Old 07.10.2011, 01:17
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Re: No common sense?

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My eyes hurt
I've noticed a few threads today with opening posts made in such tiny font... what's with that? Maybe some newfangled gadget somehow "defaults" to "I sure hope you are not over 40 and trying to read this"?


Anyhow, about the topic...
People here are generally accustomed to apartment living, one on top of each other and moving about in some sort of dance which allows them to walk straight at each other while never bumping. At least, that's how it seems to me.

So, it's not them, it's us... we're used to wide open spaces and to large amounts of personal space, so tend to move out of the way if someone even remotely seems like they'll share our space. We get bumped because we don't know the dance.

At least, that's my current theory anyhow.
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Old 07.10.2011, 08:16
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Re: No common sense?

Take a trip to India where the people mass is so great, if you aren't in sync, in their flow, you run into everybody, same with road traffic. I was once sitting in a cafe at a crossing where five roads converged, full with trucks, buses, cars, taxis, rickshaws, bicycles, everything. No traffic lights, no cops, not even markings on the road. I sat there sipping coffee in awe of how it all flowed, even though there was honking, beeping and hand signals, until I noticed an obvious tourist in a sunhat on a bicycle barge in the middle. She couldn't have been less sensitive nor more out of sync. In her wake everything came to a standstill and didn't get back going properly again until long after she was through.

So through that Indian insight, I have become aware here in Switzerland that often I am simply not on the same wave length, not in sync with the others, even though they seem to flow just fine. So when I find I'm in sync with the rest, I walk along with them, when not, I feel much better on the street.
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Old 07.10.2011, 08:20
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Re: No common sense?

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I've noticed a few threads today with opening posts made in such tiny font... what's with that? Maybe some newfangled gadget somehow "defaults" to "I sure hope you are not over 40 and trying to read this"?


Anyhow, about the topic...
People here are generally accustomed to apartment living, one on top of each other and moving about in some sort of dance which allows them to walk straight at each other while never bumping. At least, that's how it seems to me.

So, it's not them, it's us... we're used to wide open spaces and to large amounts of personal space, so tend to move out of the way if someone even remotely seems like they'll share our space. We get bumped because we don't know the dance.

At least, that's my current theory anyhow.
I thought it was that too but it never happened to me in Istanbul (20 miliions of people) and doesn't happen here in Barcelona.

My personal conclusion? It's them...

Edit: Don't get me wrong, it is nothing wrong of being them, we have to ajust somehow... Like in every other countries cultures.

Last edited by Nil; 07.10.2011 at 08:51.
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Old 07.10.2011, 08:21
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

Suggest that you don't use "invisible mode". Change your settings under the Control panel tab under your user name.
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Old 07.10.2011, 08:35
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

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Suggest that you don't use "invisible mode". Change your settings under the Control panel tab under your user name.
And then people notice you while walking on the street?
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Old 07.10.2011, 08:51
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

...for a long time I was working on developing a Personal Evaporator, one for the car, one for the pocket, then I'd just pull the trigger, !chuggapumpf! and anybody in my way would just disappear. But then I realized after a while I'd be all alone until I ran into somebody else with a Personal Evaporator and then it would be Dodge City, so I scrapped the idea.
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Old 07.10.2011, 09:04
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

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I have been living in Switzerland for about 10 months now and I continue to have the same problem every single time I go for a walk, grocery shopping, down the street, basically anywhere that involves people. At first I thought that maybe something was wrong with "me" or that I was over thinking things, but now I have come to the conclusion that it isnt just me. So this is my problem, whenever I am out and about walking on a sidewalk and there are people walking on the opposite side heading my way hardly anybody ever moves out of the way, if ever! There has been many times when I have even had to move on to the street because they simply do NOT move even a tiiiiiiny bit.
Before I use to always look ahead and obviously if someone was heading in the same direction as me I would slightly move to the side to give them room, it was just automatic thinking, basic common sense. I really got fed up with that, always being bumped into or having to move to the road even while walking with my fiance. So now I hardly ever move, there has even been times when I have stopped and just stand infront of the person(as ridiculous as that might look) when it has become obvious that they are heading right at me and they stand there confused, they just dont get it. I have been bumped into numberous times, even by men. Once my fiance and I were walking at the trainstation and there was a group of girls crossing into our direction, we all noticed eachother, but I promised myself I wasnt going to take a detour or stop, so I simply didnt, i continued to walk and guess what? I bumped into them pretty hard. I am trying to be as civil as possible, but its become very difficult. I never had that problem in the U.S, ever. It was always common sense and courtious to at least move a few inches to allow everyone a chance to get where they are going in PEACE!
Strange. In more than 30 years I've never noticed this phenomena.
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Old 07.10.2011, 09:19
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

Yeah, you have to be a ninja sometimes with the people here. I've perfected a Tetris-piece-like horizontal-to-vertical body move to get me through crowds. Not to try when you've got a Swissgear backpack unless you think the person on the right deserves it. When finding yourself in large groups of annoying people, swing your body around for massive damage. Extra points for head shots to kids and/or little people.

Good luck.
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Old 07.10.2011, 09:27
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

I am lucky enough to be 6-foot, 200 lbs, and my clothes all look just different enough that I probably scream "Ausländer" to any Swiss in my path, and they just move.

I do notice a lot of jostling in places like Zurich HBf, and my wife's colleague (female, petite) went off on some locals in Lausanne who just flagrantly tried to shove in front of her in line at a food stand.

Just the way it is here. There are different ideas of personal space here. My best advice is try to observe others on the street- obviously everybody is not colliding with everyone else, so there is some "trick" to it!
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Old 07.10.2011, 09:34
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

Obviously this is a problem in a land with the same population as Greater London - why should there be any thought for anyone outside of their personal bubble, when there's not any competition for personal space.

This also occurs in parking, shopping, queueing and many other aspects of daily life, and is a repetitive theme for discussion here.

Regarding you specific problem, what you need is a bit of practice.

Take a w/e break to Amsterdam, enjoy Saturday morning in a coffee shop - with all that's on offer, then take a walk down a famous long pedestrian street (I forget the name, but it starts near the station and runs parallel with Damrak).

You will be convinced that everyone else is walking in the opposite direction to you on a direct collision course.

Your mission - should you choose to accept - is to walk the length of this street without bumping into anyone, whilst watching where you walk, and increasing your walking speed, as you progress.

If you successfully negotiate your way to the end, without contact or dogshit on your shoe, then you will never again have a problem here.
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Old 07.10.2011, 09:39
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

Absolutely. Especially at places like train platforms or sidewalks, they put their fight face on and off goes the game of Swiss chicken! (Who will move?)

In some cases, it is just a different sense of space, but in others they are not moving. (I once did an experiment in which I decided to keep my trajectory at the Lausanne train station and took out three people, who moved into my space while I was walking. Kinda fun.)

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of these "challenging" behaviors. But it is an interesting point for a cultural anthropologists. Is is frustration, an exaggerated sense of self-entitlement, something else I don't understand?
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Old 07.10.2011, 09:43
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

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Take a w/e break to Amsterdam, enjoy Saturday morning in a coffee shop - with all that's on offer, then take a walk down a famous long pedestrian street (I forget the name, but it starts near the station and runs parallel with Damrak).
Oh the memories. That lady on her bike was not happy. Not happy at all.
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Old 07.10.2011, 10:18
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Re: No common sense?


Whatever country/culture I'm in, I just move few inches inches to the side,every time,keep on walking ,and move on with my life. I would'nt let such a small thing bother the life out of me!!!


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Take a trip to India where the people mass is so great, if you aren't in sync, in their flow, you run into everybody, same with road traffic. I was once sitting in a cafe at a crossing where five roads converged, full with trucks, buses, cars, taxis, rickshaws, bicycles, everything. No traffic lights, no cops, not even markings on the road. I sat there sipping coffee in awe of how it all flowed, even though there was honking, beeping and hand signals, until I noticed an obvious tourist in a sunhat on a bicycle barge in the middle. She couldn't have been less sensitive nor more out of sync. In her wake everything came to a standstill and didn't get back going properly again until long after she was through.

So through that Indian insight, I have become aware here in Switzerland that often I am simply not on the same wave length, not in sync with the others, even though they seem to flow just fine. So when I find I'm in sync with the rest, I walk along with them, when not, I feel much better on the street.
In other words, "When in Rome, Do the Romans "
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Old 07.10.2011, 10:25
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Re: No common sense? (personal space awareness issue)

Ahh, common sense....
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