Is it polite to stare?

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On a Saturday night I chatted with friends of mine in German on a bus on my way home. There were three of us. None of us is German; nevertheless we preferred German language to English in order to get some speaking practice.

The bus was almost empty and it did not take me long to notice that a man was starring at us, listening to our conversation. I felt uncomfortable and hoped he will turn his head away. That never happened. He was looking at us without a sign of a smile on his face.

People starred at me before and I did not have many problems with that. When I was in Delhi, a little girl pointed at me, saying something to her mom. Men starred at me on a street in India without a smile. I felt as if I was a monkey in a zoo. Well, I believed that happened due to my look. Perhaps, people in Delhi were not used to see that many tourists. Certainly, they did not see blond hair on a daily basis.

People starred at me in the Philippines and China. There was a huge difference, though. Everyone was polite and smiled at me, sometimes people asked to take a photo of me. Friends of mine said, that many villagers come to Beijing for spending their holidays. Those are the curious people who have never seen a foreigner.

I knew that German city I live in is small, but I did not think that people here were worse. Not only they stare at you, they like to eavesdrop. Hmm… Actually, according to a dictionary “to eavesdrop” means “to secretly listen to a conversation”. I wonder which word shall I use to describe someone who openly listens to what other people are saying.

The man on a bus is not a single example. The same situation happens to me here over and over again. People love to stare. They look at you AND don’t mind listening to your conversation. I believe I noticed that people stare at me more when I try to speak German with my foreigner friends. They are probably very curious. Moreover, maybe, they are too bored and have nothing better to do. That man who starred at us like a booby was the last straw.

I believe starring at someone you do not know for more than ten seconds is the invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, it seems that many parents in Germany do not teach their kids not to stare at people. Probably, this etiquette rule does not exist here. Which is a pity to know. I miss to have more of a personal space.


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