I was walking back form the post office to deliver my Prague postcards to my penpals in Japan and Mauritius when I got to the traffic light. It was in red, so I stopped. Here, in Germany, I have learned that people do obey rules (of course, there are exceptions). And the most obvious place to see it is on the street in a traffic light. May be close to midnight and there are barely cars on the street (at least in the cities where I have been) and people wait until the green light turns. As said, is not always and is not everybody, but is much more discipline than in the UK or in MX.
So I was standing, when I saw a kid (teenager) and his/her dad crossing the street (still was red), but the kid looked back at me, like saying: why don’t you cross over? From ads and from the people, I have learned that: “Beispiel geben / Bei Rot stehen / Bei Grün gehen”. Which means: Give the example, stop when red, walk when green” and on the poster is showing a kid with an adult. So we talked about that, it makes all the sense. The education is the origin of behaviour. And education starts at home and by example (also on the street). So I saw that the adult walking with the kid, was deliberately crossing the streets even when in red, and not even turning his head sideways to see the cars coming (there were no cars coming, but still), and talking on the phone walking pretty fast with long steps towards the train station. Still when crossing their third street in red, the kid was turning to look at me, I was still standing on the same spot. When suddenly, it turned green for pedestrians.
Another case, same day, happened when I was coming back home. I was crossing a big avenue where the tram runs through in the middle, so there is actually a break for pedestrians to stand and wait for the other half of the street (opposite driving direction for cars). I had the green light in the first half, but the second one had still red. There were 2 senior adults, one of them on a bike, a young adult as cyclist and me as pedestrian. The senior woman on my left was obviously in a rush, she already had her keys (to home or car) in her hand and she was shaking them, she made two attempts of crossing the street when still the traffic light was on red, there were no cars coming but still she didn’t cross. I wonder why… There were no kids with us. But the other three of us didn’t make any attempt to cross. It also has happened to me.
In the beginning, I wasn’t aware of this discipline. I would cross the streets like I would cross them in the UK, not like in MX but still ignoring the red light and run or walking fast checking if there were cars coming my way. Here, when I was doing that, my philosophy was: “Is still in red for me, but there are no cars coming, there are still far away which gives me the time to cross over” but I noticed I was the only one and people would look at me like: “are you so much in a rush? what’s the problem in waiting a few seconds more?”. At least, that’s how I felt.
So, my guess, is that the senior woman didn’t cross because of that, the shame, is like breaking a rule. But also because she was hoping would be just2 or 3 seconds more until the light would turn green for us. It took 6 and we all crossed.
Another anecdote is that we were standing with red light, again, on a street similar to the one described above. There was this young turkish guy who saw no cars and crossed the first half to be able to take the tram whose stop was right there, passing the traffic light. But when he was in the middle walking and crossing the street, a policeman in motorbike was turning right on this street and almost bumped into him. He asked him with strong loud voice: “Welche Farbe ist es?” (which color is it?) to which the guy responded: “Ehh… Rot” (red) to which the policeman added:”Und??” (and??) and then he added something I don’t remember to which the guy with scared face said “Yes, sir” and he ran to the sidewalk and waited until the green light. I suppose he said “please, next time look and obey the traffic light”.
Is not all the people, and is not always, but you see a difference. I guess that’s just one tiny detail that makes a first world country being “first”: discipline, education and respecting rules.