Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Guest Blogger

This is will be the first post of the day, as I have a little more to say about other stupid stuff. Dylan has requested to be guest blogger for today as he would like to share his trip to Germany with Toby with everyone. So here's Dylan:

Europeans do not like Children. There, I’ve said it – Most likely it will get any flaming responses by anyone who is googling for anti-European comments declarations, so I will elaborate. Of course it’s a blanket statement, and for the most part untrue, but the fact that much of Europe has a negative population growth suggests they’re not producing a whole lot of new kids. That or they’re killing off their old people at an alarming rate. For discussion’s sake, let’s go with the former.

I lived in Germany for three years, and while we only had one child at the time, the two-week “Intro to Germany” class that I took at the base, taught by an American officer’s wife, suggested that if you take your kids to the restaurant, please do so early so that less patrons would have to put up with your kids. Also, we were briefed that dogs were widely accepted at all restaurants, but kids were a little more touchy – because (yes she really said this) “Most people can control their dog, but not their children”.

Having just spent a very action-filled two days in Germany for my middle son, and being exclusively in the company of fellow Europeans (I’ve lived more of my adult life in Europe than in the U.S. – do I get partial credit here?) I have changed my position a little bit. Europeans do like children – but usually from a distance and some – a very great distance.

Over the last two days I’ve been traveling with my three-year-old to try and find a Pediatric ENT surgeon – I’m beginning to wonder if such a specialty actually exists. On the way to Germany I sat in a train car with three business men on their way to a large city in Poland, and my three-year-old. Toby was his usual self. A hearing problem makes him unconsciously loud and he has a tendency to sing – a lot, and loudly. Despite this, on the way to Poznan and onto Berlin, there was not a single fellow mate in our compartment that even grimaced. I felt a little bad when Toby went into his usual loud rendition of Jingle Bells, but it didn’t merit even a heavy sigh from anyone else. Despite my thinking that it made them uncomfortable, there was no drama that ensued.

Compare that with the return ride home. This time Toby and I were accompanied by two women (I will assume German) in a compartment for six persons. Almost immediately the one woman put on a show about how she was going to have to deal with a “screaming kid” for the trip. She began to throw baggage, she dug through her bag with great fanfare to find her MP3 player and she very loudly plopped herself in the seat… At this point we had been on board for three minutes and had not moved an inch. By the first station, only 7 minutes away, both the nasty woman and another, very professionally dressed woman, had left the compartment. The thing that I found most interesting in hindsight – The women traveling from Germany could not last 10 minutes in the same car with a child, and the child was not making a lot of noise, but just sitting there eating his happy meal. The men in the car from Warsaw to Poznan (presumably polish) easily put up with Toby’s off-key singing for hours…

This got me to thinking about the rest of the trip. The Polish gentleman in the dining car on the way to Berlin cleared a table for us to ensure that Toby did not have to sit on my lap during breakfast. The Polish lady who sold me the ticket said that the three-year-old didn’t need a ticket because he could sit on my lap for the almost 6 hour trip. Very nice and helpful – but Toby is kind of a big kid.

Every German Taxi driver (all men) went out of their way to bring out a child’s seat for Toby whenever we traveled (although this was probably for legal reasons over chivalry), but the German ladies at the restaurant for breakfast seemed to think that a child was going to destroy the restaurant.

And for the most part everyone has been very friendly, but I do get a different sense of traveling with children in Germany than Poland. I need to search the statistics of course, but I’m guessing that the population growth in Poland is higher than Germany – And for the most part, I base this on nothing more than the attitudes that I’ve seen over the past few days. Poles seem to like kids a little more than Germans – maybe that translates to they have a few more than Germans?? Not saying anything negative of course either way, but if you get the chance to travel across Europe with a kid or two – take a minute to see if you feel the attitudes change as you cross the borders. I think it’s very interesting.

Now if you’ll excuse me – I have a three-year-old hanging from the curtains of the train compartment – and I see a mean German woman walking down the isle.

P.S. After completing this – about four hours later we pulled into the train station in Poznan. In our previously private cabin we were joined by a nice young man (thirties) who is dressed very professionally and seems to be very polite. He took up a seat by the window (which has just got to still be wet from the bottle of 7-up that Toby spilled, or the 7-up still dripping from the rack above where I didn’t’ clean off the backpack before I put it up to dry out) and just smiled. Toby, because he is tired, went into a very lovely rendition of the “I don’t want to sit down” song. For those not familiar with the I don’t’ want to sit down song, the lyrics are very simple – Simply sing “I don’t want to sit down” at the top of your lungs for five straight minutes. I thought for sure this guy was going to bolt. He did not – this very nice Polish man just sat in the cabin and ate his KFC, not once threatening to change cabins. His reward? After we pulled out of the station Toby fell asleep – and he’ll probably stay that way until Warsaw. I think that’s Karma.


  1. It is interesting to see how other cultures act towards children. You would think it would have been the opposite..the women would be more understanding then the men.

  2. Wow, a very interesting and entertaining story...tell Dylan thanks..!


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