How to stop German neighbors from asking favors

Such as English tutoring or babysitting

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dengegg
I settled down in this village 1 yr ago, my husband is German and he was born here, thus he knows most of the neighbors and some of them grew up with him together. But I didn’t have much contact with these neighbors. Currently I am a student and preparing my research thesis for my master degree. Several months ago, one neighbor asked my husband if I can tutor her 20 yrs old daughter English, because that girl studies in BOS and her English is not good enough for the final examination. Although I am not a native English speaker or professional English teacher, I did achieve some American professional qualification certificates and did pass some international English examinations before, such as TOEFL, IELT, and GMAT. So I thought that it would be not bad to help someone in the neighborhood and especially that girl is my husband’s friend’s daughter. After once discussion through telephone about the rough plan of tutorial, every Saturday this girl comes to my house and I tutor her for 2 hours (till Jun2010). Honestly it was not that hard or difficult, usually we only practise reading and speaking within 2 hours and I send her some extra listening or writing homework during that week by email. In the first tutorial, that girl asked me whether I charge money or not, since that time I considered this was only as an extra favor from my husband’s friend, so I said ‘free of charge’. And today my husband told me, one neighbor of him asked him if I can babysit her 8 months old small daughter several times a week, because they have 4 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog at home, husband have to work, wife is housewife but too busy to handle this small baby, moreover they have to pay huge loan for their house every month, there is no additional money for hiring somebody to help. I discovered this family not only asks favor from my husband but also did so much talk to persuade my husband, for example, most of time I am home alone, haven’t child, don’t work in garden, nothing to do, so boring, several times a week to babysitter for me is nothing, but for them will be great help. Actually I never expected our neighbors can understand what I am busy right now; they just saw me seldom go out and most of time sitting in front of my laptop or reading books; never get up before 7am because I used to sleep after midnight. But now I recognized that someone start to take advantage of my warm heart to interfere my life. I told my husband I have no time for babysitter and I don’t think I should be responsible for someone who overestimates their capabilities to have 4 kids. My question here is, is that normal for German neighbors to request favor from each other? Is there any limit? Our village is a huge rumor mill. I guess once I reject their request, my reputation in this village will become minus, after several round gossip, maybe some kids will start to throw tomatoes to my windows. Does anybody have some advice? The only solution I can figure out now is, find a job as soon as possible, stay away from those people and keep myself busy OBVIOUSLY, but I am preparing my research thesis now, it needs at least half year till I graduate. How I can avoid such favor request from neighbors?
rhody
Germans don't have any problems saying Nein when they don't want to do something so neither should you. It is quite acceptable to say no and to give a short explaination to them that you are studying for your Diplom and that the work load is very high for you at the moment.
marie-claire
Tell them you are very sorry, but you have to learn for your research thesis and that takes a lot of time. Also ask your husband to tell his friends you are busy when they ask him for your help. I have no experience with living in small villages, but I believe what you write here goes too far and you have to find some ways to protect yourself from being exploited.
Elfenstar
tutoring someone for 2 hours every saturday until june 2010? you nuts - free of charge? as a favor to your husbands friend i might have done it to help her prepare for an exam next month, but commiting to that for 7 months? hopefully they come to their senses and at least bring you some cakes or cookies or what have you. but if it's too much, don't be afraid of telling her "sorry, but this saturday I need the time off". if she complains you can say "but i don't charge you a dime". you are too nice. and be firm, like rhody said, germans have no qualms about saying no. you don't even need an explanation,b ut if it makes you feel better then give them the one rhody said, which is the truth!
Krieg
This is my own experience after moving to a house, before when I lived in an apartment I barely said hello to my neighbors:

German neighbors can be EXTREMELY helpful, if they can do something for you they will do it, but as someone mentioned, they are not scared of telling you 'nein', or telling you they can do it once but please do not ask for it again. We have excellent relationships with 2 other families here and they have done things for us that to be honest I would be lazy to do for other people, at the same time I've learned that this is a take and give thing.

Maybe the problem is that they think you are free the whole day and spend your time reading Internet forums for expats in Germany. And your husband is not helping.

P.S., Asking for babysitting because you can't handle all your kids does not seem reasonable.
Ca Plane Pour Moi
If you don't say stop, many Germans will keep asking for things because they assume you have no objections. It's the reverse of more "polite" cultures where people tend to decide what is reasonable beforehand and then ask you for that. The good thing is Germans generally won't be offended if you refuse their requests. The bad thing is, it's like working in a kindergarten.
swimmer
I agree totally with that last post. A lot of people here will just keep asking - trying to get stuff from others for free can be practically an art form for a certain type. The "I can't manage my finances so you ought to pick up the slack for me" also sounds familiar. So you have to learn to say no (or ask to be paid for your time).

Maybe you also need to find your own social circle - your own German friends who don't do this sort of thing - too? My (German) ex had a whole bunch of these hangers-on / leeches / takers who never give, one of the main reasons he's my ex! If you don't stop it, they'll probably be coming round for dinner, watching TV with you, never leaving you alone etc. Go to German class or something (even if you already have decent german).

And that's another issue presumably? Your husband is not saying no, joining in the rumours and so on. I also had the rumour mill thing. Again, all you can do is disengage from that, build your own structures, as you say.
westvan
Nip this in the bud while you can or else it will escalate. Just say no and don't worry what they think of you. It's your time and you can do as you please with it.
Milton
Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein.

Say it often enough, you'll get the hang of it.
cilgee
Why is your husband not pointing out that you're studying, and therefore not lazing about all day? Alarm bells like whoa.

If you want to say no, say no. Besides, asking you to baby-sit several times a week is ridiculous in the first place.
ratutia
in Germany it's okay if you just say no, tell them you need to study for your master or will einfach ausruhen. I know it's a small village but believe me nobody will be mean to you because your husband knows everybody and everybody knows him. You need to ask your husband, though, that he needs to have your back, too.

I mean, make him understand that if he's the one who tell them that he doesn't think you have too much time in your hand, the neighbors will accept it better. They have to see that even your husband is not going to make you do things just because they ask him. However I find it really rude for them to ask him instead of you first. How come they do not socialize with you yet ask you for favor via your husband. Not nice.

I had a neighbor who often asked me to feed her cat whenever she was away for weekends. I love cats, so I do that all the time, gladly. One time she asked me to also clean the litter box once a week because she was going to go on vacation for 3 weeks. Then, I said no. I just told her that I don't like to do it and maybe she can hire our hausmeister's wife to do it. She just said 'schade' but accepted it and later on still asked me to feed her cat from time to time.
batchfile
I wouldn't worry about saying no. And I wouldn't worry about being hated or targetted by the village afterwards either. They're a whole lot more direct here than I'm used to as an English person but we'd spent a few years in the US before coming here and I had got used to being asked by random acquaintances to either teach their children my nice English accent or to translate things into German - you know, just the odd 20 page document, nothing formal (bwahaha).

The US and Germany are the only places I've lived as an adult without having full time paid employment and I think that does colour peoples interpretation of what you can/should do for others.

Coming from a culture where it's rare for anyone but a close friend or relative to ask a favour it took me a while to be able to turn down requests for help without worrying that I was being rude or, worse, that everyone would hate me. Once I realised that people were simply used to asking and not at all surprised to be refused my life got a whole lot easier.

Good luck!

D
PezMom3
I've recently had a woman ask me to keep some boxes at my house because she heard that I was a stay-at-home mother and I told her no. I'm not sure nor do I care if I'm being talked about by the folks around my street, nor do I care.

Just say no and talk to your husband so that he knows to say no as well. Good luck :-)
HEM
I've recently had a woman ask me to keep some boxes at my house because she heard that I was a stay-at-home mother
Not quite sure I understand the connection with you being a stay-at-home mother & your possible interest in storing some boxes!

I think the only thing I have been asked to do was by the previous Burgermeister (a neighbour) who asked me to translate a speech into English for a fee.
leky
Maybe Pezmom misunderstood & the neighbor said foxes :-)
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