Germans love their backpacks. Take one look around any German city you’ll see proof of this. I’ve never actually counted, but my guess is that anywhere between two third and three quarters of Germans out and about are carrying a backpack (or ‘Rucksack’) while out and about.
Indeed, the backpack is practical thing. And we know that Germans love practical (even their chocolate is advertised as ‘praktisch,’ if you can believe that?!). A backpack lets you carry loads of items with the weight distributed evenly on your back. No awkward switching arms – as is my standard – to keep one arm from aching more than other. Backpacks also have handy little compartments which allow you to safely store smaller items like keys, a wallet and phone, without having to dig to the bottom of a tote back – again, which is what I do.
Now, in theory there is nothing wrong with carrying a backpack, if that is your choice of carrying gear. Of course, I prefer pretty (albeit ‘unpraktisch’) purses and stylish tote bags, but Germany is a relatively free country, so to each his own. If you want to look like an ad for REI or Jack Wolfskin, and you can handle your backpack, then more power to you.
The issue I have with Germans and their beloved backpacks is that they often don’t realize that a full backpack adds several inches of space to their person. And in my experience, Germans are not the most self- or others aware. In plain English, this means that they tend to bump into others often, even without backpacks on. Add a backpack to the mix, and you don’t only get nudged while out and about by people, but sometimes you will come close to being knocked out by said backpacks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit by someone wearing a full backpack who had no idea where was someone standing behind or next to them before they made a quick movement. It ain’t fun!
It’s not just me who’s noticed this. Fellow expats who spend lots of time in public transport or crowded spaces in Germany have similar experience. The title of this post was a phrase one of my British colleagues in Berlin muttered almost every time we were on a tram together. “Germans and their bloody backpacks!” she’d whine whenever she’d be bumped into, or when someone with a massive backpack was blocking an aisle and wouldn’t budge. Back then I laughed, because I was fairly new to the city and the weirdness of backpack wielding Germans was still entertaining. Fast forward to now, and the novelty has long since worn off. I’m almost ashamed to admit that once I even cried tears of frustration after almost getting knocked out by a backpacker.