Bing! A bus door opens at a random Vancouver stop. “Thank you!” “Thanks, driver!” Voices resonate over the rows of seating, some full, some jarring. Only a few guests leave the bus without turning towards the driver’s seat one more time.
While in Hamburg one settles for a mumbled “Moin”* and a reserved nod, here ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ are just part of bus travel etiquette. Above the driver’s seat in German busses you will most likely find a sign warning you not to talk to the driver during operation. Here in Canada one happily engages in smalltalk. Every now and then the driver will even open the doors for you at a red light or wait for running passengers. Everyone who has had to fight their way through the traffic of a major German city will only be astonished by this.
Here in Canada excellent service encounters appreciation. Whether shopping or at a restaurant – one can assume that every wish will be read from your lips. In return it is expected that guests adhere to a certain etiquette. You ask politely, say thank you with a smile, and tip generously.
Now, bus drivers don’t get tipped, but a smile… that should be possible. After all he is working hard, our bus driver, to bring us to our destination safely each and every day. That’s something we can appreciate, and a friendly word does not cost more than a small step outside our personal comfort zone. My dear Hamburg friends, try it. Who knows, maybe you will be able to melt a cold nordic bus driver’s heart with a smile. And maybe, just maybe, doors will be opened for you at a red light one day, even though the next bus stop is not in sight yet.
*Typical Northern German greeting