Would This Happen in the US? How Strangers Help Someone in Need

Yesterday, I am waiting at the train station to go to my German class, and there was a group of 10 teenaged guys playing around like guys do. An elderly lady fell crossing the street. As she was getting up, the 10 guys ran over to her to help her. Others were walking over also to help. I could hear her saying that she was okay, but the guys would not let her leave and asked her if it was okay to call the Krankenwagen (ambulance). She agreed. Three of the guys stayed with her and kept talking to her while they waited. She asked if she was bleeding, and they said no. One kept his hand on her shoulder to both comfort her and to keep her from moving around, and she was talking.

5 minutes later, the Krankenwagen arrived, the lady hugged the three guys after they told the paramedics what happened and then left.  The paramedics were asking her questions like her name, where is she, did she have any pain.  Each time she gave an answer. Basically, they were checking for any concussion symptoms (at least that’s what I gathered in my broken German).  After about 10 minutes, the Krankenwagen left and she walked away.  I saw no handover or writing down of information.

As I was riding the tram to class, I kept thinking about how this same situation would have played out in the US?  My guess is that more often than not, someone would have came over to her to ask if she was okay, but I doubt anyone would have called an ambulance given no blood especially since she said she was okay.  Also, would an ambulance arrive with no information or insurance information being written down. The even more sad scenario is that most likely since she started to get up as soon as she fell, no one would have stopped to help.

Most times it seems like in the US it is every person for themselves for the most part. Whether it is from a fear of getting involved, fear of litigation, or being so self-absorbed that people just seem to not be too aware or helpful.  And, most certainly an American ambulance just would not show up, help someone and then leave without recording some information, because after all…someone has to pay for the service!?

Meanwhile, in Germany, this isn’t an isolated example, as I have seen this happen one other time before where someone falls and almost immediately someone else is right there to help.  I have seen this too in the interactions with the Police. Friday afternoons at the train station, that is when some people get an early start to the weekend and are obviously drunk.  I have seen the situation occur at least three times in the past year where someone was getting a little too rowdy from drinking and the Police arrived.  But unlike in the US, where the person would have surely been whisked away in the patrol car, the Police here were calmly talking to the guy, asking him to walk over to a bench to sit down, and stayed with them for at least 15 minutes while they calmed down.  

I don’t know, and I haven’t conducted a poll, but it just seems like people here in Germany have more of a sense of community and looking out for their fellow neighbors that I just don’t recall being so evident back home in the US.  Another example here in Germany is in order to get a driver’s license, you have to attend a 6 hour first aid course.  You are legally responsible to make an accident scene safe if you are the first to arrive on the scene when driving. In the US, if someone sees an accident, the most they may do is stop and call 9-1-1, let alone get out and setup roadside flares, pull / carry / walk the driver to safety from the car, and administer first aid from the mandatory first aid kit that everyone must have in their own car.

Of course, this isn’t to say that someone in the US would not take care of someone if they saw an accident or vice versa that a German would totally ignore someone who had. But, I have seen examples firsthand that really does point out that at least generally here in Germany there are many who are their brothers’ keepers. And after witnessing yesterday’s events it gave me reassurance that there are good people in this world.

Emergency Phone Numbers in Germany are:  1-1-2 for an Ambulance  & 1-1-0 for Police.
  1. Having worked as an ambulance driver/paramedic for some years, I can tell you what happens in such a case: When an ambulance arrives at the scene of an accident and the paramedics come to the conclusion that no one is hurt and there is no need to get someone to hospital, the deployment for the ambulance is counted as a “Fehleinsatz” (~ failed deployment). The costs are covered by the organization which maintains this ambulance, e.g. the Red Cross and are priced in in their overall financial balance.
    You just tell the guy in the rescue coordination center that you just had a “Fehleinsatz” and that you’re ready for a new deployment.
    Therefore, in this case there was no need to get insurance information or whatever from the old lady, because technically there was no patient at all.



    1. Thanks for the clarification– luckily I’ve never had to experience this firsthand



  2. What utter nonsense. Germans are notorious for being cold and distant. The Germans on social media nearly all note how more friendly and laid back Americans are than Germans. GERMANS say this. I literally just finished watching a German girl’s YouTube video about how more helpful Americans are than Germans. Nearly all Europeans comment on this when they visit. Some are taken aback by it. I live near a busy road here in NC and have seen more than one accident in front of my house. I’ve seen my neighbors run to see if they are OK and stay with them until they get help. One day my Dad’s riding lawn mower broke down in the ditch. Not 5 seconds later a man in a pickup truck slowed down, rolled down his window and asked if we needed help. We told him we were fine and my neighbor appeared behind us to help us push it back to the garage. So no, I will believe my own lying eyes and Germans themselves.



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