No Excuses

Advertising Campaign teaching Viennese when to apologise.

There is a billboard now all over town, a scene of someone on a motor scooter, turning a corner and almost running into a girl and her dog on a cross-walk. The scooter driver is holding a speech bubble “Tschuldigen” (“Sorry”) and the girl has one saying “Passt schon” (“That’s alright”).

The first time I saw this, I laughed. Not because it was a bad idea, but because it had to be spelled out.

Is apologising really so difficult?

You can tell a lot about a society by its social marketing campaigns. Often they take on clichés about the society and try to induce a certain new behaviour or mindset.

In New York City there was an ad in the subways and at bus stops, saying “If you see something, say something”, part of the post-9/11 Homeland Security measures, to encourage people to help the authorities.

In Germany, the “Du bist Deutschland” campaign sought to instill a new and positive German national feeling, giving citizens license to be proud to be German.

On this campaign’s website ( there are videos where the viewer  is asked who should apologise. Perhaps the assumption is that the Viennese are incapable of apologising. They just assume it was the other person’s fault. Why should they take the role of “Tschuldiger”, when they are the “passt schon”?

Taking my time to cross the street on a balmy summer day still results in angry drivers making rude gestures, and somehow I don’t think a simple “Tschuldigen” would help.

And anyway, why should I be the one to apologise?


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