And then I had one of my cultural epiphanies.
Americans (and other nationalities) can be rather judgmental of the rule-abiding Germans, rolling our eyes at their ever-present need to scold us for breaking harmless rules. I myself have often laughed and explained that "every German has an inner policeman." They take it upon themselves to self-police their neighbors, and make sure that no one is a menace to society. Of course, this is a rather flexible term because is it really hurting anyone else to ride your bike one block the wrong way down the bike path, or to park in an illegal spot? Well, Germans think so. And I will just leave it at that - we all have theories about how society should be run, and Germany has a history that makes the people super conscious of keeping a moral and social order.
And here's the thing: it's not just Germans who have a little inner policeman dying to get out. I think we all do, to a certain degree. And Americans are no exception. It just depends what it's about! Germans tend to fixate on formal "rules" - e.g. a law has been codified and therefore it must be applicable in every situation and it's up to them to make sure it is applied and no one can dare say that not all rules are logical or apply to every situation. Americans tend to be a little looser with rules, BUT our inner policeman comes out with a vengeance in respect to parenting and certain moral "values". We respect privacy and family decision making less than Germans, and Americans are way more prone to comment on someone else's parenting decisions. And even to interfere, in public.
I guarantee you if a parent left a baby outside a cafe in a stroller, every parent in the vicinity would get up and yell at that mom for neglecting her baby. Same for leaving kids in a car in a parking lot - even if for only 5 minutes and the entire time in full sight of the parent.
The sad thing is that BOTH forms of policing are just too much. Why can't we all just leave each other be and stop judging other people's decisions? If I had a baby, I think I would go ride my bike the wrong way down to a cafe around the corner right now, and pop in to grab a quick coffee while the baby gurgles happily outside the cafe window, and to hell with everyone's policing...