Americans are all familiar with these signs outside of convenience stores: "no loitering." In the previous post about Wikipedia two days ago, I discussed vagrancy as the crime of not having income. The German entry referred to the crime of not establishing permanent living quarters in one spot, which is a bit different.
Today, we turn our attention to the crime of standing around with nothing to do, which is closely related to vagrancy: loitering. As the English Wikipedia entry explains, littering also has an illustrious history in attempts to charge black Americans with some kind of crime -- in this case, just standing around.
I remember looking at one of those signs some 20 years ago when I returned to the states after my first extended stay in Germany and wondering how Germans would say that. As I researched it, I realized that they don't really have that idea at all. In fact, basically all of Europe -- and, from what I can judge, in Morocco, Japan, and Indonesia -- nobody has a problem with anyone just standing around biding their time. Obviously, if you are drunk in public, that makes a difference, but public spaces in Europe are generally understood to be places where people just go to relax.
As a number of sociologists have pointed out, shopping malls in the US generally lack any kind of seating arrangements that are not directly part of some business -- if you want to sit down in a US shopping mall, you will probably be forced to buy something. In contrast, the closest thing to a shopping mall in Europe is probably historic centers of towns, where you can find any number of people grouping together on steps or public benches at just about all hours of the day.
There is no German entry for the word "loitering." Another thing to like about Germany.