Today both the German and I had what we felt were interesting experiences with the du versus Sie problem.
His experience was a bit more interesting than mine. For the last year he has associated with a person at the client site and in the last three weeks this person has been referring to the German with du, without invitation or acknowledgment. It's all a morass, of course, as the German is younger, but theoretically hierarchically superior and yet outside the hierarchy as an outside consultant. He's been at a loss as to how he should handle the situation, so in a typically German (of his area of Germany at least) manner he has been speaking to his colleague in circumlocutions that have not required him to use either du or Sie. I admire that as i am completely incapable of doing that for even the length of a sentence and he has been able to do it for weeks.
Today however, in a particularly direct exchange, it became impossible to continue in that manner and he stopped, said to the colleague that perhaps they should speak with "thou" and then did that amusing little thing where he held out his hand and introduced himself by his vorname over a handshake. What a relief.
Meanwhile I was home with the girls after school while a heating inspector was checking out our meters and radiator readings. The gentleman was apparently having some sort of problem after I walked him from room to room, and said something to me in a strong Berlin dialect that I didn't understand. I asked him to go more slowly, said that I didn't nderstand, and asked if it was important or if he needed anything. He looked at me and said that he lived in Germany and therefore spoke only German and therefore so should I. I was so upset! There I was, making my best attempt at German, and there he was, being a complete swine.
Flushing with anger (I'm not exagerating), I then used the du form to ask him if I should call my husband or whether he needed anything else before leaving. He said no, then did actually explain that he was not able to find two registers that he was looking for. I switched back to Sie and we concluded his examination and I showed him out.
The really annoying part is that the German says that my calculated insult (the switch to "thou") was surely understood only as ignorance on my part. Darn it.
And if this is how someone who is "white" and without a strong accent is treated, I have a good understanding of how others are.