After traveling nearly 2,000 kilometers across nine cities (Dresden, Nϋrnberg, Mϋnchen, Heidelberg, Neustadt an der Weinstraβe, Bacharach, Kӧln, Hamburg and Berlin), we took a break in the Marriott lounge tonight in Berlin to reflect on our key insights into Germany for this special edition of Millennials Unplugged. Here’s our “top zehn insights”.
Germany is younger than the United States….as a country – The United States was formed in 1776. Ninety-five years later, Germany was formed as a nation in 1871. Germany was part of many empires over the years from the Romans to the Protestants, but it takes a while to form a country.
Learning German also means understanding the “dialekten” (dialects) — Understanding language in its entirety is more than just understanding the dialect. It’s the individual words and culture behind the words. To understand a language, you have to understand the subcultures, dialects and know where they are from. In Germany, there are six main dialects:
- Saxon (Sӓchsisch)
- Low German (Plattdϋϋtsch)
- High German – Standard German (Hoch Deutsch)
- Bavarian (Bayerisch)
- Berlin (Berlinerisch)
- Austrian (Ӧsterreichisches)
In Dresden, where Brittany studied German for four weeks, the Sӓchsisch dialect is prominent, of which there are seven sub-dialects. In Sӓchsisch, instead of saying “ja” (yes in English), “nu” is said…and instead of “zwei” (two in English), “zwee” or “zwo” is said. There are also Dutch, Swiss and Austrian dialects of German. More than 40 in all. Wow.
The best branding example – an east German man wearing a derby – The Ampelmann is the symbol shown in stop lights in Berlin, Dresden and other cities in the eastern part of Germany. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Ampelmann icon was discovered and embraced as a part of east Germany that would endure. It is now so popular you can visit the Ampelmann store in Berlin. Yep, Bob has a t-shirt.
Whatsapp is what’s happening – Brittany studied for four weeks at the Goethe Institut with 106 students from 30+ countries. As Brittany was meeting her new friends at the Goethe Institut, the first question they all asked was, “Do you have Whatsapp?”. When Brittany reluctantly replied, “No…”, she then knew she had to download it to communicate with her new friends from Spain, Norway, Finland, Guatemala, Saudi Arabia, and more. Moral of the story…when you have an international audience, the main way of communicating is Whatsapp. How many of you communicate on Whatsapp on a daily basis? It’s an important future business tool for all of us.
Facebook & Instagram are the international glue — another surprise to Brittany was when the course was coming to an end, and she and her friends wanted to stay connected, they preferred following each other on Instagram and Facebook rather than Snapchat and Facebook. A real surprise to an American Millennial who lives and breathes Snapchat. Bob is not surprised because he has snapped twice in his life.
Embracing the old and the new – Germany has a very intense history over the last 100 years, which we all know about. What is impressive is how they weave in a continual educational plan in each major city to remind all of us of the past, while embracing what’s next. Germans don’t hide from their history. They accept their failures, embrace their successes and look forward with optimism and resilience. We can all learn from them in 2017 on how to approach the future and respect and learn from the past.
Emperors were the first sales directors – as we read about emperors based in Nϋrnberg and other locations in the 13th through 16th centuries, we learned that they had to travel all around, going from castle to castle, to maintain and control the land and its people. It made both of us remember you don’t get much done sitting in your office. In today’s world, you have to get out and see the offices, the people, your clients and customers. If you wait for people to come to you, you lose power in today’s world. Centuries ago, if you waited, you lost your castle, your empire and probably got killed as well. Thankfully, the world isn’t as rough and tough as it used to be.
Bier, brot, brat and bretzels — No country has more pride in their beer than Germany. We would argue no country has more pride in their carbs than Germany. You might think they burn off a lot of calories gardening, but our experience shows that this is often “bier gartening”. But hey, there is football, a major passion and a great way to stay in shape. During our trip, we saw Bayern Mϋnchen play Liverpool in Mϋnchen and yes, during the game, we had bier, brats and bretzels. We’re hitting the treadmill when we get back.
Water matters – centuries ago, you protected your castle with a moat. Your city was centered on a river. Your access to the world was based on your proximity to a body of water. On our trip, we traveled on or near the Neckar, Elbe, Rhein, Moselle, Spree and Saar rivers and saw how important water was and is to Germany, both for business and pleasure.
Societal trust can be witnessed when it is real – Germany has excellent examples of how people decide to trust each other in society. For example, when you pump your gas, you pump first, then pay second. No one is watching you. They just trust that you will walk in, tell the attendant which pump you used and pay.
When you are on the Autobahn, and you hit the four gray lines, you can go as fast as you want in the left lane. The cars in front of you will move out of your way. You can trust that the other cars are going to get out of your way. This matters quite a bit when you are traveling over 100 miles per hour. In America, we can’t imagine either of these scenarios happening, yet they are possible.
We hope you also enjoy Germany like we did this summer.
Enjoy, Brittany (millennial) and Bob (boomer)