Monday, 17 December 2012
Germany's Love-Hate Relationship With Technology
I've often said it - and it's true: Germany is a funny country. Take for example people's attitude towards technology.
On the one hand you wouldn't find a country where people are more in love with technology than Germany. The latest models/brands/make/ USP's of any car are bandied about on a regular basis. Oh - you don't know the difference between a Bosch electric drill and a cheap one from Aldi?? Pah! Minute details like tyre grip speed, or GPS systems' benefits are discussed as if they were essential to people's daily lives.
And don't even mention the most recent iphone model. The prevalence of those sort of topics is one of the biggest drawbacks of living in Germany. So you'd rightly assume that this is a society eagerly embracing digital technology as well, right?
Far from it! Here, you can still score intellectual brownie points if you say things like "The Internet is the future! All that print stuff is doomed." People will nod, and gaze impressedly, calling you a "guru". Much as they love their "ei-fohn", they don't really find much use for it, as communication is an underdeveloped skill in this country. For more details on this see: http://interculturalmusings.blogspot.de/2011/09/intercultural-differences-in-social.html
Consequently, people are very very suspicious of social media usage.(amongst the EU-5 countries, Germany has the lowest rate of social media usage*) Their main concern is internet security - the country is awash with legislation protecting internet users. The overwhelming majority of social media users do so under an assumed name. (Even on Facebook, which specifies you have to use your actual name.) Bizarrely, the trend is to go for "sweet" childish names (Krümel, Flocke, Mausi etc.). So the ease and comfort with which they use cars, electric drills, and other straightforward tools does not translate into "The Internet" which is still very much perceived as a threatening, intransparent medium of "anonymous technology".
They are also strangely ignorant and uninformed about any digital progress. Ask a German whether they've ever heard of, say, Pinterest, Prezi, or what a Personal Cloud is - and the answer will be a resounding: "DUH??" How do I know that? Because I asked them.
Having also done my own research into WHY people are so suspicious of the Internet and its various services (e-commerce, social media etc.) the answers were as follows:
- fear of one's private sphere being invaded
- being totally transparent
- opening oneself up to unwanted commercial attention
Makes you wonder why Germany is the second largest market for online dating then. As I say, Gemany is a funny country.