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Cash and quality: the Germans go shopping

Niklas Frank selects a couple of key insights from his new book

There are many stereotypes about us, “ze Germans”. Working in international teams in Germany I found my co-workers to be intrigued and entertained by things that I did or said. I started to take note of these stereotypes, misunderstandings and cultural specialties, for my book: German Men Sit Down To Pee & Other Insights Into German Culture (available via Amazon).

Don’t spend more than you have 

Germans have a strong aversion to debt, and so while the rest of the West binges on loans and credit cards, Germans continue to pay for most things in cash. There are many theories as to why we are so careful with money. Psychologists and linguists note that the words for debt (schuld) and guilt (schuld) are the same, suggesting that there may be a subconscious connection between the two.

Another theory highlights the fact that credit cards track spending habits. Germans, who are extremely cautious when it comes to personal privacy, aren’t likely to give up this kind of information to anyone, especially to a financial company.

And a simple answer may be that credit card payments are costly for merchants to process and Germans tend to be very rational, even when it comes to shopping.

The importance of the price-quality ratio

In Germany, spending decisions are consciously and unconsciously evaluated by a ratio known as Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis, a ratio of price to quality. If a German is particularly proud of a new purchase, they’ll be more likely to highlight the price quality ratio rather than the fact that it came in their favourite colour.

Germans are frugal by nature. But frugal, in this case, doesn’t mean buying the cheapest products. In fact, the opposite is often true. Germans typically buy German-made products, products that have a higher price tag but, traditionally at least, are extremely well-made.

Impulse shopping and shopping without research tends to be looked down upon. So proud owners of new stuff will happily talk about its Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis. Going into a little detail about how you compared all of the different products and found the best possible price is like talking dirty to a German, and will earn you their respect for many years to come.

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