Germany’s Image in the U.S.

by Omar Oweiss

Over the course of ten years in my professional roles for GTAI, acquaintances and business partners have shared many anecdotes, opinions and stereotypes about Germany. Ask most Americans what they think about Germans, and you just might be surprised.

August, 2018

Flags of Germany and the USA © Wikimedia Commons, Tvabutzku1234

As an American, born half German/half Egyptian, I am enjoying the unique opportunity to live and work in Washington D.C., a diverse and multicultural metropolis in the United States. In sharp contrast to my affiliation with the Middle East, it has been extremely pleasant, particularly in the last six to eight years, to introduce myself as half-German in the U.S. Smalltalk at business functions with American counterparts typically consists of stories of their German ancestry or travel and work in Germany. The positive stereotypes praise the eco-conscious, reliable, organized and high-tech Germans as well as their great beer, fast and desirable cars, and their famous Octoberfest celebrations. There is a clear admiration for this society, which also embodies great organizational skills, punctuality and a sound infrastructure.

This impression and image of Germany was confirmed by the market research institute GfK and their political consultant Simon Anholt in November 2017. According to his study, Germany has the best reputation worldwide and has surpassed the U.S. as well as other countries in many different aspects. The study illustrates that Germany’s image is no longer solely based on its strong economic power. Germans are highly respected and admired around the globe and Germany has become an attractive and desirable destination to do business.

»Germans are much admired«

Omar Oweiss is Director of Investor Consulting at Germany Trade and Invest’s Washington, D.C. office. He currently focuses his attention on North American companies interested in international expansion within the chemicals, life sciences and services industries.

© Photo: Studio Prokopy

Cross-cultural currents

While it may seem that Germany is promoting itself as an attractive investment destination, there are some issues and concerns that come up. German labor laws are perceived as highly restrictive to American counterparts, who are more accustomed to the American hire-and-fire mentality. Higher taxes, a lack of tax breaks and their views on personal and vacation time rankle with some U.S. entrepreneurs. In the U.S., the concept of “work-life balance” is not as sacred as in Germany. Americans typically have only two to three weeks off per calendar year. They are amazed by the amount of vacation days in Germany, and also notice the differences in employee rights, such as parental leave.

Furthermore, I am occasionally surprised that some entrepreneurs do not recognize Germany as a “European hub.” Potential investors might be well-informed about the German economy and the legal framework, but often fail to recognize Germany as a place from which one can access the large European market. Additional information and persuasion is sometimes needed.

On the other hand, you do not need to convince Americans about the top quality of German products. They enjoy an excellent reputation – not even the Volkswagen (VW) diesel emissions scandal of 2015 could shake the American public’s confidence in German brands. Of course, it’s important to note that the resolution offered to U.S. customers who were affected by faulty VW vehicles was substantially better than in many other countries. But the fact remains, if someone wants to buy quality products, the “Made in Germany” seal is highly sought after.