Why do immigrants have good savings habits

Germans save because Germans save

They saved before the war, they saved during the war, and they saved after the war. Germans always save.

Saving is a German virtue. But that is far too little to say. Germans have almost a religious approach to saving. The "black zero" is state doctrine, and so do many Germans with their private households. Many Swiss have already made the experience: You visit a medium-priced to expensive Italian and watch your German friends study the map. At some point the sentence comes up: "But that's expensive." Often this is followed immediately by a description of a visit to Switzerland when the German friends paid 20 francs - or more - for spaghetti with tomato sauce. The people who have had this traumatic experience are not poor. They are German savers.

The German Historical Museum is devoting its own exhibition to saving. One of the most remarkable things about her is the realization that the Germans always saved and kept saving, no matter how profitable or disastrous this saving was. They saved before the wars, during the wars and after the wars. Even the inflation in the twenties could not shake the German austerity frenzy. As soon as the currency had stabilized to some extent, savings were made. Savings were made under the Kaiser, under Hitler, under Kohl and in the GDR. “The German Problem” was the headline of the “Economist” 2017 - what was meant was saving. For the European neighbors, the German cardinal virtue is above all a nuisance. An obstacle to growth. Where would Europe be if the Germans wouldn't save?

Whoever saves does not become a socialist

The world's first savings bank was established in Hamburg in 1778. The founding of the savings banks played a crucial role in making saving so popular in Germany. From the very beginning it was associated with an education to save: the citizen should take responsibility and make provision. The state and the entrepreneurs have kindly accompanied this endeavor according to the motto: "Those who save have something to lose and do not go out on the streets." Whoever saves does not become a socialist. The savings banks soon advertised that even the smallest savings would turn into small fortunes through interest. But the Germans have long since broken away from all of this. Saving has become an end in itself. Germans save because Germans save.

In fact, savers with their frugality have often been exploited and disappointed, especially in Germany. And it's not that far with personal responsibility. The home savings box of the Sparkasse Gornsdorf from 1912 shows, for example, how perfidious the banks were. The home savings box was only given to the saver on loan. It remained the property of the Sparkasse, which also kept the appropriate key with itself. This should prevent the saver from breaking into the till in an emergency or sudden desire to spend.

"Michel stay iron!"

During the First World War, the Germans were forced to draw war bonds. Saving was made easier for them with creative money boxes. One was called “Die industrige Berta” and was modeled on the German artillery projectile of the same name. A postcard from 1917 counteracts the gradual fatigue before the end of the war: «Michel stay’ iron! Draw war bonds! " Poor Michel signed his eighth and ninth war loan and saw nothing of the money again.

The peak of the German cult of austerity and, of course, the greatest austerity perversion took place during National Socialism. "The German way of preserving whoever works and saves!" Reads a leaflet from 1938. Or: "Your saving helps the Fiihrer." The brave German saver was used by the National Socialists for arming for the purpose of a war of aggression. The savings banks were obliged to invest their customers' deposits in government bonds. "Fight - work - save," was the slogan when the war was on. Or save, “yes, especially now!”.

A little stinginess is allowed

The austerity propaganda continued during the war. At some point "iron saving" was propagated, which could even be deducted from taxes. But it had a decisive disadvantage: it was said that the funds could only be used one year after the end of the war. After Stalingrad, even in Germany less and less people believed in the “iron savings accounts”. But already after 1945 people were saving again, for reconstruction, for the future. A quarter of a century later, the Sparkasse announced on a poster: "Saving is the opposite of greed." A happy family was shown with a car, bicycle and television. Anyone who saves can afford anything.

Avoidance is a little part of saving and yet leaves a bad feeling. Decades later, a German electronics retailer exonerated all Germans: "Avarice is cool." Nobody should be ashamed. It is perhaps telling that a word like “inexpensive” is actually only known from Germany.

Of course, the culture of savings also goes hand in hand with a hostility to indulgence. Saving is boring, everyone knows that except in Germany. The German saver has never known the joy that the French feel when they powdered money. In Germany, the saver is perhaps the most respected figure in society.

But, this must be considered: Only the small or very small savers are honored. As soon as private individuals amass too much money, this is not welcome. Successful savers try to discipline them through taxes. Investing is not a virtue in Germany unless the investments are under state control. The clogging is reserved for politicians and this is only possible with public money: Just think of the Berlin airport building or «Elphi», the Hamburg opera house.

The fears of the Germans

The Germans are considered to be rather fearful, and this is also useful for saving. However, saving itself also arouses German fears: “What if we save and everyone else burns the money? Aren't we the stupid ones in the end? " The European Union gives the Germans a framework for these black thoughts.

The German tries to wipe them away and also to educate European friends to save. He has secretly known for a long time that it is a futile effort with the Greeks and Italians. Occasionally the state has to take the Germans to hand, as in 2008 during the banking crisis. "We tell the savers that their deposits are safe," said Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germans are not citizens, they are savers.

The saver can never or seldom rest for a long time, as the history of German savings teaches us. In times when the Germans, because of a few hundred thousand immigrants, are racking their brains about what their identity actually consists of, they should actually think about the next thing: Spar ideology as the dominant culture.

Austria and the savings coffin

But is frugality really a genuinely German quality? One thinks of the Habsburg reform emperor Joseph II, who was a great saver. Under him, the so-called savings coffin was introduced in Austria in 1785. This had a flap on the floor that opened at the funeral: the corpse flew into the grave. The coffin was recyclable. A refined facility. However, the Catholic Austrians rejected the savings coffin, so that its effective time was over after six months. In Germany, Joseph II would probably have had success with it. But the Swiss in particular shouldn't make fun of the Germans' saving habits. Compared to them, the Germans are amateurs.

The exhibition "Saving - History of a German Virtue" in the German Historical Museum in Berlin runs until August 26, 2018.