11 years ago I made the decision to radically change my life, and move to Germany, which I was able to achieve in 2012. I am a Bachelor of Economics, despite never having exercised, but more than one economic variable or another, or labor problem, the decision had to do with a different look that I have of reality, and that I understood that I might never have matched that of the majority, and that no candidate could represent the project I believe in.
I have worked in the media for 20 years, and by that profession I met several cities in Germany, discovering that there was another way of thinking about reality, which was very much in line with those ideas that I believe in.
Germany is the country of the social plan. Far from talking about state assistance, the title is a game of words. Actually, society has a plan. I remember in college, where I learned all the Keynesian dogmas, they told me about that supposed British phrase that said, “In the long run, we’ll all be dead.” And you know what? I discovered that German lives for the long term, and I don’t see them dead or dying at all.
At first, it is complex to understand and adapt. Here we talk about 2030, they send you invitations for events that will happen in 2022 and are obsessed with being prepared for the weather conditions of tomorrow’s world. There are many examples of this, which I can live on a daily basis.
In my work as a correspondent, covering German football, I have daily contact with the Deutsche Fu-ball League (DFL), which is the company that organizes the German football league, or Bundesliga. And in the area that I am involved, the difference between the present scenario and the long term is light.
It is easy to see how the Spanish or Italian league (cultures from which we Argentines descend) exploit at 110 the fact that one has Messi and the other has Ronaldo. It’s also easy to note that neither is imagining the day after, of two guys who are all-powerful, but who are 32 and 34 years old, respectively. Real Madrid sells fewer tickets and rarely manages to fill the stadium since Cristiano Ronaldo left.
The Bundesliga, on the other hand, has been working for years to understand and seduce the “generation Z”, which is the one that was born with the internet. The Germans are planning how football is going to look when these guys have buying and decision-making power. The president of the DFL often says that the Bundesliga is not a football league, but an entertainment company. It’s that 40 of its revenue comes from the media and its main competitor is neither the Premier League nor Messi: it’s Netflix!
There are thousands of micro examples to understand how an entire society, businesses and government, are thinking about the long term. An economic example, for example, is that the average German saves 10 of his monthly income, being twice what happens in countries such as France or Spain. But why do they save? Because today’s savings are tomorrow’s consumption, and today it’s already played.
The German saves so much, that, by a percentage, they have a dual currency economy. No, don’t think about dollars, because in Europe it’s worth as much a dollar as a Brazilian real. Many Germans save not only in euros, but in… German marks!
I swear I’m not crazy or lying. That currency, created in 1948 and so strong that, when the euro was created, 20 years ago, it was the parameter on which the continental currency price was established, remains in force. According to Deutsche Welle, there are 169 million banknotes and 24 billion coins, still held by the people.
Since the creation of the euro, and indefinitely, it was established that any German can go to redeem their frames for euros, whenever they want. And all that money is now equivalent to 6.6 billion euros. But many Germans still rely more on “their” currency than the one circulating in the country two decades ago. An enviable demand for a good that only has one function: treasure.
That culture, that way of thinking things, fascinated me, and I try to absorb as much as I can, because it clearly works. As a good adopted German, I started to apply some of the golden rules: plan and save.
Getting out of the situation and looking into the distance, the past and the future improves our ability to live the present, if You’ll forgive me, Keynes. In my opinion, for example, retirement systems do not work, and you cannot stay one waiting to live off a public fund-sharing scheme.
Applying the logic of the Germans, I set out to plan what my next 50 years can look like, as I have just turned 41. I most likely have to work until I’m 70, like almost everyone else (even though french yellow vests are opposed), and maybe I can live until I’m 90. That means, starting now, I have 30 years to raise the money I’m going to need to spend on my last 20.
With the advantage that variables are constant by these lares, you can make an calculation of how much you have to save to reach that value. In my case, it should be much more than the 10th of the German average, because I started working here 15 years later than almost all of them.
Of course, it’s a long-term plan. In between, there will be contingencies, unforeseen events. Luckily no one knows how long he’s actually going to live, or how he’s going to get to those last few years. But, with a certain degree of probability, the estimate is not so wrong. Having traveled back in time and been able to talk to my 2050 “I,” knowing what you’re going to need from my current “I,” allows me to at least chart a goal, and periodically control what deviations are caused by the obvious unforeseen events that life has.
That’s how Germans live and think, individually. Far from believing that they are the ideal of society, or the owners of the truth. Germany is a country with an agenda of many problems and things that can be improved. I’m just taking two aspects of your culture. Two of those that do work. Two examples that I learned and that served me, and that I think Argentines can adopt, because we have things that the average German does not have: creativity and inventiveness.
The German, aware of his creative limitation, and his low unforeseen capacity, plans. That is why, in the next columns, I will tell you other aspects of the society, culture and economy of a country that in 70 years went from being a desolate field of war to dominating Europe, following a plan.