11 years ago I made the decision to radically change my life, and move to Germany, which I could specify in 2012. I have a degree in Economics, despite never having exercised, but more than one or another economic variable, or labor problem, the This decision had to do with a different view that I have of reality, and that I understood that perhaps it would never coincide with that of the majority and that no candidate could represent the project in which I believe.
I have been working in the media for 20 years, and through 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 in which I believe.
Germany is the country of the social plan. Far from talking about state welfare, the title is a craving word game. Actually, society has a plan. I remember that in the university, where I learned all the Keynesian dogmas, they told me that supposed phrase of the Briton who said: “in the long term, we will all be dead.” And you know what? I discovered that the German lives for and for the long term, and I don’t see them too dead to say.
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 they are obsessed with being prepared for the weather conditions of tomorrow’s world. There are many examples of this, that I can live every day.
In my job as a correspondent, covering German football, I have daily dealings with the Deutsche Fuβball League (DFL), which is the company that organizes the German soccer league, or Bundesliga. And in the field that touches me, the difference between the conjuncture and the long term comes to light.
It is easy to notice how the Spanish or Italian league (cultures from which we descend from Argentina) exploit to 110% the fact that one has Messi and the other Ronaldo. It is also easy to notice that neither of them is imagining the day after, of two types that are almighty, 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, however, has been working for years to understand and seduce the “Z generation”, which is the one that was born with the internet. The Germans are planning how football is going to be seen, when these kids have purchasing power and decision. The president of the DFL usually says that the Bundesliga is not a football league, but an entertainment company. Is that 40% of its income comes from the media and its main competitor is neither the Premier League, nor Messi: it is Netflix!
There are thousands of micro examples to understand how an entire society, business and government, are thinking in the long term. An economic example, for instance, is that the average German saves 10% of his monthly income, being twice what happens in countries like 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, in a percentage, they have a bimonetary economy. No, do not think about dollars, because in Europe it is worth both a dollar and a Brazilian real. Many Germans save not only in euros, but in … German Mark!
I swear I’m not crazy or lying. That currency, created in 1948 and that was so strong that, when the euro was created, 20 years ago, was the parameter on which the quotation of the continental currency was established, is still in force. According to Deutsche Welle, there are 169 million bills and 24 billion coins, still held by people.
Since the creation of the euro, and for an indefinite period, it was established that any German can go to exchange their mark for euros, whenever they want. And all that money today equals 6,600 million euros. But many Germans still rely more on “their” currency, than the one that circulates in the country two decades ago. An enviable demand for a good that only has one function: hoarding.
That culture, that way of thinking about things, fascinated me, and I try to absorb everything I can, because it clearly works. As a good adoptive German, I began to apply some of the golden rules: planning and saving.
Leaving the juncture and looking far, past and future, improves our ability to live in the present, if Keynes forgives me. In my opinion, for example, the retirement systems do not work, and you cannot stay waiting to live on a scheme of distribution of public funds.
Applying the logic of the Germans, I started to plan how my next 50 years can be, since I just turned 41. I should probably work until 70, like almost everyone (despite the fact that the French yellow vests oppose ), and maybe I can live until 90. That means that, starting now, I have 30 years to raise the money I will need to spend in my last 20.
With the advantage that the variables are constant in these parts, it can be done an estimate of how much you have to save to reach that value. In my case, it should be much more than 10% of the German average, because I started working here 15 years later than almost all of them.
Of course, it is a long-term plan. In between, there will be contingencies, unforeseen. Luckily nobody knows how much he will really live, nor how he will reach those last years. But, with a certain degree of probability, the estimate is not so wrong. Having traveled through time and been able to speak with my “I” of 2050, knowing what he will need from my current “I”, allows me to at least trace an objective, and periodically control what deviations are caused by the obvious unforeseen events that the lifetime.
That’s how Germans live and think, individually. I am 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 am only taking two aspects of their culture. Two of those that do work. Two examples that I learned and that served me, and that I think we 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 of his limited capacity for contingency resolution, plans. Therefore, 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 war camp to dominate Europe, following a plan.