anstupsen – to nudge, to prod.

In a January 2015 article in DIE ZEIT Tina Hildebrandt writes critically and with irony about the Merkel government engaging experts in order to study what makes the German people happy, and how to move them in that direction. Anstupsen is what the experts call their method.

The experts are developing kleine Entscheidungshilfen – little decision making aids – to prod German citizens in that direction. That is precisely the problem, Hildebrandt writes: “An administration should persuade, not nudge.”

The article demonstrates how quickly Germans get angry when one tries to push them in a certain direction even if only with the help of “little decision making aids.” The slightest suspicion that any action aims to get a decision is immediately counterproductive.

The Germans sense any form of nudge or prod as drängen – as pressure, as pushing. Germans want to be persuaded. And when they make a decision they reject any kind of outside influence.