To one degree or another you will find in every German a Schwachstellenanalytiker (schwach, weak + stellen, point + analytiker, analyst). A person focused on what doesn’t work, doesn’t make sense, isn’t logical, isn’t optimal.

Weak point analysis aims to avoid errors. And in Germany avoiding errors is often the equivalent of scoring victories. Germans are precision-oriented, in their language, thinking, and work methods. Their products are technically precise. To be precise is to be exact and refined.

The German Schwachstellenanalytiker has a highly developed Problembewusstsein, a problem-consciousness or -awareness. In fact, one can get the impression that Germans have a special relationship with problems, almost a love affair, an obsession.

Part of this impression has to do with language. The German word for problem is Problem, and it has two meanings: subject, topic, what is being discussed; as well as difficulty, dilemma, something to be solved or rectified. Depending on their level of proficiency in English, Germans may use problem in both situations, giving the impression that almost every subject discussed with Germans is a difficulty, dilemma or weak point.

But, perhaps there are legitimate reasons for Germans to have a special relationship with problems. Isn’t any form of progress based on correcting mistakes, refining imperfections, improving on what already works, never being satisfied?

Germans are difficult to satisfy, impress, persuade. Unless, of course, you demonstrate the ability to uncover, define, pull apart and improve on the imperfect. Perhaps German Schwachstellenanalytiker, with their Problembewusstsein, are the true optimists among us, hoping and striving constantly for what could be better.

Perhaps. As long as they don’t confuse problematisieren (endlessly discussing and debating what the problem is) with Probleme lösen (actually solving the problem).