German homes

Deutsche Welle – What sets German homes apart? That’s what Rachel want to find out for this week’s Meet the Germans. From cake forks to tiny homes and BYO kitchens – join her for a snoop around a typical German home.

Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. As a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from unusual bans to meaty cuisine or haunted castles. This week: come on in and make yourself at home with the Germans.

At 0:24 unfortunately a small error has crept in. This house is the famous Rietveld Schröder House and is located in Utrecht in the Netherlands and not in Germany. Sorry for that.

German bread, again

The Germans are extremely proud of their bread culture – and pretty scathing about bread from most other countries (don’t get them started on Toastbrot.) Since moving to Germany, Rachel has discovered the delights of fresh German bread from the local bakery.

But there’s still one thing getting between her and a bag of crusty bread rolls. Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. Back then, as a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from unusual bans to meaty cuisine or haunted castles. This week: bread.

German bread

What do most Germans miss when they are abroad? Their bread! Hannah Hummel at Deutsche Welle explains why people in Germany are so crazy about it, how Germany developed such a huge bread diversity and why so many bakeries are under threat nowadays.

Her German father baked bread for the family in Scotland. It is very common for Germans living outside of Germany to bake their own bread.

Dieter Rams – German Design

As head of design at Braun, the German consumer electronics manufacturer, Dieter Rams (1932-) emerged as one of the most influential industrial designers of the late 20th century by defining an elegant, legible, yet rigorous visual language for its products.

Rams had Ten Principles of Good Design: Innovative. Usable. Aesthetic. Understandable. Discreet. Honest. Durable. Consistent to the last detail. Environmental. Minimalistic.

Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) was a German painter and printmaker who worked in the Northern Renaissance style, and is considered one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century.

Holbein was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, but he worked mainly in Basel, Switzerland as a young artist. Holbein travelled to England in 1526 in search of work, with a recommendation from the great European thinker, Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Holbein was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, the Archbishop of Canterbury, where he quickly built a strong reputation. By 1535, he was King’s Painter to none other than Henry VIII of England.

Of particular interest to us as students of German culture are minutes 22:20 to 25:00 in this very interesting mini-documentary about Hans Holbein. Pay particular attention to the segment 24:00-24:37. “If you wanted precision, quality and Vorsprung durch Technik (the current motto of Audi) you bought German.”

And by the way, the documentary is done exceptionally well. Tudor England. Henry the VIII. Thomas More. And, of course, Thomas Cromwell. Very much worth watching in full.

selbständig – independent

“The team at Minderleinsmühle opened up their hearts to me. From the first minute onward I felt very comfortable. In my area I work independently. My colleagues, however, are always there for me should I need help. Every day I learn something new.” Anna, Intern in Quality Control, 2019

Minderleinsmühle near Nuremberg, Germany. From their website:

“Our mueslis & cereals, pastries, sweets, chocolates and snacks stand for high-end quality, sustainability and best taste. Under leading of the Hubmann Family, the Minderleinsmühle was arisen from a craft mill with connected agriculture to an established manufacturer in the sector of organic food. As a grown enterprise with a vision, we unify craftsmanship and experience with technology and innovation.”

Germany’s future? Look at its cars

A well-done description of the current – September 2021 – situation in Germany. By the economist. Using the German automobile industry as a window into the wider challenges to the German economy and to German society.

It’s bottom-line question is whether the German people are capable of responding to the challenges of today and the near future.

“Not the consumers’ job“

Harvard Business Review. October 31, 2001. Tom Davenport, Business Professor at Babson College: Was Steve Jobs a Good Decision Maker?

„He (Jobs) also didn’t believe in analytical decisions based on extensive market research.“ Quoting The New York Times’ obituary: „Mr. Jobs’s own research and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: ‘None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.’”

Steve Jobs was not of German descent. It was known, however, that he had great respect for German design and technology. He and his family, it was reported, had debated for weeks what brand of washing machine they should choose. His arguments won out. Miele.

Designed in U.S. Made in China

American businesses have a history of designing products in America, but then sending the designs to companies abroad, especially to third world countries, to be assembled. Why would a first world country, with the capacity for better materials and production processes, outsource the building of their products to lesser developed nations? The answer is simple: cost.

One of the most common countries for assembling American-designed products is China. In 2011, there was an article in Forbes titled “Buying from China is in Fact Buying American.” In this article, the author talks about his friend Johnny, a middle class American who owns a couple of small restaurants. 

Most of the cooking utensils and furniture in Johnny’s restaurants were made in China. Like most middle-class Americans, he shopped at stores that sold primarily Chinese-made merchandise. Johnny’s reason for using these Chinese-assembled products: they were cheap and “good-enough.”

The article went on to talk about different American companies that sell products that are made in China (Apple, Dell, Gap, Hasbro, Nike, etc.) and how, according to a San Francisco Federal Reserve study, an average of 55% of the value of American imported goods from China goes to American companies and workers. 

This is compared to 36% for American goods in general. Not only can companies that outsource to China sell their goods at a cheaper price, but they actually make a lot more money in the process.

The Image of Exclusivity

In his May 12, 2015 article Taking the Fast Lane in the Handelsblatt Global Edition, Christian Schnell (schnell means fast in German) wrote about Porsche’s success in the U.S.

“Porsche keeps setting sales records in the United States, with double-digit percentage growth over four years. Of 190,000 Porsche’s sold last year, 47,000 were delivered to U.S. customers. The brand, part of the Volkswagen Group, has grown sales by double-digit figures for four years straight.”

Porsche is a niche player. It has a U.S. market share of only 0.4 percent. “It shouldn’t become much more than that to protect the car’s image of exclusivity, in Porsche’s view.”

“We have not set a figure as a target. Instead, we want to get a sense of how much we can expand the brand,” said Porsche-CEO Matthias Müller. “We’d rather sell a car less than one too many.”

Schnell noted: “At other companies, such elitist thinking has led to conflicts.” In 2014 the chief executive of Ferrari, Luca die Montezemolo, said he only wanted to build 7,000 cars per year. “The statement angered Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Ferrari’s parent company Fiat.” Not long thereafter, Montezemolo was out of a job.

It was an incident which the Porsche-CEO could not understand. “If Mr. Marchionne thinks he can turn Ferrari into a mass market brand I can only say: ‘A very warm welcome’.”