“They pay their bills“

The German newspaper, Die Welt, complimented the Chinese highly when it wrote that they pay for their Mercedes Benz automobiles on-time. Zahlungsmoral literally means payment morals.

Zuverlässigkeit is not only a human, but also a product characteristic.  Germans expect dependability and durability, especially in technical areas. German power producers constantly stress the Zuverlässigkeit of their nuclear power plants.

Infrastructure in Germany is expected to have 100% Zuverlässigkeit. Brown- or blackouts of the electricity grids occur very rarely. The telephone network almost never fails. Lack of reliability in Germany quickly leads to protests by customers and citizens.

Tausend gute Taten machen keine schlechte gut. A thousand good deeds don‘t make up for one bad one. Wenn ich mich auf Dich verlasse, bin ich verlassen. To be dependent on you means to have been abandoned.

Unzuverlässigkeit is the opposite of Zuverlässigkeit. In the German context, to be labeled unreliable or undependable is a serious criticism, a flaw not easily removed. Unreliable people are not trusted, their reputation is damaged. It is the same for unreliable products.

If commitments are not met it is imperative to prove that external factors were the cause. Unzuverlässigkeit – unreliability – costs time and money and increases risk, which Germans do their best to keep at a minimum.

A German reporting from a state in the former Soviet Union: “The same problems keep repeating themselves. Aspects of important agreements are changed suddenly, which is not a problem as long as everyone is informed quickly. In team meetings we agree to a schedule, which shortly thereafter is not held to due to delays in the delivery of material, which had been ordered two weeks late. When we then contact other sources we find out that they are out of stock. Our work processes get written down, but within a month or two no one knows where they are or what they mean.”

Germans have great difficulty dealing with lack of reliability. Even with their own high standards do they have their problems. Compared to other countries, public transportation in Germany is very reliable. But not dependable enough for the Germans. The same goes for weather forecasts, an imprecise science. Not reliable.