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Does it suggest that the nostalgic,
romanticized vision some harbor about the GDR is a sign of resignation rather than a genuine desire to re-live "real existing
socialism"? Or what is going on?

Perhaps they are seeing their socialist dreams come true in Germany(3% tax hike coming)--therefore, they don't need to emigrate to the other "utopias" of the world. Those coming to the US are maybe getting out while they still can.

OT

I thought the article about WalMart's demise in Germany was interesting.

http://www.atlantic-times.com/article.php?recordID=3

I believe the lack of success in Germany by WalMart is a very good example of our culture clash with Germans in other areas.

Our ideas about a personable approach to people, about human freedom and about democracy are quite different between our continents when examined with a closer look.

Germany experienced two lost wars which bred a less friendly and less warm human society. The eternal "class wars" ignited by Socialists in Europe and the retreat from the traditional Christian religion has also had an impact upon the more cold European behavior. It is no wonder, therefore, that nine out of ten German visitors to the United States are amazed at the friendly treatment of strangers or even just customers at any store.

moonfarer
USA

I recall reading an interview of an elderly woman who pined for the old days under Stalin, because there was always food then - not like now.

She was from Ukraine.

We exagerrate both the hardships and the joys of our past, depending on how the conversation starts. For example, we baby boomers look with fondness at the 1960's. It's easy. We were younger, handsomer, healthier then - and someone else was doing all the work to pay for it. What's not to like?

I believe the lack of success in Germany by WalMart is a very good example of our culture clash with Germans in other areas.

Why, of course, the reason WalMart failed was because of differing views on freedom and democracy in Germany, not because of any of the points explained in the article James W. linked to, such as using poorly located stores and having a guy in charge who doesn't even speak German. No, what it boils down to is if Germans only believed in freedom and democracy they would have gone to WalMart and not to Aldi or Lidl.

Now, the US citizens shopping at Trader Joe's or driving German cars must be really cold, miserable SOBs.

Ass't Village Idiot, "For example, we baby boomers look with fondness at the 1960's."

"What do you mean 'we' white man?" ;)

@flux, are you saying that when all of the Citgo stations go out of business we can say that it was because of poor business practices and bad locations, not Hugo Chaves? Excellent. That's one of the best excuses that I've heard on the subject.

OK, it's the only excuse that I've heard...but it's still the best.

Only the 60s boomers - Hugo was already working on getting rid of the Citgo stations, all those people out of work.

Those who are going to Cuba will be in for a big surprise....

Or,

They're hoping when el Barbudo dies, they'll be only 90 miles from America and can get citizenship quicker.

@flux

I may be wrong, but I think moonfarer was relating his comments to some of the reasons given in the article--which certainly point to cultural differences. It seems that you just cherry-picked the points that you wanted to see. According to the article, German shoppers were turned off by being greeted at the door by Walmart staff and having their purchases bagged for them. Do two world wars have anything at all to do with what many Americans perceive as a mild "coldness" in European society? I think...maybe.

Excerpt from article:
Just why did Wal-Mart Germany end so badly in Germany, just like before in South Korea? The answer is simple but banal, and can be encapsulated by a line once sung by David Bowie: “This is not America.”

Management’s mistake was to implement a successful U.S. business formula in Germany without paying any attention to local idiosyncrasies.

Note:

Boston's landmark Citgo sign, which dominates center field at Fenway Park, may be replaced by a giant American flag, if city councilman Jerry McDermott has a say.

See, even in moonbat-rich Boston, there is hope. People are wising up. There is therefore hope for Germany and Europe!

-- German shoppers were turned off by being greeted at the door by Walmart staff and having their purchases bagged for them. --

So, they don't like being serviced, eh? why don't they feel like their worthy of being serviced?

Sourpusses.

@James W.

Cherrypicking? That was the only reason moonfarer focused on, when the article mentions at least five others. So who's picking what cherries? That was my point. The other cultural differences concerned the warm up sessions and the flirting prohibition. Also, speaking of excuses, if WalMart's excuse for their German failure was that they greeted people at the door and bagged groceries, and that Germans didn't take to that US custom, then maybe they should rethink their global expansion strategies.

As far as "coldness" in Europe and WWII is concerned, that's armchair psychology. What Europe are we talking about, anyway? Finland? Italy? Spain? Poland? So the people in all of those countries are "cold" because of things that happened more than 60 years ago? Maybe.

This auswandering stuff is quit the craze these days, partner. Lots a folks headin' to Texas, too: http://hermann.blog.com/996963/

I think flux is closer to the point here, folks. The German Walmart chain was too small both in terms of locations and sales to survive in the ultra-competitive German retail sector. The greeting and the bag-stuffing were probably incidental. In fact had Wal-Mart offered comparable coverage and prices to Germans they might have learned to grow fond of these little extras.....

I'm sure those suffering from Ostalgie have much less farther to go than China to satiate their longings with Belarus right there on the same street. That said, I can't say there are too many communists who think things through enough to recognized the difference.

On the Wal-Mart front, I’m hard-pressed to forget the fact that Wal-Mart had a competitive advantage in China with it's slave-laborers and government favor curried through the massive purchasing of products made in China and no doubt a few well-placed bribes as well. It certainly wasn't because the Chinese government loved Americana any more, but because it has a present use for the dollar. If you want to look at the glass as half full, at least the German government and retail industry are more honest.

As for Wal-Mart making adjustments to succeed in Germany, I’m sure they could if they wished to; the question may be whether Wal-Mart is serious about the European market and making the changes necessary to compete in it.

In my view, the Wal-Mart failure really wasn’t about a clash of cultures at all. It just happens to be that the competition was too strong. As the author pointed out, Germany has the cheapest groceries in Europe. You will find an ALDI store in every city, often in many different locations, and they sell basic quality food real cheap. And twice a year, you can get a cheap PC and a cheap Notebook too.

Maybe it’s because I tend to visit mainly tourist destinations when I’m in the US, but in my experience, groceries are hilariously overpriced, and the quality in many cases is inferior.

I was really surprised when I learned that ALDI has a US subsidiary (www.aldifoods.com).

@flux

I have lived in Germany 24 years and in the U.S 52 years. I have visited Germany about every 10-15 years sinc I emigrated to the U.S. I am not an expert on WalMart's experinec in Germany.

However, I can attest to the fact that Americans are friendlier, more helpful and outgoing than Germans. Basically, this can be subscribed to different cultural experiences.

Germans have a historical experience of wars, individual survival and because of this they suffered a loss of religion which resulted in a loss of social grace in public life.

Americans grew out of a pioneer culture where most if not all strangers were treated to a friendly "hello" or "how are you?" on the road. It also required for neighbors to help each other on a sparsely settled continent.

WalMart's greeters and packers of groceries can be found at other U.S stores. It is nothing more but a friendly neighbor policy while European perceive it as an "invasion of their privacy."

It is one of the reasons why long ago the phrase was coined, "it is so awful easy to become an American but very hard to become a German".

moonfarer
USA

@moonfarer

I've spent enough years in the US to know that people meet you with a friendlier attitude than in Germany. However, to chalk up WalMart's failure to those cultural differences is just plain wrong. Other factors were way more crucial. Also, I don't think that the people greeting and bagging are doing it out of a friendly neighbor policy. It's just a job. The guy with the prison tattoos bagging my groceries at the local Jewel Osco didn't strike me as the friendly neighbor type for some reason. Still, I actually do like getting my groceries bagged. There's no doubt that customer service in the US is much better than in Germany.

As far as "a loss of religion which resulted in a loss of social grace in public life" is concerned, that's armchair psychology again. I don't how anyone can make such grand statements without any thought or reason. Less religion=unfriendlier people? Do you really, honestly believe that? I'd suggest moving to some Muslim country, if that's the case.

@flux

As far as "coldness" in Europe and WWII is concerned, that's armchair psychology. What Europe are we talking about, anyway? Finland? Italy? Spain? Poland? So the people in all of those countries are "cold" because of things that happened more than 60 years ago? Maybe.

Well, you're partially right that it's armchair psychology...but also part personal experience in countries like Germany, France, England, and Austria. Then again, I find the Dutch to be quite friendly..."maybe" that has something to do with coffee shops. ;-)

Look flux, I'm not trying to say that wars in Europe are the only reasons for what many Americans do indeed perceive as a mild coldness. But, could it, in some fashion, play a part? Sixty years is not that long--many habits tend to be passed on for a generation or more. Just a thought, not a conviction. On the other hand, perhaps some Americans are just so spoiled by customer satisfaction efforts that anything less is perceived as "coldness". But does this explain the basic "man-on-the-street" experiences such as greeting a stranger with a smile and a "good day". We'll have to do a study on this subject.

You chose to believe that moonfarer excluded all other reasons for Walmart's demise mentioned in the article--I think moonfarer just stressed one aspect. We'll have to ask moonfarer.

@isegrim

From earlier discussions here I had learned that the German government forced Walmart to RAISE their prices because of the threat of damage to "mom and pop" businesses. Walmart used to have a guarantee that they have the lowest prices on brand-name products within a 50km radius. I still shop there regularly here in Hanau because of overall low prices.

Competition too strong? Is it stronger than the US market? Or is it more that Walmart is perceived as another "Aussauger" by the Germans?

@James W.

As you correctly surmised, I only focussed on cultural differences regarding MalMart's business failure as I am not enough familiar with other reasons.

As to the religious roots to the general friendliness of Americans toward strangers, flux betrays his little cultural and historical knowledge about America.

@flux

Even today, America is in many ways religously a puritanical society - even if we allow female nudity now in some nightclubs since the 1960ies. We are still looking at something like the "Berlin Love Fest" as a modern version of Sodom and Gomorrha. This might be considered a drawback to some people in Europe. However, when looking at the results of this on the bright side, it manifests itself in friendlier and more helpful neighbors (without a spark of jealousy!), we much rather prefer it that old fashioned way.

moonfarer
USA

@moonfarer

flux betrays his little cultural and historical knowledge about America.
Well, that's why I'm here. To learn from you guys. I didn't know, for example, that being puritanical leads to being friendlier.

I'm sorry, try as hard as I may, I fail to see the connection between puritanism and friendliness. Is there also a connection between puritanism and the fact that there are about three times as many rape crimes per capita in the US than in Germany? That's a simple-minded argument, I know, but so is saying puritanism leads to friendly neighbors.

I'd be interested in knowing more about the demographics of Germans leaving. Do they have advanced degress? Are they in technical/science fields? What is the median age? Are they married?

There was a similar story not long ago about Brits leaving - for France. They are buying up property in the French countryside. The demographics seem to be that they're retirees who find their retirement income goes further in France (taxes) than in the UK.

@flux | September 24, 2006 at 06:18 PM

Of course, is the modern puritanism incomparable to the version of early Americana. Yet, as you probably know, we we have approximately 500 different religions and sects of all shades of Christianity in our country. If we combine that with the pioneer life structure of the first human settlements in the USA, which existed only as far spread ranches and farms in a church community, it is until today still recognizable in the American word, "God knows no strangers". It definitely has a deeper meaning. It shows itself in the more uncomplicated, open friendliness of most Americans. It is even expressed in the everyday American vernacular, where the word "Fremdenzimmer" does not exist but therefore the word "Guest Room".

Our permission to carry weapons is also an inherited freedom from our pioneer day history. It is also part of our guarranteed individual independence from a takeover by our federal government. (Hitler would have had less fun if Germans would have been likewise heavily armed during his attempt at "Machtuebernahme.")

As far as our criminality goes, one can only say, "wer you find a lot of light, you also find a lot of shadows. It is indefensible. Although we are working at it with tougher sentences and less early releases for good behavior. Of course, violent criminals are hardly sincere Christians and do not belong into this discussion about the average American citizen in comparison with average Germans or Europeans - oder?

As a final indicator and explantion about the different people to people attitudes of Americans and Germans serve the most recent nationwide polls on the status of their group beliefs. The result shows 80% of Americans as believing in God while only 30% of questioned Germans could say the same. This is a considerable difference which has obviously some influence upon the behavior of each group in relation to folks of another culture.

Finally, I am quite surprised with how much ease you repeatedly attempted to put my opinions down with insulting remarks like "simple minded", etc. It only tells me that your experience in America cannot hold water to my own half a century of living in this country. It also tells me that you are not at all interested - as you said - in "learning" from this debate but that you simply like to play the role of a juvenile smart a**.

moonfarer
USA

@moonfarer

I certainly didn't mean to insult you, and apologize if my comments came across as insulting. I do, however, think that some of the explanations and theories you offered were at least simplifying. How could guns have stopped Hitler? He was elected. As far as religion is concerned, there is no doubt that Americans are more religious than Germans, but then, Europe's history with religion is also a little more troubled than American history. I guess we just have to agree to disagree, don't you think?

@flux
How could guns have stopped Hitler? He was elected

I am so sick of this meme.

May 5 elections of 1932 Hiddenburg defeated him 53% to 37% for the presidency.

In the July 31 election, the Nazis held to 37%, but dropped a few points in November.

In December von Papen was replaced (by von Schliecher? I think..)

It was Vice Chancellor von Papen that got Hitler the position as Chancellor - what is the quote of von Papen's? Something about pushing Hitler so far into the corner he'll squeek? Oh yes, such a mouse!

And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head.

How could guns have stopped Hitler? Please. The Night of the Long Knives.

Hi everyone, I decided to delurk after some months of reading. I am German and found the articles interesting, even if I do not allways aggree with them.

@james.w
On the other hand, perhaps some Americans are just so spoiled by customer satisfaction efforts that anything less is perceived as "coldness". But does this explain the basic "man-on-the-street" experiences such as greeting a stranger with a smile and a "good day".
On one of my trips to the US I had a tour guide telling us (multi-national students) at the start of the trip: "You will learn, that here many things are not done the same way as in your home countries. Please try to see it this way: It is not better, it is not worse, it is just different." I have kept this in mind ever since. The "coldness" that you may percieve is handed out liberaly in Germany - to Americans, French, Italian, ... and fellow Germans just the same. As the Walmart article states, staff warm-up sessions (I would include the staff hired to greet customers) are just perceived as being ridiculous. In Germany this is felt to be a unneccessary sugar coating. If prices, quality and shopping experience (in this order, the last is expendible) are fine, a shop is set on a good road. I think the Atlantic-Times article does a good job at explaining, why Walmart failed in Germany, although I do not support their weighing; the most important point to me is: Walmart tried to enter a heavily contested market and failed to find its niche.

the German government forced Walmart to RAISE their prices because of the threat of damage to "mom and pop" businesses
Selling at prices below purchasing costs is prohibited in Germany. The idea is to protect small businis from being driven out of the market and to keep competition healthy in the long run. Could this have been the reason for the above?

@Sandy P
So, they don't like being serviced, eh? why don't they feel like their worthy of being serviced?

Sourpusses.
Does the guy at the door honestly wish me a good day or does he just pay lip service for money. Hmm, probably the latter. In Germany "no greeting" is prefered for "shallow/fake greeting". Japan is very different again. No better, no worse - just different.
Sincerly,
Your sourpuss ;-)

Competition too strong? Is it stronger than the US market? Or is it more that Walmart is perceived as another "Aussauger" by the Germans?
Yes, the competition is stronger. Germans do demand top quality at ridiculously low prices. Whether the company is American or not does not matter to the majority of the population when it comes to shopping.

@moonfarer
Our permission to carry weapons is also an inherited freedom from our pioneer day history. It is also part of our guarranteed individual independence from a takeover by our federal government. (Hitler would have had less fun if Germans would have been likewise heavily armed during his attempt at "Machtuebernahme.")
I disagree. At the time of the Machtübernahme Hitler was viewed as a leader out of poverty and shame, not as a threat, by the majority of the population. I do not think, there would have been a lot of armed resistance. An armed populace alone does not prevent a demagoge from taking power, the neccessary mindset and will to resist need to be there.

@Pamela
How could guns have stopped Hitler? Please. The Night of the Long Knives.
See above, you need people to carry out a Night of the Long Knives. At the time of the Machtübernahme, the social democrats would have shown up, the majority of the population would have stayed at home. The 37% or less made the NSDAP the strongest party, Social Democrats being runners-up at about 20%.

@flux | September 24, 2006 at 11:44 PM

Apology gladly accepted!

Yes, Hitler was legally elected. However, I spoke of Hitler being perhaps prevented from his totally unconstitutional and, therefore, equally illgal "Machtuebernahme" (or power grab). That made him a "single Fuehrer" and dictator (I believe it was in 1934) without the Reichtstag or any parliamentary voice of the people. Besides, the Reichstag had been conveniently burtned down shortly beforehand.

If somebody would try to pull that trick in the U. S., he would stare the same day into the eyes of Millions of outraged and heavily armed citizens. In Germany, it was not possible to do that, since the citizenry had no arms and had therefore no means to defend itself. Besides, the German citizens had (wrongly) quietly sat by when his regime took over control of all means of communication as well as the mass media which spread lies about the "dear Fuehrer" and his cronies from day one.

When I see today's overwhelming left/liberal and anti American track of most big German papers and TV stations, it reminds me of the days under the howling monkey, "good old Adolf." Don't get me wrong, I am not condemning the German people for electing him after the hateful totally unjust and illegal sentence of the Versailles Treaty, I am just sad that they were politically so naiv to believe everything the media told them to believe. That part of history seems to repeat itself today.

Only one example: The German media, contrary to the American media, assured their clientele of the "fact" that President Bush had to lose forthcoming elections badly. Obviously, their own political left/liberal bias did not permit them to even think otherwise. When the facts of the election rolled in, which showed a healthy victory by the Republicans not only in the White House but in Congress as well, they started to doubt the "sanity" of the U.S electorate. Their own political arrogance and prejudice had blinded them from the truth.

moonfarer
USA

@moonfarer
The elections in summer 1932 (with terror organizations SA and SS out in public, situation bordering on a civil war) had the NSDAP emerge as the strongest party at 37% popular vote. The elections in November saw them at a similar share of votes.
Hitler was made Reichkanzler January 30, 1933. Out of 14(?) of his ministers, only 2 were members of the NSDAP.
Only then the freedom of the media was limited by law (first on the 4th of February by emergency legislation, lateron in the Gleichschaltungsgesetz on September 22).

Hitler got his total power by the Ermächtigungsgesetz ("Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich"), passed by the parliament on März 23, 1933 (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erm%C3%A4chtigungsgesetz). 444 out of 647 MPs voted in favor, only 288 of which were members of the NSDAP.

Hello blue!
See above, you need people to carry out a Night of the Long Knives.

I think we're both trying to make the same point. "how would guns have stopped Hitler" is absolutely the wrong question.

Hi Pamela,

I am not sure about making the same point; I was a bit confused / confusing (a bit of both) about the Night of the Long Knives. Sorry. I think your point is, that Hitler was not elected. This is true in the narrow sense that he was neither directly elected, nor that the NSDAP gained the absolute majority of votes in the elections of 1932. However, the NSDAP got by far the largest share of the vote and Hitler ascended legally (at least on paper) to power.

The point I tried to make was, that Hitler would not have been stopped by an armed populace, because the majority of the population just did not want to stop him in 1933.

Walmart perfected a very shrewd and successful business model here in the US by effectively understanding the predominant cultural mind-set of the typical American consumer OVER-ALL. To be sure, they focused on rural areas as they developed their innovative marketing and business philosopy. More than friendliness, they understood the new tools for competive pricing - computer technology adapted to instantaneous inventory controls and marketing forecasts. For several decades, they avoided populated areas until the rural market had been saturated. At that juncture, with an excellent reputation for low prices, they cautiously entered the urban sections of the country, again usually with great success.

Now they are attempting to expand globally and it is not so surprising that in some cultures, they have not been so successful as they learn that not all people of the earth think alike and some important markets do business in a different atomosphere with subtle but very important cultural and legal restrictions. They will probably learn from such experiments as that of Germany and other European markets and will (as their history indicates) be globally more successful than not. Wal-mart is operated by very, very astute management.

Their latest innovation in the Florida market is the reduction of almost 400 generic drug prices to $4.00 for a months supply. They will use their huge market to gain price concession from drug companies and have promised that they will not sell drugs for less than a profitable price. Walmart announces that this drug pricing will be nation wide by 2008. Even though, I, myself, have insurance for drugs, I will save money on my generic drug $10 co-pay cost when this pricing is available in my state.

Believe me, Americans have not been swayed to become Wal-mart customers by the presence of greeters or bagging service but by selection, variety and cost of the merchandise found there. People with limited funds for food, clothing, etc shop with their pocket books in mind.

@ jane m | September 25, 2006 at 08:16 PM

I can only second your opinion about WalMart. In the States, most Supermarkets furnish the service of baggers and some have even greeters at the door. One also expects to be greeted by some sales person in many department stores, offering assistance and saving the customer time by not having to search for an item. For the life of me, I cannot understand Germans objecting to any of that but ...they did.

It must have something to do with their cultural saturation point with all things American. After all, the entire German country, including its language, has been subject to a huge amount of Americanization regarding the daily life
experience.

It must also be pointed out that our culture was not foisted upon them but was rather chosen by the natives on a totally voluntary basis.

moonfarer
USA

I have mixed feelings about the extra "service." My wife is forever having baggers not bag everything at her store (in the US.) She works there (unionized grocery), so the regular customers probably get worse service. The German system, what I saw of it at the local Tegut, seemed more efficient. Mrs D is from Japan, where you get friendly and efficient service, always, or the staff has to commit seppuku in atonement. I jest, but not by much. Smiles are better than frowns.

The folks at the German bakery and the butcher's shop were quite friendly.

The Northeastern US is probably the least "friendly" part of the country, and some of the local WalMart Greeters just come across as annoying and fake. I'd rather have a fast and efficient cashier than a friendly and slow one. Maybe I'm just a jaded and easily annoyed old man, but I went there to buy something, not to make a friend.

Overall, I probably prefer the retail experience in Japan or Germany, but it's not a big deal. Our prices seem pretty good, although Germany was not exorbitant. Japan can be outrageous.

MarkD,

You may be onto something with your comment about different parts of the USA having different cultures. The Northeast may be perceived as less friendly than, say, the Rocky Mountain states where I was born. I find the friendliness of most people there to be genuine. The same is undoubtedly true for Germany too. I find the customer service satisfactory in the Sauerland where I spend quite a bit of time but downright hostile in Frankfurt. I generally find shopping in Germany to be a chore, certainly not something I’d ever do for pleasure. What I’d give for a Whole Foods market!!!

As for Japan, I lived in rural Shizuoka for three years and one year in Machida in Tokyo and can tell you I never EVER had a bad shopping experience there. The prices in rural areas weren’t all that different from what I find in Germany. I still miss the enthusiastic “irashaimase!” greetings I got every time I entered a shop.

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