And the world’s favorite country is … Germany?

November 17, 2014

Visitors enjoy a beer during the opening day of the 181st Oktoberfest in Munich

Germany, it appears, is the most respected country in the world. According to the Nation Brands Index, Germany deposed the hitherto reigning champion, the Unites States. The home of Audi, Mercedes, Siemens, Bosch and Co. now tops the charts.

Now before I discuss the ranking process, in which over 20,000 people in 20 countries were asked to rank 50 developed and emerging countries according to 23 categories, I have to say that I’m amazed that the United States was number one up until now. Anti-Americanism is rampant and I would have guessed that Switzerland or Sweden or some other rich but harmless country would top the list instead.

As a German of the baby boomer generation, I can remember a time when many Germans my age would speak English when abroad so as to hide their nationality. German children might find themselves ostracized on a Danish beach. German teens on a pilgrimage to Swinging London might be confronted by people giving them the Nazi salute. And it wasn’t any better when over Guinness in a Dublin pub an Irishman congratulated you for what the German Luftwaffe did to the British, or, far, far worse, when a charming Arab lady in Washington said that “you Germans” had been right about the Jews. I’ve witnessed all this and more. So to advance from pariahs to pop stars, and for the right reasons, is quite something.

So how did we do it?

There were six dimensions that were addressed by the questionnaire: exports (the quality of products); governance (including the commitment to solving global problems); culture and heritage; people (their perceived competence, friendliness, openness); tourism; investment and immigration.

Germany received top marks for honest and competent government, for social equality and a good investment climate. The strong showing of Germany’s economy, its leading role in Europe, and its perceived responsibility in international affairs were also important factors. Finally, as 2014’s soccer world champion, Germany scored big in the sports section – part of the “culture and heritage” dimension, in case you were wondering.

No surprises here.The world sees us rather as we see ourselves: competent, hardworking, successful, responsible, and good on the football field. But otherwise rather dull. As far as creativity, contemporary culture and the quality of education is concerned, the United States outperforms us in the eyes of the world. And in our own eyes, too. We love U.S. television series, books and music, and if we could afford to, we’d send our kids to American universities.

The trials and tribulations of President Barack Obama have also contributed to Germany’s image gain – or rather, to the U.S.’ loss. In the governance dimension, America lost points for competence and also for its commitment to peace and security worldwide. This does make one wonder how the questions were framed. After all, 2014 saw Obama finally commit to fighting the terrorists of Islamic State. Germany, on the other hand, has done relatively little. So what if one of the questions had been framed something like this: “If push comes to shove, who is actually going to put their money and troops where their mouth is?” Or: “If your country were threatened by a neighbor, who would you like to have on your side?” Putting it that way just might have changed the ranking.

But wouldn’t it also be fair to say that many people judge countries by categories that questionnaires rarely ask about? For example, what weight would you give to a country’s religiosity or its moral standards? To people in Europe, this is not an important consideration. If anything, religiosity is negative, especially if it enforces a strict moral code. But people elsewhere might see this rather differently.

And what about “German women, German faithfulness, German wine and German song”? I cite these things, because the second verse of our national anthem sings their praises, adding: “May they always keep their good name in the world.”

Well, they haven’t, it seems. It’s more German cars, efficiency, good intentions and sports. A pity, perhaps?

PHOTO: Visitors enjoy a beer during the opening day of the 181st Oktoberfest in Munich September 20, 2014. REUTERS/Lukas Barth 





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When Obama made a speech at the Brandenburg Gate you may remember that he was surrounded by a thick bullet-proof layer of glass.

That layer of glass is a metaphor for the closed-off world of secrecy that he lives in, and for the barrier to the truth that he constantly represents. Germany has already had a Stasi. Germany has already printed money. Germany knows that neither work.

History is not going to be kind to the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to call in cluster munitions to wipe out a village and kill an American citizen in Yemen. What a slippery slope we are going down. An attempt was made to cover up that incident in Yemen. The reporter who broke the story was tossed into jail after a phone call by Obama. Look at Yemen today. Look at Libya. Both are human disasters.

Obama promised to make government more open. The opposite happened. Recently he talked about an American who was beheaded, and then he made for the golf course where he could be seen happily playing golf. He was having a great time. I think in France or Germany one would never see this kind of sickening disjunction between what a leader says he or she believes in and what he or she does. Some genuine emotion sticks in the leaders. (Watch the dignified funeral of a French soldier in Paris, for example.) In contrast, the US as a pyramid of self-interest, with spying on everyone all the time, with Obomber at the top, with leaving people in jail to rot who have never been charged, is not honorable, nor is it worthy of emulation by anyone. Nor is pursuing an inept foreign policy in the tradition of American leadership in the world. Good, let Germany lead, they can.

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive

How can we take such results seriously if the company responsible for the market research was GfK, a German-based firm ? Surely Germany and the US are both great places, but the continuous prodding of America by the German media is indicative of the more sobering reality that the two nations need a coordinated foreign policy on recent issues affecting world security. The more the German media undercuts and bullwhips the US, the less it becomes possible for the German and American public to unify on issues that affect world security. The main problem is that both countries need to let down their nationalistic pride and start working together on tough issues. It has to go beyond handshakes and smiles between Merkel and Obama, which belie a growing disunity. One of the biggest threats to European and Middle Eastern security is the lack of firm policy consensus between Germany and the US. Behind all the tongue and cheek, serious issues remain unresolved.

Posted by bruce_schleswig | Report as abusive

Not sure what to think about that. Honestly, since I was a small boy schools taught a kind of WW2-guilt that up to this day remains in the back of my generation’s head. Feeling guilty for something another generation dealt with is a very difficult thing which many people from other countries might agree with. Of course one should never forget past generations, especially when they were involved in a World War. Still, having even the slightest notion of being “proud to be german” has a bitter aftertaste to it. I’d like to cheer at the kind of result such a survey has had but then again… Let’s just say that I like living in Germany with all it’s perks and issues. It’s a nice place to live in and thanks to surveys like this I get reminded of the things that make it a good place to be in. Honestly it’s a typical german thing to doubt the results of any survey that puts Germany at the top. But in the end people usually prefer to live in Germany than anywhere else. Especially when they are German. :-)

Posted by dihart73 | Report as abusive

German military prowess and army discipline were well-respected since centuries ago to about 1944. Now, not so much. It feels like Germans have become too “soft” for their own good. Time to reject apologetic mentality and turn the page of history, in my opinion.

Posted by amd65 | Report as abusive

Alan Posener, enjoyable read.

Posted by AveAmerGuy | Report as abusive

It’s been 75 years since the end of WWII, yet the United States still has well over 100,000 combat soliders in and around Germany. Why? Why can’t Germany field it’s own army and navy to protect itself. Why doesn’t German spend 20% of its GDP on defense like the United States. And, should it feel that there is no need to protect itself from any preceived enemy, then why not ask the United States to leave?

Germany makes small toys and fast cars and other mechanical things that children and child-like adults like to play with. But, won’t lift a finger to defend itself. That piece of dirty work is left to the stupid Americans.

Posted by blasto | Report as abusive

Germany? The country whose former Chancellor “is currently the chairman of the board of Nord Stream AG”, “a project initially promoted by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Vladimir Putin.”, and with Russian Gazprom being the main shareholder at 51%?
No wonder why Vladimir Putin doesn’t feel much pressure from the EU in Ukraine. Thank you, Mrs. Ribbentrop…
(Quotes: Wikipedia)

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

Ahem, the quoted second stanza of Hoffmann von Fallersleben’s Lied der Deutschen is *not* part of the German national anthem. The current German national anthem was the West German anthem before the unification in 1990 and, since 1949, consists only of the third stanza of the poem.

Posted by | Report as abusive

Gratuliere Deutschland! Let’s give credit where credit is due-Germany is a stable island in a turbulent world sea and for 70 years has been persistently trying to better itself and its people. It was bombed to the stone age 70 years ago and, largely due to the American Marshall plan built itself back to the juggernaut of Europe. I am a German-American and am VERY proud of my heritage. So proud, that I speak fluent German, watch German films, listen to the old masters, and root for all the German teams when American is not involved. As an objective student of German history, I can tell you the country is at an interesting cross-road. As the powerhouse of Europe, a true economic and diplomatic leader, it has risen as a force for stability as well as a voice for future direction. It commands respect and has even earned this “favorite” nation status as per the indicators listed in the article. The dilemma and question for the future is when does Germany shake off its mantle of a nation of kind, considerate, sensitive people and assume its rightful place as a super power? Is it content to manufacture excellent high power vehicles and machines for the rest of the world? To make excellent foreign films that inspire deep thinking? To shake it’s finger at less fiscally responsible and hard working Euro zone co-nations? Or is Germany going to stop playing it safe and actually DO SOMETHING? Is it going to defend its own borders? Be first to send troops in harms way? Take an unflappable stand against Russia without measuring the potential back-lash of every sanction. Oh Deutschland-solche SENSITIVE Leute! After 70 years of hand-wringing and Kriegsschuld, you have become the Libertarians of Europe-a nation of principle. You’re trying so hard to be efficient, you’ve lost, at least in the world’s sense, the will and the way to be effective. I hope, moving forward, Germans realize that to be truly great, you must be truly engaged. Much of the America bashing the Germans so recently seem to enjoy is that they say we are over-committed and over exposed. Well, now it’s time for you to take your true place center stage in the world. You’ve hid for too long im Hintergrund!

Posted by jhuffnaglemd | Report as abusive

Germany has showed up as the cultural and political adult in a world full of relative children.

Posener states: “The world sees us rather as we see ourselves: competent, hardworking, successful, responsible, and good on the football field. But otherwise rather dull.”

There is nothing at all dull about quiet competence, it eventually puts flaming charisma to shame.

We here in the U.S. would do well to value slow but persistent improvement, far-thinking pragmatism and overall social stability far better than we currently do. In those regards Germany has shown people everywhere what might be constructively aspired to.

Posted by simplicity1 | Report as abusive

Wow, Congratulations, Alan! You just successfully insulted German Women as a whole in one single stroke!

Posted by AngieHope | Report as abusive

In what ways have German women lost their good name in the world? In being emancipated and not as religiusly faithful as, for instance, Saudi-Arabian women? Please, feel free to be a little more precise instead of just desperately seeking for a elegant ending of your pretty nonsence comment?

And referring to some previous comments: Which of its borders is Germany supposed to defend? Must Germany be alarmed by possible blitzkrieg-attacks of Franch baguettes, Polish piroshkis or maybe even Austrian Kaiserschmarrn?

When it comes to defending external borders of the EU, Germany is more committed than morality could allow. I don’t want Africans, that seek shelter in the EU or simply want to live in a more human way, to die at European borders with barbed wire and armed guards. But this is something that US-Americans probably cannot understand. If I were from Mexico for instance, the US would certainly not be my favourite country in the world. I hope, Germany is taking a different direction.

BTW: Germany has more market leaders in highly specialized medical equipments than any other country. It has one of the lowest education fees, if not THE lowest (since it’s basically non-existent), and yet one of the best educational systems in the world. That makes it worth to be put in first place… way ahead of the USA.

And one more thing: Germany is Football World Champion! YEAH!

Posted by BarbedWire | Report as abusive