Germany — The Developing Country
When you hear about Germany, you would not think of a developing country instantly. Germany still has the image of being one of the most innovative countries in the world. This is only true to a certain extent.
Last week, the Dutch bank ABN Amro announced a pilot phase of a new payment app for Android. Using the app, you shall be able to do contactless payments using the NFC chip of your mobile phone. In The Netherlands, next to ABN Amro, two other major banks already support this feature. During my holiday in Sweden, I didn’t necessarily need any cash. It’s rather the other way round; buying tickets for public transportation with cash can be a challenging issue. Well, yes — Sweden epitomizes a cashless country, but their Norwegian neighbors, for example, behave almost the same. And on my trip to Poland lately I apparently even confused the waiter by putting my credit card into the payment terminal instead of just swiping it for a second.
“Nur Bares ist Wahres!”
In Germany, there is this culture of paying cash. There is this famous saying “Nur Bares ist Wahres”, which means something like “only cash counts” or “cash is king”. And unlike many other sayings, Germans are serious about this one!
In 2015, 1.049 billion Euro was around Europe in cash. Almost one quarter of that was in Germany. Well, maybe Germans in general have more money than people in other countries? But let’s have a look at the total amount of card transactions per inhabitant in comparison to other EU countries.
Doing a contactless NFC-payment at one of the few POS that accept this technique let people look at you very confused. Using the fairly unknown boon. payment app in order to pay with my mobile phone’s NFC chip makes them think you are some kind of alien. And for a moment, the supermarket staff thinks you just have hacked their terminal.
Germans love their cash. And this indicates, how skeptical they are when it comes to new technologies. It means changing known processes and trusting technology, they don’t understand. It’s not safe, they say.
Losing your wallet containing an NFC enabled credit or debit card would enable an unfair finder to pay up to 4 times without entering a PIN, while each transaction is limited to 25 euro. That makes a maximum loss of 100 euro. For comparison: The average amount of cash in a German wallet is 103 euro. So all in all, this can’t be the actual problem.
Of course the fact that Germans prefer cash payments doesn’t automatically make Germany a developing country. But this bad attitide continues in many other technologies as well. Look, for instance, at the StreetView rebellion some years ago. Would you expect such a StreetView coverage from a high tech nation? You have to blame German Angst for that. In first instance, Google allowed Germans (and only Germans) to submit a request to blur their own houses. That was not enough and someday, Google gave up and discontinued the service in Germany.
Did you know that mobile internet is very expensive in Germany? 4GB for 35 euro; but most subscriptions with 4GB would be even more expensive. Why is there such a huge difference between the countries? Look at the following tweet; someone from Finland has downloaded more than 150GB over LTE, because he can. He pays 16,90€ per month.
And what about self-driving cars? According to most Germans, it’s the worst invention that could happen. But it’s not a vision anymore, it’s reality. Building cars changes from the traditional German car engineering to more and more software engineering. Germany may not miss change.
Germany may not miss the overall change. Be open for new things, without losing the critical view on it. That would allow Germany to stay a high-tech county.