Thursday, January 24, 2008

Convenience? Whassat?

Observed 9:05 AM: German man, checking out at the local grocery store, items: 1 pack of individual coffee creamer packets, 1 local newspaper. Said man paid for said items, walked past the in-house fresh bakery and out the door, and got into his car.

Observed 9:07 AM: same man two blocks down the street, parking at and entering another local bakery to purchase his bread for the day.

This sort of situation is seen all over Germany every day. People will visit several shops on their morning round of purchases. They have a series of stores where they have traditionally bought things and they continue to do so over time. In the end, it is not price, quality, or convenience that determines where they make their purchases, but tradition. That is the way they have always done things, so that is the right way.

This is one of those cultural things that astounds Americans living in Germany. For the American things usually boil down to convenience with price running a close second in the decision making processes. This is one reason why Wal-Mart never managed to be successful in Germany. It is built on the idea of people being able to make all their purchases in one place for a good price. Germans ultimately don’t care about either of these factors in deciding where to shop.

This is the number one hurdle that Americans have to overcome in their cultural adjustment to life in Germany, greater than language, cuisine, and rules of social conduct. America is first and foremost a shopping culture, and convenience reigns supreme in American shopping. Germany is not shopper friendly, and no one cares about convenience.

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