A German’s Thoughts on American Values – by Beate Ziehres

As a German, I never thought deeply about the things that American people value. I heard about their preference for comfortable footwear and that they love burgers. When I moved to Chattanooga, I realized it’s true.  Lots of folks wear tennis-shoes, no matter if it is with jeans, slacks or skirts.  And as an almost vegetarian, I learned to value juicy grilled beef.  I’m sure I will miss that back in Germany.  After two years living in the US, I notice more differences between the attitudes of American and German people than I had imagined

On our family’s vacation, I read a book about a new way to market products and gain new customers. The American author is about my age or younger – at least he looks like it in photos. He’s already established a few companies, each offering different products.  A couple of years ago, he was named a white paper guru and now he is a social media guru.

His latest book is about how to successful grow a social media consulting company through blogging. He’s teaching his audience how to get the reputation of a specialist, a guru, in a pretty short time. That sounded new and a little weird to me as an average European.  In Germany you have to earn a university degree, get your doctorate and have at least 50 years of experience in your field to become what we call an expert.  Also, in Germany the word ‘guru’ often refers to cult leaders and nobody would appreciate being called a guru.

Anyway – that’s not what I wanted to talk about.  I want to write about the core of the book:  The author’s piece of advice to his readers was to HELP other business owners to solve their problems by themselves, which means to provide consulting services for free.  As a German woman, I was about to trash the book at that point. This crazy guy told me to drive my business by working for nothing.

Later , I started to understand, that his idea might not be too bad.  I went on reading the book and did some research in the internet. There I realized that many people are talking about taking care of their customers or providing valuable content for free.  But I only see Americans are giving that advice.

While moving forward from chapter to chapter, our family reached the Hoover Dam. Through all the “Ohs” and “Wows” about the tremendousness of the impressive construction, I heard one important, historical message there: During the Great Depression, politicians and engineers developed a huge idea to make life better in the deserts of the southwest and to create jobs for huge waves of unemployed workers. In a joint effort, this plan was successful. The completion of the Hoover Dam project gave the nation a feeling of pride and self confidence. Here’s the simple message: Together we can get everything done, no matter how hard the job is.

This very American national awareness still works.  I can read it in the calls to take care for each other, even in the economy.  I won’t talk about how the German leadership gave people work during the Great Depression. I like to think that everybody knows.  But the attitude and pride to be one nation, to be able to make the world better together, is missing in Germany even today.

Beate Ziehres

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