Second time around: a new study from GIZ again explores what the rest of the world thinks of Germany

15.09.2015 – Germany is filling larger shoes than it did three years ago. A new study from GIZ suggests that the country is coming under increasing scrutiny from the rest of the world.

What expectations do people abroad have of Germany? And what would they like Germany to do? What irks them, what do they value, and what are they less enthusiastic about? The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH interviewed 179 individuals in 26 countries who had a connection with Germany and asked them how they perceived the country. The interviewees ranged from students to prime ministers, and the interview format offered scope for nuanced individual judgements, generating a kaleidoscope of impressions. The responses tell us how the rest of the world sees our country, so that in our dealings with others, we can see whether our own view is valid or needs adapting or updating.

The aim of the study was to uncover evidence of how the world currently sees Germany – and to feed into the current debate about Germany’s role in the world. The picture that emerges is a diverse and vibrant one, even though some of the findings are disconcerting. But the responses cannot simply be categorised as true or false; we now have to identify patterns and draw conclusions from what the interviewees told us. Many want Germany to play a stronger part in international leadership. Its image of economic strength and political weight is offset by its excessive reticence, they told us, prompting greater demands on Germany to adopt a more ambitious vision in areas such as Europe, foreign policy and the economy.

Christoph Beier, Vice-Chair of the GIZ Management Board, said ‘The study shows that, as Germany has stepped up its involvement around the world, even greater demands are being made of it.’

One striking contrast with the preceding study, conducted three years ago, is that this time the interviewees turn their attention to Germany more often, and look more closely at what the country says and does. Where do people around the world see Germany’s strengths – and its weaknesses? Where do they see its opportunities – and the threats facing it? And what role do they think Germany should be playing in a changing world? The study was conducted against a backdrop of a series of events between 2012 and 2015 with either a direct or an indirect bearing on Germany, including the financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone, the European refugee issue, the conflict in Ukraine, the rise of ‘Islamic State’, the Middle East crisis, the civil war in Syria, and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

The new issue of the GIZ magazine ‘akzente’ reports on the picture of Germany that emerges from our interviewees’ responses.