Looking in from the outside

How does the world view Germany?

The joint study by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), GIZ and the Goethe-Institut looks at what people in other countries want and expect from Germany.

What do people the world over associate with the Federal Republic of Germany? How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted our relations with other countries? These are just some of the questions explored in the study released today by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Goethe-Institut under the title ‘Looking in from the outside – International perspectives on Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic’. In particular with regard to its economy, healthcare system or international relations, Germany is viewed very positively. But environmental scandals, the slow pace of digitalisation, populism and right-wing terrorist attacks garner criticism.

An online survey conducted for the study ‘Looking in from the outside – International perspectives on Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic’ initially targeted some 600 people from roughly 40 countries who had a sound knowledge of Germany. This was followed by around 50 more in-depth interviews. A key finding: the German Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 was seen as exemplary by other countries. With regard to the second wave of COVID-19 infections, however, many of the respondents were bewildered by the initially sluggish pace of the vaccination roll-out and the population’s lack of willingness to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

Germany continues to be regarded as a leading economic power and a stable democracy. However, digital infrastructures and environmental protection spoiled the overall picture, with study participants noting a discrepancy between aspirations and reality. They also see room for improvement regarding Germany’s handling of its colonial history. The rise in populist and extremist tendencies is regarded as one of the biggest risks. The study respondents describe Germany as being less friendly in recent years and say they have increasingly felt unwelcome.

Where Germany positions itself in relation to tensions between China, Russia and the US will be important in the future in terms of foreign policy. In contrast, Germany’s commitment to a strong Europe is regarded as self-evident.  In principle, it is felt that Germany could step up cooperation at an international level in the field of research, academia, art and cinema.  At the same time, the respondents acknowledge Germany's international cultural relations and academic ties along with its cooperative approach. This makes cooperation with partner institutions in Germany particularly appealing for researchers and creative artists.

  • Chair of GIZ’s Management Board Tanja Gönner stresses the benefits for her own work: ‘The study contains many pointers on how to shape cooperation in concrete terms – with regard to expectations and topics.  Naturally, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, global health plays an important role, but so do green recovery, social cohesion and digitalisation.’ Digitalisation in particular is an area where there are inconsistent perceptions and big expectations of Germany. ‘On the one hand, people think that we are lagging behind. On the other, Germany is seen as having a special role to play in developing rules and frameworks. Digital change is playing a growing role in our work, and we are working extremely hard to contribute and extend our power to shape change.’
  • Johannes Ebert, Secretary-General of the Goethe-Institut, says, ‘Germany continues to be seen as having a rich cultural landscape of international repute.  The fact that considerable money was also spent on supporting theatres and museums during the pandemic is seen as a clear social commitment to the value of art and culture. This is an important basis for moving forward with international cultural exchange in a cooperative, future-oriented manner, which is what the respondents would like to see.’ The interviews also confirm another point: Without any knowledge of Germany, it is difficult to get on in the country long term. Ebert went on to say that, ‘We know from previous studies that German-language proficiency is key to succeeding in Germany. The fact that many respondents in this study want access to the German language to be made easier further encourages us to keep developing and stepping up our German-language tuition services in Germany and abroad, be it for experts or for students.’
  • Kai Sicks, DAAD Secretary-General explains that, ‘Germany is highly respected as a place of learning and research among the respondents worldwide. At the same time, international talent would like to be able to access the German education system more easily. They see the combination of high-quality teaching and excellent research along with moderate costs for students as a major competitive advantage – one that Germany should leverage more strongly. The fact that German universities cooperative intensively with partner institutions the world over and that many international researchers can be found in the country also received a positive mention. The respondents also greatly appreciate the many different opportunities for engaging in exchanges and the availability of student grants.’

Looking in from the outside  

The study ‘Looking in from the outside – International perspectives on Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic’ is a joint study by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Goethe-Institut. It has a two-tier design combining a structured online survey conducted in January 2021 with semi-narrative in-depth interviews carried out in March and April. The respondents were experts from the three organisations’ partner networks who know our country well and who can formulate their expectations, aspirations and fears for Germany based on their own observations. More than 600 people from 37 countries answered the questions in the quantitative online survey. In the in-depth interviews, some 48 participants in 24 countries were asked to share their view of Germany.

About GIZ

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a federal enterprise with worldwide operations. It supports the German Government in the fields of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Through our work, we assist people and societies in shaping their own futures and improving living conditions.

About DAAD

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supports the internationalisation of German universities, promotes German studies and the German language abroad. By granting scholarships, it facilitates access to the best study and research opportunities around the globe for students, researchers and teaching staff.  Moreover, it promotes transnational cooperation and partnerships between universities and is the National Agency for EU Higher Education Cooperation.

About the Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institute, active worldwide. With 158 institutes in 98 countries, it promotes the study of German abroad, encourages international cultural exchange, and presents contemporary German culture. Thanks to its cooperation with partner organisations in many other places, the Goethe-Institut has a total of around 1,000 points of contact worldwide.

You will find the digital press pack here (in German): Digital press pack

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