Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

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horsewoman
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by horsewoman » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:28 pm

wolf wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 12:20 am
I think there is a cultural difference between european/conservative countries (e.g. Germany) and more open societies like USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand... This is I guess about living a lifestyle (in this case frugally and FIRE'd) against the current norm. In Germany it is about work, work, work, earn, earn, spend... And my feeling is that nobody accepts to live against the rules and expectations of the (german) society. Therefore I envy more open and individualistic societies, like the countries I mentioned above.
There are different kinds of "conservative" I suppose. Personally I don't think that for example the USA are more open as a society than Germany. I'm really glad that here in G there is not much of an emphasis on religion, with all that it entails (gay marriage, abortion, modes of conduct, ect.) In this regard G is way more open, unless you are dependent on Caritas for a job (a large catholic organisation that runs a lot of facilities for elder and special needs care) no one cares what you believe in or whom you are shacking up with - even in my home county, the excessively catholic Bavaria! Most Germans are however very conservative when it comes to education, careers and investing! Sky has described very well I think!
sky wrote:
Sun May 27, 2018 4:28 pm
Identity is closely tied to profession in Germany. One's status and place in the hierarchy of German culture was based on one's union or professional organization. Pension and health insurance programs were originally managed by one's union or professional organization, as were one's housing and social opportunities (in many cases).

In this culture of identity by profession, a person that dares to step out of the working world is not only turning his back on the 9 to 5 workday, but also turning his back on membership in the common social groups that make up traditional German culture. The culture has changed and is rapidly changing, but peoples minds are still in the same mindset of looking at a person and defining that person by their profession.
There was a discussion in another thread about what to say when introducing yourself (do you add your job title or not). This is the norm in G, what you do is usually dealt with in the first 3 minutes of talking to somebody. I'm constantly struggling with this because not only have I two job titles, but I have made a few hobbies into jobs as well. This is highly unusual in G, and it is very confusing to people that I work a few jobs in a parallel and rather fluctuating fashion (while being a qualified, educated person, usually only unskilled persons do this in G. "Normal people" are specialists!)

So yes, I absolutely second what sky wrote, profession - and having the accompanying degrees/certificates - is very important in Germany.
phil wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 5:28 am
As for the article, well, it mostly seems to confirm the stereotype that one can only retire early if one takes extreme measures and gives up on 'living'. Hence the example of the man asking his guests not to flush the toilet for too long :roll: No mention of not buying new cars, buying second-hand furniture, or other measures that actually make a big difference.
I've skimmed most of those articles (google knows after all what I'm up to) you are perfectly right @phil! There was mostly talk of extremes, just to reinforce the stereotype that only crazy people would attempt it. Not very helpful for the cause!

Another point, and I think this has not been mentioned so far in this thread - here in Germany rich people are often looked at either with envy or suspicion. ("Rich" meaning here, does not need to work for a living). Either a rich person is a lazy bum who has inherited all his riches or he is a cut-throat businessman who got rich by exploiting his employees. The only acceptable/guilt-free mode of living seems to be a moderately affluent middle class wage slave (detached house, BMW, 2 seaside holidays a year, riding and piano lessons for the kids, stay-at-home-wife, attained at 60+ hours at a large company). If you are not able to live this way you are either stupid or lazy - Germans are super achievement-oriented, so the thought of deliberately living notably below your means is a little bit alien, I suppose.

It seems the only way people will not begrudge you your affluence is if they see you toiling for it, so that you can not really enjoy it. There is no narrative of the "fast-living self-made millionaire" in Germany, like the culture in silicon valley for example. I know several people who are most likely millionaires but no one would ever admit it or flaunt it, other than a slightly nicer car and a slightly nicer house than most people.

So if you step out of the norm in any direction you will be regarded with suspicion and/or envy. I constantly need to emphasize the "sacrifice" and the "limitations" we "suffer" due to our semi-ERE lifestyle (2 educated adults working less than 1 FT-job), to escape most negative comments. But I have been told countless times that we are strange/extreme/crazy regardless.

So to get back to @wolfs observation that there seems a lot of negativity, I don't think it is necessarily more pronounced in Germany than in other countries. There is probably some confirmation bias at work here - if one spends a lot of time in this forum one might get the feeling that FIRE/ERE is more common/accepted than it actually is in the US or other English speaking countries :)

zocab
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by zocab » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:54 pm

I'm honestly not seeing any difference in reactions vs. what you see in Anglophone countries.

I wouldn't say Switzerland is all that similar to Germany though. In some ways there are parallels, and work has traditionally been strong for identity within the german-language portions (culture is quite different in the French/Italian parts though) - but first off there's also a strong culture of retiring before official retirement age too (albeit at "only" 60). Secondly, society is becoming way more individualistic (that has some negative side-effects, like people being less considerate on-average than perhaps in the past - but some good too). I general people don't get started on work as a conversation topic anywhere near as quickly as Americans do, but I can't compare with Germany since I don't talk to all that many Germans.

But more significantly: there are enough rich people living off their wealth in Switzerland that a FIRE'ee is nothing special: yes you may be living a slightly less flashy life than the former hedge-fund manager/investment banker/etc., but still fundamentally it's the same lifestyle. And there are also tons of people who are either working reduced hours: 60-80%, or working in independent single-person businesses where you have infinite-time-flexibility, that you wouldn't be that odd. If you don't feel comfortable explaining retirement you could make up a story that you're a part-time author or something like that, but if you say you're living off savings I doubt anyone would be surprised.

The bigger issue with ERE and FIRE in Switzerland are the prices. The salaries more than compensate for the prices, but when you realise you'd be spending twice as much for the same food/housing than in another European country, you might very quickly be tempted to move on retirement to save yourself working twice as long. [OTOH taxes are low, but taxes as an ERE person are already low in most countries.]

// Edit: and to illustrate sentiment: the Swiss national TV's website had a page/segment about the local Swiss FIRE blogger (they're currently 22 and nowhere near FIRE yet, but vocal about their plan to retire by 30). Total comments had one person wishing him luck, and one complainer explaining how they were bored when retiring at 55. That's a pretty tame response, whcih probably demonstrates how no one really cares either way - nothing special in this country.

GandK
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by GandK » Thu Sep 12, 2019 4:36 am

On a positive note: here in the US, my husband and I moved into an RV in the last few months. We get questions, especially now that school is back in session and our son is still home (we homeschool). On all of the (6 to 10?) occasions* that one or other of us has said "retired early," the response has been excited questioning. "Really?! I've heard of that, but never met someone who did it! What's it like?" This response has been an unexpected joy after years of our neighbors giving us the side-eye for our lifestyle choices.

* Sampling bias likely. We tend to park where there are other frugal folks. Plus I'm unlikely to say more than hi to anyone who looks like a cranky bastard.

Jean
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by Jean » Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:05 pm

In switzerland, people are surprised, but when they realise you don't live of welfare, it's fine. But now i often Say i'm on strike, which leads to interesting conversations.

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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by jacob » Thu Sep 12, 2019 4:39 pm


finity
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by finity » Fri Sep 13, 2019 4:22 am

- ok introduction

- typical "expert" voices: You need high income, probably often bad math ( :lol: ), being cheapskate, losing social contacts, being a burden on society because of having to use social nets later on, what about increasing life-expectancy?, what about inflation?, what about increasing taxes?, what about low-interest environment?, what about stock market crash?

finity
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by finity » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:21 am

https://www.zeit.de/arbeit/2019-09/rent ... bensfreude

Comment summary:
- capitalistic exploiter (This is the main point, because Germans tend to not understand anything about investments. You're seen as a better person being unemployed and living of the social systems than living from investments)
- awkward
- boring
- burden on society
- only for rich people
- no normal person could ever save anything
- FIRE is a luxury few can afford (the irony, :lol:)

Yes, I know why I'm only talking about ERE/FI with very few people.

horsewoman
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by horsewoman » Sat Sep 14, 2019 3:45 am

The BR has a short feature about people in Munich (#2 of most expensive cities in Germany!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ip_icn37rYc

It is pretty reasonable, even on the pro-FIRE side, I think. They portrayed very relatable people, just normal guys with good jobs and a small family. The only slightly negative sentiment is expressed by the "financial expert", who claims FIRE is not a viable option for the mass market. (I agree with her, but not because of financial restraints but because most people I know are too lazy to forgo even the slightest convenience to save money.)

I laughed out loud when the Indian engineer said that one needs a "large portion of luck" for FIRE - aren't we all familiar with THAT conversational gambit? (see topic of "ere shaming" viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10262&start=40) :)

zocab
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Re: Negative sentiment in society against living frugally in Germany (Austria, Swiss)

Post by zocab » Sat Sep 14, 2019 10:55 am

finity wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 4:22 am
- ok introduction

- typical "expert" voices: You need high income, probably often bad math ( :lol: ), being cheapskate, losing social contacts, being a burden on society because of having to use social nets later on, what about increasing life-expectancy?, what about inflation?, what about increasing taxes?, what about low-interest environment?, what about stock market crash?
To be fair, the main guy they interviewed is not living a ERE lifestyle, rather very fat FIRE (and not even retired yet).

Potentially being a burden on society is IMHO a fair criticism. If someone isn't truly in a position to ERE/FIRE (and many people aren't, just read through certain forums where most people treat the stock market as a magic money machine that is guaranteed to let them withdraw more than 4% just by investing in index funds without any further thinking), then that is the likely situation they'd end up Most people aren't Jacob. Someone with an ERE mindset of course won't end up in this situation, but I get the feeling that a significant number of FIREE's could easily do so - and in Switzerland, that situation means significant amounts of money from the state (at least to cover housing/food). That's another catch of early retirement in Switzerland: the job market is much more credentials and experience based, and it's truly hard to get a footing in the market if you take a longer break (compared to e.g. the US).

Yeah the rest of it is probably the typical attitude of a high-flying financial adviser with closed mindset, but overall it's somewhat balanced, even if illustrated with a somewhat spendy example. There's a much better article in the same newspaper where they interview a younger and more frugal person who's planning to FIRE, and he actually has a much more sensible mindset IMO (less materialistic, etc.).

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