Younger generation in Germany would rather ‘live in the past’

Young people generally have a reputation for rebelling against society, but rather than dreaming of a better future, a majority of 18-35s in Germany would rather live in the past, an April poll found.

Young people in Germany demonstrate for climate and social justice.
Young people demonstrate for climate and social justice. Better environmental conditions was one of the reasons given for why many said they would rather live in the past. John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Fifty-six percent of the 18-34-year-olds asked said they would prefer to live in the past, according to an online survey of 2,000 people conducted by the Hamburg-based Foundation for Future Studies (financed by the British American Tobacco company), news agency DPA reported.

Only forty-four percent said they would prefer the future.

But a decade ago, a similar survey had very different results: In 2013, only 30 percent said they would prefer to live in the past, with 70 percent choosing the future as the better option for them.

“This is completely new and very unusual,” Ulrich Reinhardt, the foundation’s scientific director, told DPA, explaining that as young people, they still had their lives before them so were typically very future-oriented.

Respondents would usually associate the term ‘past’ with their childhood and youth.

In the 35-54 age group, the number of those nostalgic for the olden days rose to 66 percent from 54 percent previously.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of over-55s who longed for the past had not changed very much over ten years: 68 percent now versus 70 percent in 2013.

“More security”
When asked why they would prefer to live in the past, 42 percent of respondents across all age groups said there was greater solidarity in the past. Thirty-five percent said “because it used to be better”. 

There was “more security and stability,” explained 34 percent of respondents.

Other reasons given included “People were happier” (29 percent), “fewer wars and crises” (23 percent), “environmental conditions were better” (22 percent) and “fear of the future” (20 percent).

Young people in particular missed solidarity and community, Reinhardt said, pointing to the fact that in today’s predominantly digital world, people met less frequently to take part in activities outside of their homes.

Reinhardt said it was obvious to many that having friends on Facebook or Instagram was not enough. “It doesn’t replace the friends you can rely on when issues arise, when there’s a lot of uncertainty and when you just want to have fun,” he said.

However, the war in Ukraine did not play a major part in the survey results. 

Reinhardt has repeatedly found in surveys that the younger generation strives for security, including in the world of work. 

This represents a change from previous decades when the desire to change the world for the better was the prevailing attitude. Under-35s now are looking to the past.

“It’s also a generation that was completely pampered by their parents,” he added.

Member comments

  1. The last generation that came anywhere near to rejecting the status quo were the punks. Since then it would appear that the young strive more and more for stability and security, not realising they have more stability and security now, especially in Germany, than anyone has had anywhere at anytime for the past 5000 years. Bloody snowflakes!

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Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at what the government is doing to ease the air travel staffing crisis, very German greeting cards, lightning storms and the Schornsteinfeger - chimney sweep - lucky tradition.

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

Germany looks for help abroad to ease aviation staffing crisis

Last week the German government made the exceptional move of stepping in to help private firms in the aviation sector restore their staffing levels. Ministers announced they will cut red tape to allow private companies to employ workers from abroad on a temporary basis, due to the chaos that we’re seeing in German airports and airlines. From long queues at security or when claiming baggage, to flights being cancelled, it can be a real nightmare to travel in Europe at the moment. One reader even contacted us to say he had to wait two and half hours on a plane in Düsseldorf because there apparently wasn’t enough baggage staff to load cases onto the flight. That’s why the German government says it will allow companies to employ staff from abroad at short notice. However, at the same time, ministers came down hard on the private sector for not preparing for the rising demand for travel. German’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil Heil criticised many companies in the aviation industry for laying off staff in the pandemic – or not topping up reduced hours (Kurzarbeit) pay despite government support. 

Even if the sector manages to fill many positions, it will still take time to clear hurdles so it looks like we’re in for at least a few more weeks of stress if travelling by plane. And with more states about to go on their school holidays, it’s just going to get busier. Keep us posted on how it’s going in German airports if you’re on the move this summer – we’re always eager to hear your experiences. 

Tweet of the week

The dedication to cars and driving in Germany is quite something, as the tweet below shows. 

Where is this? 

Lightning over Frankfurt
Photo: DPA/Jan Eifert

There’s been a lot of mixed weather in Germany this week, with extreme heat, thunderstorms and hailstones depending on which part of the country you live in. This picture shows a spectacular storm on Thursday in the Frankfurt area. It was taken from the Großer Feldberg in the Taunus mountains.

Did you know?

I (Rachel) received my first visit in Germany from a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) on Friday. Although I don’t have an open fire in my flat, chimney sweeps in Germany are still needed once a year to check your heating system, check for gas leaks and carry out any other maintenance in that area. Did you know Germans also believe seeing a Schornsteinfeger brings good luck? Some say it comes from the olden days when sweeps cleared your chimney meaning you’d be able to cook again and reduced the risk of fires. It’s also meant to be especially lucky to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day or New Year’s Day. This is thought to be partly because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year. Along with miniature pigs (which Germans also find lucky), horseshoes, ladybirds and four-leaf clovers, little chimney sweeps made out of marzipan or plastic are also given as a New Year’s gift to loved ones.

READ ALSO: Eight things German believe bring good luck 

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt.

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Some chimney sweeps (although not all!) wear a traditional uniform complete with top hat and silver buttons. Giving one of the buttons a twirl is said to bring good luck, but you’d have to politely ask them before doing it!  

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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