Why do Germans lag behind in the Sharing Economy?
36% of the French and 19% of Americans are already participating in the “collaborative economy”, also known as the sharing economy. But only 9% of Germans have tried using it, and 50% definitely do not use it. This is a significant gap in our globalized society.
I wouldn’t claim that I’m at the forefront of new technologies, but as a marketing consultant, I’m well informed about any new market tools and trends. Sometimes I test them out, but I often adopt them without even being aware of it. Such is the case for the collaborative economy, or Sharing Economy.
I joined eBay in April 1999, and I used it as both a buyer and a seller until 2013.
Since 2011, I have been a member of HomeExchange, a site never discussed in the media, but that is 100% sharing economy, one of the few without any financial transactions. For an annual membership fee of €130, I have been able to take my family to Normandy, Brittany, California, Florida and New England. In return, we have welcomed these French and American families into our home, while we spent our vacation in their homes.
I have been a member of Housetrip since 2012. AirBnB since 2013. Elance (now Upwork) since 2014.
I am obviously more French than German in my willingness to use sharing economy resources.
The sharing economy in France
For once, France greatly surpasses Germany and the United States. 82% of the French have a good, or very good opinion about the sharing economy. And 36% already use Uber, AirBnB and co. In a December 17 article, Syntec, the Syndicat du numérique français (an engineering, digital economy and consultant’s union) made this statement:
“The collaborative economy has left its “niche” and is now a part of everyday life…more than 8 out of 10 French embrace the sharing economy. This near unanimity is also true in all categories of the population, including the youth (85% of 18-24 year olds) and the young at heart (82% of those 65 years and older).”
Why? Unlike Germany, France isn’t yet out of the crisis. Unemployment persists at a rate of more than 10%. The atmosphere is gloomy, and France’s median income has fallen. There are so many reasons compelling them to the sharing economy. 83% believe that the collaborative approach helps them save money.
The sharing economy in the United States
A detailed PWC study provides great insight about the sharing economy in the United States.
44% of American adults are familiar with the term, but only 19% use it.
The 18-24 population segment is most excited by it, followed by families with children under 18, and households with an income between $50,000 and $75,000.
Their primary motivation is similar to the French: 86% feel that it makes life less expensive.
Why do Germans lag behind in the Sharing Economy?
15% of Germans know the term without necessarily knowing what it means. This figure rises to a third once it has been explained to them: the sharing economy allows people to earn or save money by using underutilized resources, products and services.
While Germans consider this kind of economy viable, 50% don’t plan to use it. And only 9% (compared to 36% of the French) have tried a collaborative transaction. This figure increases to 17% for those aged 14-29 years.
These figures don’t surprise me.
I know Germans well, as I lived there for more than 20 years. My children were born there, and I spent most of my working life in Germany. Since 2010, I have held dual French/German citizenship.
Germans borrow little, or not at all. I’m not talking about credit. In all my years in Germany I can count on my fingers how many times a neighbor came over to ask to borrow an egg or some spice. First of all, they are too organized to begin a recipe without having checked that they have everything they need. Secondly, they would rather go to the supermarket to get what they’re missing than bother a neighbor.
Germans value their space. Their homes are often shielded by gates, fences and hedges to protect against any visual or auditory intrusion. They take refuge in their gardens, which are always located behind their houses and sheltered from view. Their home is a retreat from the outside world. Consequently, being invited to visit a German family is a huge honor!
Lastly, we must understand that Germans are very private and strongly protect their privacy, much more than the French, and even more than the Americans. In businesses, office doors stay closed. It is poorly viewed to enter without knocking or without being invited. And it is common to see a colleague in a doorway talking to someone sitting behind his desk.
In conclusion, don’t forget that Germans cherish their vehicles above all. I almost think that they treat their cars better than their wives. They gleam (the cars, not the women) on Saturdays after being professionally cleaned. There’s no comparison to French cars, as German cars don’t have a dent, a scratch, or any trace of rust.
Many reasons explain why Germans struggle to embrace the sharing economy. Homeexchange.com has only 1,253 homes to swap in Germany compared to 9,627 in France, and Uber hasn’t really been able to get off the ground in Germany.
To end on a little French note, Ohlala, an application often described as the Uber of sex, connects customers ready to pay for companionship with women who will spend time with them…or maybe more if things go well. Contrary to what its name might suggest, Ohlala originated in Germany. Oh là là, will our German neighbors be persuaded? At any rate, Ohlala is has its sights set big. A few days ago, the American media announced its launch in New York.