Germany : A Country of Efficiency and Rationality
By Takashi Tanaka
Former Representative in Germany
(Sumi Agro Europe)
(Resident Duration: 2007.Jan.－2012.Mar.)
What things do you associate with Germany? Beer, sausage, the Fußball-Bundesliga soccer league, and globally renowned automakers? Apart from these, I was unable to come up with any specific images of the country when I first took up my post in Germany in 2010. But after I had actually lived and worked here for a while, nothing impressed me more than the country’s “efficiency and rationality”. In Germany, everything is designed and operated in an efficient and rational manner.
In large German cities, you would be amazed to see how well the airport, buildings, and other facilities are designed and located to offer outstanding functionality and convenience. If you then visit some regional centers, you’ll be again surprised to see each town’s unique character and vibrancy. The Romantic Road, for instance, one of the most popular tourist attractions, mesmerizes visitors with walled medieval towns and castles, while the Fairy Tale Route, which takes in locations related to the Brothers Grimm and their stories, places tourists center stage in a world of heart-warming fairy tales. These strong regional identities are probably due to the fact that Germany is a federal republic that has allowed its regional areas to develop their respective unique cultures without interference. Even as far back as the Middle Ages, Germany was historically made up of lots of small federal states and autonomous cities. Rather than a single centrally functioning large city, like Tokyo, London, and Paris, Germany still has several important regional cities, indicating that the decentralization of power has taken place in an efficient manner.
As a result, the country’s major cities are all modest in size: Berlin has a population of 3.4 million; Hamburg, 1.8 million; Munich, 1.3 million; and Cologne, 1.0 million. Dusseldorf, the city where my office and the European offices of many other Japanese companies are located, is the eighth-largest German city, with only 580,000 people.
As you know, Germany is one of the world’s largest industrial countries, as well as a large exporter. In terms of per capita exports, it is by a large margin the world’s biggest exporter, but is surpassed by China in terms of the value of exports. The country is home to world-class corporations in the fields of automobiles, machinery, electronics, chemicals, environmental technologies, precision machinery, optics, medical technologies, bio-genetic technologies, nanotechnologies, aerospace, logistics, and many others. As a global environmental leader, Germany also leads the world in green businesses by adopting a very rational approach in which the government and private sector work together to simultaneously achieve environmental protection, economic development, job creation, and energy security. Such a rational approach is undoubtedly an integral factor behind the country’s strengths.
When it comes to everyday life, you may find it inconvenient that stores here close on Sundays and national holidays. This is because the Shop Closing Law requires all retailers—except airport and railway station kiosks and shops attached to gas stations—to close weekday nights, Sundays and holidays. Shopping hours in Germany have been changing in some regions as certain state governments have eased or abandoned this more than 100-year-old legislation. Still, it’s completely different from Japan, where convenience stores everywhere stay open around the clock. And once you get used to it, this lifestyle begins to seem very efficient and rational. Instead of going shopping, you can spend your Sundays and holidays strolling in the park or hiking and biking in the forest. It’s not hard to see why German people are thought to be good at enjoying life and why both the people and the country itself are so vigorous and energetic.
Sumi Agro Europe which is headquartered in London. As part of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, the company sells agricultural materials, such as pesticides, seeds and fertilizers, to the European market via its sales network of eight subsidiaries in France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria Ukraine, and Rusia, and a joint venture in Spain. The company’s German branch office was established in April 2009 to manage the group companies. The new branch office also works with the London headquarters to oversee investment development, product development and trading activities. After France, Germany is the second-largest pesticides market in Europe and leads the agricultural and pesticides industry. We at the German office are striving to build a stronger business platform in Germany and broader Western Europe despite the challenging business environment, which poses more stringent regulations and standards and involves competition from large agricultural multinationals, some of which are based in Germany.