Germans and money

Germans and Money



yup household apparently
coin debit card hear/heard/heard
sign (3) in terms of cash is king
title (2) payment edging ever closer
clink on average three-quarters
cash around (3) little wonder
accept wonder make/made/made
ignore creep in carry/carried
pin (2) wave (3) hold/held/held
fox (2) quarter pay/paid/paid
prefer give away give/gave/given
step (3) pocket full depends on
wary stick with conservative (2)
given save (3) convenience
secure amount surveillance
deny post (3) break/broke/broken
spirit note (3) come up (2)
key (2) try/tried put aside (2)
frugal tight (2) say/said/said
after all bargain discount supermarket
discuss form (3) transaction
earn compare conversation
price pragmatic bargain hunting
hunt bad form penny pinching
date (3) encourage rainy-day (2)
penny take a turn meet/met/met
privacy prosperity spend/spent/spent
slang corner (2) around the corner
income miracle (2) come/came/come
wary back away think/thought/thought
debt reckless catch/caught/caught (2)
guilt next time coincidence
pinch mentality forget/forgot/forgotten






Yup: pinke-pinke really is a German slang word for money. It apparently comes from the sound of coins clinking together.

And that’s a sound you’ll hear a lot in Germany; because here, cash is still very much king.

Nearby countries like the Netherlands and Sweden are edging ever closer to becoming cashless societies. But in Germany, three-quarters of all transactions are still made using notes and coins.

On average, Germans carry around more than a hundred euros in cash. And it’s little wonder: lots of restaurants, shops and ticket machines still don’t accept card payments here.

Even though contact-less and mobile payment technology is slowly creeping into the country, most people just seem to ignore it.

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Rachel Stewart, Journalist: “What does this symbol on a credit or debit card mean?”
Man on the Street, one: “No idea.”
Man on the Street, two: “Well, it looks kind of like sound waves.”

Woman on the Street, one: “Just hold your card in front of the machine, and you can pay without entering a pin or signing anything.”
Journalist: “Have you ever tried it?”
Woman on the Street, one: “No.”
Man on the Street, three: “No, not yet. But my card can do it!”

Man on the Street, four: “I still prefer to pay with cash.”
Journalist: “Why?”
Man on the Street, four: “Because then I feel like I’m not giving away my data.”

Man on the Street, one: “Credit cards and debit cards — I don’t like all that.”
Woman on the Street, two: “I wouldn’t pay with my mobile phone. It’s too insecure.”
Man on the Street, five: “It depends on the amount I’m paying where I am.”
Woman on the Street, one: “The Germans are still a bit too wary, and that includes me!”
Man on the Street, two: “I’m very conservative when it comes to money. I’ll be sticking with cash.”

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The fact is most Germans prefer security and data privacy over convenience. And that’s not particularly surprising, given the country’s not-so-distant history of state surveillance.

Despite refusing to step into the twenty-first century in terms of payment innovation, there’s no denying that Germany is a financial success story.

From broken post-war economy, via the Witschaftswunder or economic miracle all the way to securing the title of largest economy in Europe, and the forth largest in the world.

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So, what’s the key to Germanic prosperity?

Someone frugal in Germany is known as a sprafuchs or “saving fox”. And well, you could say the saving fox is Germany’s spirit animal.

That’s not to say the Germans are tight — but wow they love a bargain! This is the home of the discount supermarket, after all.

While it’s generally considered bad form to discuss how much your earn here, it’s positively encouraged to talk about and compare the prices of goods and services.

I was once on a date with a German, when the conversation took a sudden turn: he wanted to compare the price per kilo of various vegetables in German and British supermarkets. #Romance (hastag Romance) !

But it’s not all about bargain hunting and penny pinching.

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The Germans have a particular pragmatic rainy-day mentality: don’t spend more than you earn. Always put a little bit aside. You never know what’s around the corner.

On average, German households save ten percent (10%) of their income. That’s more than twice as much as the average person in the EU or the US.

Oh, and the Germans are really wary of debt. If my student debt comes up in a conversation, people start to back away from me, slowly, as if they think my financial recklessness might be catching.

It’s no coincidence that the German word for “debt” is also the German word for “guilt”.

That’s all for this week’s Meet the Germans. See you next time. And if you’re coming to Germany any time soon, don’t forget a pocket full of pinkepinke.

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1. What does “pinkepinke mean? Does the word come from Latin?

2. All countries in the EU (European Union) have rapidly transitioned to cashless payments. Is this true or false?

3. Do the Germans interviewed pay by credit and debit cards? Why are they averse to using card payments?

4. Have these Germans been watching too many dystopian movies? Are they completely paranoid? Are they justified in being concerned?

5. Because Germans are reluctant to use electronic payments, they are technologically backward and have an undeveloped economy. Is this correct or incorrect?

6. Do all Germans love to splash money on parties, drinks, flashy clothes and sports cars? Do they love to splurge?

7. Did the woman’s date brag to her about his job, car, house and trips?

8. What is a sprafuchs? What are some German ideals and values regarding finance?


A. How common are electronic (card and mobile) payments in your country? People pay exclusively by card or mobile app; most payments are electronic; about half and half, most people pay by cash (most transactions are through cash); or all transactions are by cash (no one pays via card or mobile app).

B. Have payment methods been changing?

C. Which ethnicities or nationalities are frugal, thrifty and careful with money? Decribe their habits.

D. What ethnic groups or nationalities like to splurge? Which people are spendthrifts?

E. What are the consequences of frugality and being a spendthrift?

F. What might happen in the future?

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