IA large-scale psychological experiment is currently taking place in Germany: all citizens are taking part, whether they want to or not. Psychologists could be delighted with it, but instead their statements sound rather gloomy. “What we are currently experiencing has a different dimension than previous crises,” says Stephan Grünewald from the market research institute Rheingold, whom the media refer to as the “psychologist of the nation”. And Dirk Ziems, who, as managing partner of the Concept M institute, regularly creates a “Psychogram of the Germans”, says: “The large number of crises that occur at the same time makes life difficult for people.”
Inflation, lack of energy, Russia’s war against Ukraine and, if things go badly, maybe Corona again soon: If scientists in the laboratory had thought about how the mental robustness of Germans could best be subjected to an endurance test, they would hardly have had a better one scenario can come up. Unfortunately, what we are experiencing right now is not a laboratory experiment, but reality.
Ten percent inflation
This made itself felt again last Thursday in an unpleasant way. Then the Federal Statistical Office reported: For the first time since the early 1950s, the rate of inflation in Germany reached ten percent in September. Every month, people notice more and more that their money is becoming less and less valuable. Paying your bills is getting harder and harder. The savings rate of Germans, which had risen to 16 percent at the beginning of the pandemic, has therefore fallen to less than ten percent, according to an estimate by the Federal Association of German Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken. In other words, on average, people only save less than a tenth of their disposable income. A situation that Germany – the country of the world champions in savings – has not experienced since the years of the euro crisis.
What is also new is that, unlike in previous crises, large sections of the population are affected this time. The feeling of being able to afford even less in the future and urgently having to save now is felt well into the middle class. Never in its history has the Gesellschaft für Verbraucherforschung (GfK) measured a worse value with regard to the income that Germans expect for themselves in the future. An exceptional economic situation that hits the mind of many. The country is also experiencing a mental endurance test these days.
The special nature of the crisis
This has to do with the special nature of the many simultaneous crises, scientists speak of “polycrises”. Dirk Ziems says: “Many people experience the polycrisis that is currently happening as diffuse disorientation. You don’t know whether the crises will build up mutually and lead to a great catastrophe. Or whether the knot will be cut through at some point and the polycrisis will prove to be an opportunity to accelerate positive transformations. Most people find this unpredictability almost more difficult than uncomfortable certainties.”
The lack of natural gas from Russia could therefore also be understood as a symbol for the vague feeling that many people are feeling at the moment: You can’t see gas, it has kept the shop running in secret for all these years. But now it’s suddenly incredibly expensive. But no one knows exactly how expensive it will be for each individual. Rheingold boss Stephan Grünewald says: “It’s much easier for us to deal with problems if we can make them concrete.”