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: World Cup rainbows, pumpkin slaughter and a nation of savers

From unusual traditions at a world famous pumpkin festival to Germans' spending habits (or lack there of), we take a look at some of the big talking points of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: World Cup rainbows, pumpkin slaughter and a nation of savers

Where do Germans move to?

Many of our members are foreigners who choose to call Germany home. But what do we know about the Germans who move outside the country? According to official figures from last year, around five million Germans currently live abroad. And most of the Germans who emigrate – perhaps unsurprisingly – don’t go too far. Switzerland is home to the most Germans who choose to leave their country.

About 17,000 Germans took up residence there in 2021. Next in line is Austria – another German-speaking country. Around 11,000 Germans chose to live and work there last year.

But it’s not just the German-speaking places that attract Deutschlanders. In third spot for Germans emigrating abroad in 2021 was the United States – 8,400 Germans moved there last year. Meanwhile, just over 6,000 Germans took up residence in Spain, while around 5,000 each opted for Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and Poland. 

Tweet of the week

All eyes are on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar – but it’s more than football that’s in the news. The world is watching the various protests going on against Qatar, over its treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community. German football commentator Claudia Neumann made waves for her choice of rainbow clothing. 

Where is this?

Photo: DPA/Ilkay Karakurt

The Ludwigsburg pumpkin festival (Kürbisausstellung) is slowly coming to an end after months! So what happens to the pumpkins? Well, a big “pumpkin slaughter” takes place at the Blühende Barock gardens where enthusiasts salvage what they can. Meanwhile, the seeds are usually auctioned off. 

Did you know?

With inflation at over 10 percent, it’s no wonder that many people in Germany are being more careful with their spending. A new survey released this week from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) found that 63 percent of consumers have cut back their spending. The survey also found that more Germans are making long-term changes to their lifestyle such as buying less clothes and repairing goods instead of buying new ones. However, did you know that Germany has a reputation for saving, and making items go further? In fact, Germans are known for being a nation of savers rather than investors.

The Local contributor Aaron Burnett wrote in a recent article on investing: “It’s even apparent in the language – the German word for “debt” is ‘Schuld,’ which also means ‘guilt.’ During the euro crisis, ‘austerity’ was often called ‘Sparpolitik’ in German newspapers, or “the politics of saving”. Meanwhile, many Germans keep most of their money in savings accounts and avoid maxing out credit cards. 

Germany is also known for its second-hand culture and strong recycling ethic. Second-hand shops or platforms for selling items are common. You’ll also find that people leave their old clothes or books on their doorstep in a box with ‘zu verschenken’ (to give away) written on a sign. People can look through the items and take anything they want at no cost.