Discovering the Germany of Today – (Part 2)

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

In Part 1 I discussed how German American organizations in the US have a tendency to only honor the traditions of Germany’s long past but never seem to want to progress to include newer cultural advancements.  Let me be clear on one thing… there is nothing wrong with honoring older traditions and they should still be observed by the many German culture organizations.  This topic of “Discovering the Germany of Today” is to show that there is more German culture to be explored and it is often ignored by many organizations.

Change is hard

We can all come to the agreement that the number of German American organizations in the US are decreasing every year.  From my own experiences I have seen that there is a struggle within many organizations when it comes to bringing in a new generation of “younger” people and their ideas to keep things operating.  There are plenty of people that see a need for German American organizations to live on and want to help, but are often frustrated with the inability to implement new ideas. As one commenter said in part 1…

Frankly I think the old timers want to see the younger set doing more ‘getting it done’ and less talking about doing it…To the young may it be said, You want German? Go to Germany. You want German-American, stay here, jump in to what is already up and running that you may contribute .. or, create your own new German American trends.

explain[ing] the complications the younger generation [of]… German Americans [will] have when trying to make change in a vast number of organizations that want none of it” is exactly like leading a horse to water. The reasoning is that it won’t be fun to push a horse to the watering hole if he still refuses to drink. The horse won’t like it and neither will those doing the pushing.

This idea of the “old timers” wanting to see the younger set getting things done instead of just talking about it is where the biggest struggle takes place.  People have this idea that change just happens over night and there is no need to talk things out to come up with a plan.  I would love to hear from someone who was able to just come into one of these organizations that have been doing the same things every year without much change and just act upon their new ideas.  In my opinion, it doesn’t work that way.

There needs to be a clear understanding of what needs to be changed and how to best accomplish it in a way that it can be sustained.  And while the “old timers” may say that they want new ideas, what are their real thoughts?  Again, speaking from my own experiences, I do not see a true willingness of the older leaders to accept anything different than what they are used to.  If they do not want any change or progress in their organization, then many of them should reevaluate their goals and mission statements and stop complaining that they are losing membership.  People want to join an organization where they feel welcomed and have the option to bring their ideas to the table.  Instead, they are being told that they cannot do their new idea because it’s not they way things were done in the past.  When someone gets lucky and is able to implement their new idea, that is when all the rumors and negative talk begins behind the persons back.  I am unfortunately not making this up.

So where do we go from here?  Should those of us that want to bring new ideas to the German American community just give up because “it won’t be fun to push a horse to the watering hole if he still refuses to drink.”  That is exactly want the “old timers” want to have happen.  Those organizations that don’t want change don’t have to, but they should stop complaining that their organization is dying.  If a company decided to stop creating new products and refused to innovate, it would go out of business.  I agree that in order to change things, actions need to happen by those who want it.  For some it may mean creating a brand new organization and others may find an organization that is willing to accept change.  It won’t happen over night or by just one or two people.

Eventually, German Pulse will have a online directory of German American organizations in the US where people can rate many different things including the willingness of listening and accepting new ideas, based on their own experiences.  This will hopefully guide others to where they can actually act upon their ideas.

In part 3 I will share a great resource for following and keeping up with the “Germany of Today”

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Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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