Germany – Unraveling an Enigma
I wrote Enigma to help non-Germans, especially Americans, see what the world looks like through German eyes. Germany is a puzzling country in many respects and what I wanted to do was help outsiders see what it looks like from the inside. What I discovered was that even Germans found it eye-opening and one told me it was “like looking at myself in the mirror and seeing things I had never seen before.” Another told me she hadn’t realized just how German she was until she read Enigma.
I also wanted to help people from cultures that are less direct understand why Germans are so direct. For many non-Germans this directness can be off-putting and even come across as rude or arrogant. So why do Germans communicate so directly? That was one of the questions that I have asked hundreds of Germans over the course of many years and the answers are in Enigma.
Another question that drove my research and writing was about the way Germany has tried to come to terms with its Nazi past. While genocide and terrible atrocities are all too common in human history, what characterizes most Germans today is their attempts to deal with that past openly and to make amends. This is quite uncommon and most countries try to cover up the atrocities they committed. Just witness the problems we Americans have as we try to come to terms with the 400 years of slavery and racism in our country.
I centered Enigma around the core values and behavioral norms that structure most Germans’ lives. Once the reader understands these core values and the German worldview, much of the mystery about Germany and its people dissolves. For instance, Germany has few natural resources but it is perennially one of the world’s strongest economies. Understanding how core German values inform and structure the way Germans think and do business can help anyone who wants to work and cooperate with Germans.
Understanding the core values and behavioral norms that most Germans live by is also a way to understand the great diversity which exists in Germany without falling into the trap of stereotypical thinking. In the many years in which I lived and worked in Germany, I made a number of mistakes which could have been prevented had I understood the role that German culture and its values play in the thinking and feeling, as well as in the behavior of so many Germans. If you want a compact, clear and easy to read guide into one of the world’s most important cultures, Enigma is a great choice. Here’s what some readers have said:
Excellent—a must if you live, work, study or do business with Germans.
I am American and have a degree from a German university in translation and lived in Germany for over 8 years. I have to say that this book is simply brilliant and really explains what makes the Germans tick. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I think anyone who is curious about Germany must read this book. I re-read it every year or so and get more out of it every time, It is the best book I have ever found on the subject of post-war Germany.
Anyone of German ancestry will find it a fun read because it will explain some perplexing traits we have carried down through the generations far removed from original homeland.