A poll over a year ago further boosted the already strong confidence of Germans as their nation was named the "best country" in the world. The poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School relied on criteria measuring entrepreneurship, power, public education, and quality of life, among others. This year's poll of the same theme saw Germany slipping to fourth place behind Switzerland, Canada and the United Kingdom, but it seems it will do little to dim the self-confidence of a nation which has been enjoying a surging economy and bigger international influence.
So strong is the German' confidence that they see themselves the best in every conceivable field, be it migration, manufacturing, fiscal policy, renewable energy, and such belief in themselves can be seen on display everywhere from newspaper columns to parliamentary speeches to barroom chats over beer. The phenomenon is said to be summed up in German in a single word: Besserwisserei- a know-it-all attitude, which the Germans themselves admit is a cultural trait engrained in them.
If Germans see it as their Besserwisserei, to other countries and nationalities such attitude may appear as intolerable smugness. Such sentiment against the Germans seems to be shared by Germany's neighbors in Europe, and others, including the U.S., where resentment of Germans has been growing the past years and threatening to burst. And it is not just resentment against Germans' attitude that's turning out to be a problem with other nationalities. It is more so the growing threat that cultural vanity will start to turn into self-defeating political egotism for Germany. For one, Germany wields more power in Europe today, especially in EU, than at any time in recent memory. It is also highly perceived that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not hesitated to throw that around. The rest of Europe has not missed on the trend that things are increasingly being done Germany's way, even if such a way may not necessarily be the best. In fact, the big question for the future of Europe might be whether Germans will notice such 'anomaly', too.
Sir Paul Rever, a former British ambassador to Germany and author of Berlin Rules, affirms that Germany is in the driver's seat now. He said that Germany is more powerful than ever in the EU, not because it chose to be, but because there's no one else there capable of leading right now. He pointed that this is also due to France's weakened position within the EU.
The seeming high-handedness of Germany now is getting angry charges of "moral imperialism" from Hungary, and its central European neighbors, including Slovakia, Poland, and Croatia. Even candidates during the first round of the French presidential election criticized Merkel for dictating a German eurozone policy.
Another source of the latest storm of unhappiness with the Germans is the country's whopping trade surplus which stood at $271 billion in 2016, and which balloons from year to year with seemingly no end in sight. Germany's surplus causes problems with its trading partners such as the U.S. and France as it leaves them with unbalanced current accounts in their bilateral trade with Germany. It also exacerbates their export-import imbalances. Also at worst, a sustained negative trade balance adversely affects growth, stability, and employment. Germany's surpluses have grown so huge that even the International Monetary Fund is getting upset. German officials would argue, though, that their exports are so successful because they are of high quality.
Germany is also being seen to lecture, and impose its values especially to indebted countries of southern Europe. Germans seldom acknowledge the economic misery that many of their European neighbors are struggling with now. There's also Germany's insistence on other countries to follow its supposed lead on climate change, shutting down nuclear power stations and switching to clean energy generation. But turns out that Germany is Europe's biggest burner of dirty coal, and it's not on track to hit the Paris Agreement's reduction targets for 2020. Big, expensive, gas-guzzling luxury automobiles, including diesels are its best-selling exports. The Dieselgate scandal even caught Volkswagen and other German car manufacturers cheating on emission tests. No wonder that such scandal was uncovered in the U.S., far from the political and cultural power of Germany.
For many, it makes it doubly hard that Germany is not just arrogant but hypocritical as well.