We all connect our experiences with feelings and thoughts. One-word associations reflect in a single word what is connected to our experiences. Because these associations don’t require extensive cognitive elaboration, they provide fresh input, useful to enrich the understanding of people’s ideas about a topic.
To have a more accurate picture of expatriates’ opinions about Germany, we included in our research the following question:
What is the one word that comes into your mind when you think about Germany?
Results show a large variety of meanings associated with Germany. Participants mentioned 223 different words. The top-ten words associate with Germany are:
- The top-10 words with which Germany is associated are: bureaucracy, organisation, safety, rules, home, security, order, work, beer and stability.
- Bureaucracy has been mentioned more than 60% of times the second word, organisation. The difference in the frequency of mentions of the 4-top remaining words is much smaller.
- Grouping words within larger meanings, we identify three main concepts behind the most repeated words:
- Bureaucracy stands alone and takes pole position. Internationals are more exposed to bureaucratic obstacles than natives. Getting proof of residence, validating the driver’s license, contracting utilities, obtaining a work permit, or getting recognition of qualifications, are expatriates’ unique set of challenges. Bureaucratic technicalities and jargon can be even more defiant when the individual is also dealing with language barriers.
- Safety–security–stability. A second concept may be made up of these three closely related ideas. A safe place can bring stability. Internationals perceive Germany as a safe and secure place that offers stability in their life and work.
- Organisation–rules–order. These three words share a related meaning: structure. Germany is well known for it. As outsiders, expats and their partners may be confronted with a set of new cultural, social, and job-related rules. Some of them are very useful and some others may not be easy to understand at first. Restrictions on time to take a shower, for example, are unthinkable for people of other nationalities.
Even though there is consistency in the most mentioned words, results are not the same across groups. When comparing, for example, expats and partners or internationals from the EU and outside the EU, the top associations change. We show these comparisons in detail in our reports.
Dr. Carlos Morales & Amaia Izar de la Fuente