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08.09.2015 DW Doku Generation 25 04

How Germany's Generation 25 thinks

Patricia Szilagyi / kbm
September 20, 2015

They never experienced a divided Germany. But do they still feel walls in the country? DW commissioned FORSA to survey those in Germany born in 1989 and 1990 about how they see themselves, their country and the future.


The good news first: The overwhelming majority of those surveyed in Germany born in 1989 and 1990 think German reunification was a good thing.

Around three-quarters said the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification in 1990 were the most important events in Germany in the past 30 years. They agree on that point, even though none of today's 25-year-olds - "Generation 25" - were around to experience those historical moments.

But when it comes to differences in mentality between eastern and western Germany, Generation 25 is divided. Fifty-one percent say that there are no longer differences between the regions, more than a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But 46 percent see it differently.

Survey participants who've spent most of their lives in eastern Germany say there are major differences in mentality among Germans from the East and the West. Those who grew up in western Germany feel there are fewer differences. Even though they have all only experienced Germany as one united country, the bygone division still has an impact.

Clichés: Capitalist West, xenophobic East

According to the FORSA survey, long-standing stereotypes still seem to be widespread. Nearly half of those questioned said that money and status are more important to western Germans. And 38 percent believe that career plays a bigger role in the West than in the East.

On the other hand, eastern Germany is still considered to have strong xenophobic tendencies than the other side of the country.

However, another old stereotype seems to be dwindling: Relatively few - 22 percent - think that eastern Germans complain more than western Germans.

Generation of fun-loving optimists

Generation 25 is unified on at least one thing: They're clearly optimistic about the future. The vast majority of those born in 1989 and 1990 - 82 percent - take a positive view on life, according to the FORSA survey. Considering the recent economic crises and the current refugee crisis in Europe, that's not a given.

When it comes to priorities in life, 25-year-olds on both sides of the country have a lot in common. For three-quarters of those surveyed, personal relationships with friends and family play a very important role.

Fun certainly doesn't take a back seat for this generation. Nearly half of the participants said having fun was very important to them. Money was very important to just nine percent, equally distributed across both sides of the country.

An apathetic, apolitical generation?

Just 35 percent of participants are involved in a political or social cause. When it comes to politics, only six percent are active at a local or national level.

Nevertheless, they are not as disinterested at it may seem. Nearly a quarter of them say they're actively involved in fighting poverty and social injustice in Germany. That's a lot compared to the overall population, where only nine percent are similarly active.

Among the Generation 25 respondents, 43 percent said that social justice is very important to them.

The representative survey was conducted by the research institute FORSA and commissioned by Deutsche Welle. Germany's Generation 25 has more commonalities than differences, no matter where in the country the individuals were raised. That's particularly true when it comes to attitudes regarding career and private life, even though some stereotypes about the East and West still remain.

The children of German reunification reflect the process of coalescence that has been going on for a quarter century and is far from complete. In another 25 years, their children are bound to take a whole new view on Germany.

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