Foreign Insight: an Interview with Ambassador of Federal Republic of Germany for Indonesia

german cover

(Business Lounge Journal – Special Report)

Ranging from automobiles, hardware, tools, materials, to fashion and more, Germany’s reputation for producing only the best  is already struck, if not already embedded deep in our mindset. For most of us, we found our self quickly associating German products with its durability, endurance, performance, and its sense of luxuriousness.  These powerful reputations,  are widely believed as an attribute to the German people’s traits of efficiency, punctuality and order.

But is it true, that these are the only things that attributes to their excellent products and brand’s reputation?

German Ambassador for Indonesia, Dr. Georg Witschel, in an interview with Business Lounge Journal, explained the German’s worldview, culture, art,  the meaning of the famous verb, “Ordnung Muss Sein”, and what to do beyond discipline and punctuality.

Also, the Ambassador explain Germany’s stance and policies regarding the current refugee crisis.

BL: Business Lounge Journal
GW: Dr. Georg Witschel

Part 1: Germany, the efficient artist

BL: What is the meaning of efficiency for German people ?

GW : Discipline, efficiency, punctuality are important and they are quite prevalent in Germany, particularly on the working market. But, one thing besides quality and durability is also very important for the success of our technology, that is innovation. And also very important: good design. We would not sell most efficient, powerful cars without

a) innovation and

b) good design

In terms of what is the role of punctuality, or discipline, etc., you know, people believing the Germans having no humor, etc., it’s all quite relaxed these days. Germany has become a very vibrant society, we are a very heterogeneous society.

In places like Berlin, you can celebrate all night, you can party all night, so one major ingredient of our success is also that we allow people to establish themselves as an individual entrepreneur, as somebody who comes up with new solutions. So, there are many ingredients, one is of course, a well established school system, well established universities, well established think tanks, but also the society as a whole being promotive, promoting the development of individual arts, technology.

So, make use of your brain, go with it to the market, be innovative, that is another important part besides discipline, punctuality, it has to go together and it does go together.

BL: What is the meaning behind German’s famous proverb “Ordnung Muss Sein“?

GW: Ordnung Muss Sein is very typical peribahasa in Germany, yeah. Not very fashionable among youngsters but in principal, order has to be, that is still very true, because otherwise you cannot organize anything. If there’s no order, no train would be on time, no factory would work, no hospital could work. So it is strong in our minds.

But again there’s also a certain counterbalance. You can establish a perfect order which is murderous and immoral. A concentration camp can be in perfect order but it’s certainly not a good order, it’s a bad order. On the other hand, order in itself is nothing which is very good or bad because anyway, it is just needed, so, Ordnung muss sein, is schon in Ordnung. 

BL: How big is the Creative Industry in Germany?

GW: There is a huge market, particularly in places like Berlin, Hamburg, big cities. So whether it’s on design, whether it’s on, hmm, for example, the gaming industry, whether it’s on handicraft, it’s a major market and a major part of our manufacturing now.

Always remember: we are known for the big brands. But over ninety percent of our industries are small and medium. And the other way round, almost half of the global leaders in small and medium industry worldwide, global, come from Germany.

BL: What is the art situation in Germany looks like?

GW: In fact, there is, I think a list of the top twenty of the world famous contemporary artist and we have, I think, at least three, or four among them. So we are doing relatively good..

Place like Dusseldorf are pretty hot, Munich, is hot. Hamburg, Kassel. So there are quite a number of places because Germany is very decentralized.

There is of course, Berlin, as the capital, but unlike, let’s say if you take in Europe the UK, and London or France and Paris, Germany is very, very decentralized. So there are many, many sub-centers, art centers all over the country.

Part 2: 2:41 minutes Germany’s policy toward refugees explained

GW: Alone last year, Germany gave a safe haven to more than one million refugees and even today it’s several thousand per day. Huge numbers, of course. We, as other countries, have a moral and a legal as well as under international law an obligation to give shelter, to give food, to give life to those threatened by war, by terror, by racial, or religious discrimination. The challenge now is simply to give them a place to live, food, medical treatment. But, we all know that it would take time until peace will be restored in Syria and in Iraq.

So with all likelihood, most of the refugees will stay for more than just a few months, it may well be a few years. That means we have to provide training, we have to provide school, we have hopefully to help them entering the labor market. This is all a very, very big challenge, not least in terms of financial resources required. Personal resources needed, you have to train these people in the German language, you have to improve the other skills, so it’s truly huge and that’s mean it also a huge burden for our economy and our social system.

It goes without saying that once peace is being restored in Syria and Iraq, the refugees should hopefully enriched by the knowledge and skills they learned in Germany go back home to the places where they used to live, that’s point one. Point two is if you live, if you want to find shelter, if you want to live in Germany, you need to accept all basic values, our laws, you need to accept that for example there is freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of religion. That there’s gender equality, so everybody has to accept this basic values otherwise he or she will not be welcomed.

Part 3: How Germany views Indonesia

BL: What is your opinion on Indonesian people?

GW: Since we talked about, you know, national qualities, shall I start with the negative side? If it comes to discipline, punctuality, organization, I think Indonesians will have probably still to queue after us, a little bit.

But, what I really admire here is innovation. People are very, very good in, you know, turning almost everything, every piece of metal or wood into art. People are very good simply to get together, sing a song, do a dance and do that in a way, which is really remarkable. I’ve been traveling quite a lot in this country and I was always overwhelmed by the ingenuity to perform. That is the art side, ingenuity to perform is the one side but I am also quite sure that creative industry here has a big future.

Because Indonesian are simply good to make something beautiful, to make something attractive, well, maybe marketing still has to be improved, but I see a big chance here for Indonesia besides commodity export, tourism, etc., also maybe manufacturing shoes and socks, etc. to the very strong worldwide position in anything creative.

Be it fashion, or be it maybe consumer products, people are really good in them. The other point is if I was now in German’s street, cold winter day, people probably would be very grumpy. Here, in Indonesia, walk around, everybody’s smiling, everybody’s happy or at least pretends to be happy. So there’s always a good reason to chat.

I speak some Bahasa Indonesia karena itu saya coba ngobrol-ngobrol sedikit dan selalu ada kesempatan untuk berseloroh, so I like that kind of frankly nice communicative approach.

Remember, you have built one plane which is in service, another one which had its flight test but of course the project had to be stopped due to the financial crisis. You do have good engineers and some good engineering but it’s not yet broad enough. And I think there’s two major reason for it, one is your training system, and your overall training system is still insufficient. And point two is this government and Indonesian industries, they hardly spend any money for research and development.

I think its zero point zero one percent of the GDP spent by the Indonesian government for R and D. In Germany, it’s roughly three percent, in Germany by the way, two third of R and D is financed by industry one third by the government, so I think there’s a homework, pekerjaan rumah, for Indonesia to invest much more in research and development and innovation than Indonesia does so far.

So point one, history, point two, huge country, very diverse, huge differences so talking about Eastern Nusa Tenggara, I was in Wamena, I was in Ambon, and elsewhere, livelihood is much more difficult there. Transportation is expensive, buy a bag of cement in Wamena is probably ten times more than Jakarta. So the challenges are enormous. It’s probably much easier to run a country like Germany which is more or less one country and a very few islands than tanah air with its 17,000 islands.

A few things worked out quite well. One thing is changing of power. It went very well. There is no attempt by the outgoing president to stay in power like in some many other emerging countries. Election process was fair, quite safe, very few riots. Hand over was decent and now this government  tries indeed to, on the one hand build statehood and on the other hand which is also very important to open up, not only to investment also to trade and hopefully also to as likely increase role of foreign experts.

Indonesia has only less than 70,000 foreigners that is enough for a place like Munich. So rather try to attract more skilled labor, you don’t need unskilled labor, but skilled labor. Bring them in, it helps to develop the country industries.

BL: What do German people would like to see from Indonesian Creative Industry?

GW: For sure, fashion, food, pottery, all kind of wooden products, stone products, art, pieces of art, oil paintings, photos, but I think, once you have the technical development right, it might be also let´s say smartphone, nice design for furniture. So furniture would be another way where you can have distinct Indonesian style and design, which would be played very well in Germany and Europe.

Michael Judah Sumbayak adalah pengajar di Vibiz LearningCenter (VbLC) untuk entrepreneurship dan branding. Seorang penggemar jas dan kopi hitam. Follow instagram nya di @michaeljudahsumbek