On the eve of what was supposed to be an apocalyptic blizzard in the US, I developed a theory about weather and productivity.
First, I notice a distinct difference between the way Thorsten reacts when snow is in the forecast and the way I react. To me, snow makes a regular day feel like a holiday. (Probably because during my childhood, snow often turned regular days into holidays when school was delayed or cancelled.)
My reaction to snow in the forecast is almost always like this:
Me to Thorsten: Oh my gosh, maybe it will snow a lot! Maybe it will snow so much that I won’t be able to go to school and you will have to cancel your appointments!…Maybe the trains won’t be running or the Autobahn will be full of accidents. —Just for the record, it usually stops snowing ten minutes after I make these statements and before I even had time to tie on my snow boots.
The idea that school could be cancelled because of snow is so foreign to Thorsten that he kind of laughs and says something like, I think that’s wishful thinking my dear, they never close school because of snow.
Really. Almost everyone walks to school or rides their bikes and most of the time the teachers live nearby. Germany doesn’t usually get a lot of snow at once. Last night I was able to confirm that Thorsten has no memory of a disruption on account of snow in his entire life. The Autobahn (near us anyway) is of course perfectly maintained, prepped and cleared so that no one has a road problem because of snow. People drive slower but that seems to be the only effect. See photo.
Here, in northern Bavaria, it seems to be a big deal in the winter to remember to schedule your appointment to change to snow tires. I heard Heinz and Jola ask Thorsten a million times if he had scheduled his appointment and then shake their fingers at us when we drove through Austria on the way to Italy without winter tires! Can you imagine we did such a crazy thing?!
I find this kind of funny since I just reported that this part of Germany doesn’t ever really get a lot of snow. But I have discovered that Germans like to be secure so–better safe than sorry. The result is that everyone changes to snow tires and then they don’t have to think about snow as a hazard. The cars (mostly German engineered of course) seem like they are designed to drive as if there isn’t any weather at all.
The point being, it seems that no one here (at least in Franconia) spends time or energy considering the effects of snow or seeing snow as a hazard or a reason to stop working. People like snow, but they don’t think of it as an event that affects their daily lives.
So imagine–there aren’t huge stores of salt, masses of trucks, snow days built into the school year or monies earmarked for severe weather. There also are not a whole lot of meteorologists and regular people making a big hub-bub about every high and low pressure front. There are no mad rushes to the grocery store or extra news programs or phone calls made to confirm if events are “still on.” Imagine all the time and energy they save because snow events are not a part of the their mental landscape.
In my opinion–and it is only my opinion with nothing to back it up except my empirical research–I think all this saved energy, adds up to saved money and the ability to be more productive.
Why is this? The articles give lots of possibilities, but I have another one to add. I have only lived here since July, but I can report with authority that it is mostly cloudy here. Especially in winter. Because the weather is gray and cloudy and mostly rainy, everyday–there is nothing to do but work in winter. Countries like Italy or Spain or Brazil or maybe Greece, where it’s beautiful all year, in my opinion (again my opinion), have many more things to tempt them outdoors and away from working. Even countries like Austria and Switzerland who are known for their winter outdoor activities have a lot of beautiful weather to tempt them outside and away from their desks. Germans mostly have clouds and rain– not much to work with for people who love the outdoors.
So in closing, it seems to me:
1. People in this part of Germany never waste mental energy wondering about the effects of snow. Energy saved = money saved.
2. Work and other events are not cancelled because of weather, and as a result, they are days more productive than the countries that do have to deal with these types of events.
3. The money that could be spent on snow removal and preparation etc, can be spent elsewhere.
4. There is a near total lack of worthwhile, winter weather.
In light of these factors it’s no wonder Germans are so productive and still manage to have so many vacation days.