When I say that growing up in Germany helps bestow independent thinking skills, I’m not saying that it’s because they’re all taught [the] Straussian art of close reading. Instead I’m arguing that society has suppressed the value of certain status indicators, and that encourages people to think for themselves. To put it another way, there are fewer tournaments for kids to go through, and the value of winning them is not so high. Germans I’ve met are incredibly humble. Nobody feels the need to perpetrate an international hoax about how desirable they are. In addition, people aren’t all drawn to the same fields like finance and consulting. They take up professions like baking or manufacturing, and work with the earnestness that comes from knowing that their work is dignified; it’s easier for them to do the equivalent of moving to Dayton to study widget machines.
That is from Dan Wang, who also offers remarks on the philosophy and writings of Peter Thiel. My reservation about Dan’s argument is that Germans may use their independent thinking skills to question the entire value of traditional metrics of success, thereby making Germany less suited to produce certain kinds of innovations.
Here is an interesting Simon Kuper FT piece on Germans, mostly positive although “Germans are frequently wrong.”