Big Brother, Little Brother | Germany

How well do you know your neighbors? We looked into the Alpine Republic’s special relationship with each of them

An Austrian Kabarettist recently put it this way: “We Austrians have a permanent inferiority complex, we think the Germans are better at everything. But that’s all right, the Germans think so too.”

A hundred years ago it was very different, the German and Austrian Kaisers met as equals, equal monarchs of great central European empires. Contemporary photographs are revealing: cocky young Wilhelm, stylishly overdressed in military splendor he had never earned, and an ancient Franz-Joseph in a simple uniform more befitting a junior field officer.

More than a century later, a lot of water has flowed down the Danube, sweeping away Austria’s Hungarian and Balkan crown territories, the debris of the great depression and the ugly remnants of the Anschluss. Both countries have recovered from the catastrophe of WWII, but their stories are different. Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder after 1945 became the stuff of economic legend. Austria, jammed up against the Iron Curtain, was seen to have remained behind.

As Gustav Mahler famously remarked, when the world ends he’ll move to Vienna, because everything happens there ten years later. Well, maybe later, but since the Wall came down (1989) Austria has been catching up fast. Berlin may be the first address for aggressive young careerists in the German-speaking world, but Germans have now outstripped Serbs and Turks as the largest group of working immigrants in Vienna. Voting with their feet is perhaps the ultimate compliment of brash young Germans to their southern country cousins.

Border with Austria: 801 km, bordering Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Upper Austria

Population: 82,492,000 people

Size: 357,385 km2

Trade Volume with Germany:

Imports from Germany: €50.4 billion

Exports to Germany: €40 billion

Balance: -€10.4 billion

Fun fact:

The area of Germany’s capital Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris and the city has more bridges than Venice.

Click here to read up on Austria’s next neighbor.

Simon Ballam
English, studied in NY and worked in London, Düsseldorf, NY, Fankfurt, Prague and Vienna. This covered stints in market research and the film industry, international advertising coordination and strategic planning. Currently business school lecturer and journalist.

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