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Germany and the US : differences ?

  1. May 31, 2006 #1
    I was looking at maps.google.country (com or de for germany) and comparing random american suburbs with german suburbs. Both countries are similar since it seems that most people live in single family homes (or at most a few families) with gardens or yards around them. However there is alot of insight you can perceive of the differences between the 2 countries just by looking at the satellite images.

    The US seems to have alot more infrastructure as far as malls and shopping centers go. There are also alot more highways, roads and generally wider and larger roads. The suburbs in the US tend to go on for miles and merge into other towns. Germany doen't seem to have malls, the roads and highways are fewer and smaller, the towns in germany are also smaller but very well organized. They seem to have alot of room for homes like the US but the towns seem much more person friendly as the sizes don't get to large and without any centers. Anyways you can see that both countries are very rich by the fact that the population is well distributed in many towns and suburbs, they are not all concentrated in a few giant cities like in most of the rest of the world. This may really be the secret of creating rich countries, use up all the land available, suburban sprawl creates wealth. Any comments from anyone who knows both countries well ?

    It makes me laugh to think that countries like Japan are still light years away from this kind of wealth, let alone China and India etc.
     
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  3. May 31, 2006 #2

    dav2008

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    Japan is light years away from this kind of wealth? Have you been to Tokyo?
     
  4. May 31, 2006 #3

    rcgldr

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    Well mostly because of geography, size and natural resources, the USA turned into a very wealthy country, although not all of it's citizens prosper from this fact. Also the climate in the USA is much milder than most of Europe, because the USA is further south.
    The other fact is that there were relatively few natives (American Indians) compared to the number of settlers, and few settlers in the early days of the USA had any issues with displacing the existing locals, so an immense amount of land was virtually free for the early settlers.

    Getting more back on topic, during the late 1940's and early 1950's, the effeciency of farming equipment and industrialization in general reduced the number of people required to work on farms. It's gotten to the point where only a small percentage of the USA population actually produces basic essentials, like food, clothing, and shelter.

    The transition to surburbia also occurred soon after World War II, although it probably would have occurred without the war as well. Eisenhower proposed the interstate freeway system back in the 1950's, as part of our defence (so the military could quickly move about). It was the most expensive project (in non-inflationary costs) the USA has done.

    At the same time there was a transition from a mostly agricultural society to a city based society. At the same time, they started building suburbs around many cities. East coast cities concentrated populations more and had public transportation, but middle and western cities really sprawled outwards. Automobiles kept getting relatively cheaper. First it was just one car for a family, but then why not a car for mom to get the groceries and run errands?

    I often wonder how much influence television, and in general, the influence of companies in the USA has turned USA society into a consumer oriented economy. We've got the basic essentials covered, and the rest is play money, but the issue is a lot of jobs depend on our society continuing to spend it's play money.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2006
  5. May 31, 2006 #4
    No I haven't. But from what I read it seems that most live in few big cities in very small homes and outside the cities there are no suburbs either american style or german style. So if you know something about Japan tell me, I can't find satellite images of Japenese suburbs .

    Anyone know both the US and Germany well ?
     
  6. May 31, 2006 #5

    rcgldr

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    Regarding Japan, it's reasonably wealthy, but land is scarce, so most of the population lives in relatively tight quarters. The upper class still can't afford to own a significant amount of land, so they spend it on other things, like cars or personal items (plus they save more). One issue for Japan is that it doesn't have any significant natural energy resources, like gas, coal, ... , so it has to import this. Given the lack of natural resources and land, Japan has done fairly well.
     
  7. May 31, 2006 #6

    rcgldr

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    In a relatively cold climate, like Germany, suburb's aren't effecient. In the USA, the density of cities like New York is very high, and there isn't a lot of land. I visited Boston once and it was strange, the downtown area was relatively small, and a 15 minute drive was enough to end up out in the "countryside". It's my impression that older cites with colder climates in the USA are more concentrated.

    I'm originally from Houston, Texas, which is one of the more extreme cases of surburbia. Until the late 1950's, apartments were virtually non-existant. Even in the poorest parts of Houston, most people lived in small houses on a lot that would be considered average in size for cities. In Texas, cities are allowed to annex land until you reach the county borders,and Houston has come close to this. It's the size of Los Angeles with about 1/4th the population. As time has gone on, the number of people living in the suburbs have resulted in large scale traffic issues, clogging the freeways that were more than adequate when most of them were built back in the 1960's or earlier.

    Oklahoma City is really huge at over 600 square miles with a relatively small population.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2006
  8. May 31, 2006 #7

    dav2008

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    Yeah I guess you're right in that it's missing the suburb aspect. I see what you're saying now.
     
  9. May 31, 2006 #8
    Germany seems to have the right structure. The suburbs are not too large and sprawled yet it is large enough for single family homes like in the US. The only thing is, where do they shop ? The US has alot of malls, but there seems to be nothing similar there. Are they all small shops ?
     
  10. May 31, 2006 #9

    J77

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    I think you need to look at your scales on your google map!

    The US is considerably more spread out than Germany.

    Germany is classically North-West European - you could compare it with Nederlands, Belgium, France, UK...

    One comparison may be that the German economy is going the same way as the US...

    Your last comment is very illinformed.
     
  11. May 31, 2006 #10
    What I mean is that on the satellite images of US suburbs you can clearly see large structures that are malls along with their parking lots. Now of course Germany is different in this, but I can't even find smaller structures that could be malls or shopping centers. So I imagine that they are all in the central streets of the towns and mostly small shops or are not visible for some reason. Just curious about this aspect of Germany, do they have malls ? I do see box like structures in Germany but they seem to be industry or warehouse or schools ...

    Aside from this, Germany and the US have alot in common as far as the homes and suburbs are, at least from the satellite images they do have similarities.
     
  12. May 31, 2006 #11

    FredGarvin

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    I lived in Germany for three years ('88-'91). I must say that I liked the layout and city planning there much more than here in the states.

    From my recollection:

    - Germany used a hub city approach with surrounding smaller villages "attached" to the main city. For example, I lived Mainz-Finthen, Finthen being the name of the village and Mainz the major city. The nice thing about this is that there are definite separations between villages/cities leaving some nice open land in between. This, to me, is FAR superior planning than the unchecked sprawl that is allowed in the states.

    - In regards to the malls and such...I think you are not seeing them because most shopping, etc... we equate with malls are in the city centers and blend into the large city scape. The majority of stores were on the smaller scale, although there were large chains as well. The only places that looked like a strip mall were run by Americans and even those were using existing buildings. Many large cities have shopping areas in locations known as a fussganger platz or the altstadt.

    Here is a link to Mainz's web site:
    http://www.mainz.de/WGAPublisher/online/html/default/hthn-677k63.en.html

    One major difference I noticed was that the majority of Germans did not have any kind of perverse need for huge houses, lands, cars, etc...The people I met lived in nice homes, etc...but you just didn't get the feeling that the "keeping up with the Jones'" was on anyone's mind.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2006
  13. May 31, 2006 #12
    Thanks for the information. Well then since the US (and eventually other nations like China) is always building new suburbs, why not build some areas that take the best ideas from the way Germany is layed out ? After all you could have many different towns having different structures and some areas of the US could imitate at least partially the German model. From above it looks very comfortable and livable. I read that China is imitating some countries in the way they lay out some parts of the towns and cities.

    I doubt the US model can easily be imitated by any nation, given the huge infrastructure needed and the modern day costs to now achieve what the US did easily in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Maybe the US couldn't even do it so easily today considering the costs of raw material, starting from energy.
    Just some random ideas when comparing the images....
     
  14. May 31, 2006 #13

    FredGarvin

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    Because I don't think the average American is willing to change what they perceive as being their right to plow down more open fields and trees to put up strip malls and restaurants. Personally, I think we have plenty of space that has been abandoned that could be reused. However, the majority of people here seem to think that new is better.
     
  15. May 31, 2006 #14

    NateTG

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    One of the things that is a bit particular to the US is the attitude about land ownership. If you look at what fraction of Germans, or Europeans, or, for that matter, people in industrialized countries in general, own land I expect that there will be a disparity.

    If people believe that owning land is important they're more likely to move into the suburbs rather than staying in apartments or condos in the city.

    German cities have malls - but they're typically not strip malls in the way that malls in the western US are set up.
    For example:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild:Aussicht_maintower.jpg

    Is a picture of one of the largest shopping malls in Germany.
     
  16. May 31, 2006 #15

    Monique

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    Cities in the US have grown too fast, I don't like the infrastructure at all. Everything is very geometric and boxy (streets/avenues) and unromantic. The European style of building cities is very different, mainly because of the long history of the land. The suburbs are also very different. First of all the houses are much smaller and are generally not free standing. In the Netherlands all the houses are of stone and of several stories high, I am not sure how that is in German suburbs?

    As for the malls, the Netherlands does not have any malls either. There is a single department store called the Bijenkorf, comparable to Pennys. You do your shopping at shopping centers where there is a grocery store, a baker, butcher, flower store. For clothes you go to the city center.
     
  17. May 31, 2006 #16

    BobG

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    I don't know about Germany, but one possibility is that you just don't recognize the mall. Milan, Italy has what's considered the oldest shopping mall (Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II) and it looks a lot more impressive than the American shopping malls.

    Outside view of one of the entrances

    Inside view

    Well, they're not that different from American malls
     
  18. May 31, 2006 #17

    brewnog

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    I think history has a lot to do with the layout of all connurbations. If space and topography are not issues, and you're starting with a fresh slate (basically like the US) then you're able to plan brand new cities with wide highways and well-placed malls, and transport routes tailor made to the size of the connurbation; and cultural requirements of its inhabitants. If, on the other hand, you're constantly developing a city which has been there for thousands of years (as with much of Europe), you are almost always bound by restrictions of what is already present.

    Japan is an interesting case, because economic growth driving infrastructure development is so massive, yet topographical restrictions are so immense.

    Just look at the width of streets in German (or any European) cities; far narrower than the US; purely because buildings get replaced one at a time, and over centuries; rather than just building a whole street over a few years or decades.

    Compare any European city which was heavily bombed in WWII with any European city which wasn't, and you'll see instant distinguishing characteristics.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2006
  19. May 31, 2006 #18

    Moonbear

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    I like that. The giant, super-duper, everything-in-one-box stores here have pretty much driven away any remnants of small town centers like that in the US. Some of the cities are still like that, but it doesn't feel the same as in a quaint old town. Nonetheless, I see no reason to make one place like the other. Each is different, and I think it's nice to appreciate each for those differences, and if you are happy with the arrangement where you live, that's all that's really important; you don't have to like the way everyone else lives elsewhere. A lot of people like the way things are in the US, with giant houses with so many rooms they can't even use them all, all packed together on neat little streets set up in perfect little rows or in cul-de-sacs where the kids can safely play with other kids, and everything conveniently located in one store, with one line to wait in to pay, and a huge parking lot so you don't have to walk. Of course, Monique's experiences in the US are in and around Detroit and its suburbs, which seems to be the extreme of square blocks, and big houses on small lots, with miles and miles of road dotted with strip malls with no character. That was my least favorite place to live. But, I know we have members who live there who like it.

    It's just like some people prefer to live in an apartment at the heart of a big city with all the hustle and bustle and energy that just pulses through there, while others prefer the solitude of an old farmhouse surrounded by 30 acres of wheat fields, where it's quiet, and dark, and serene. I've lived in a variety of places, and they all have their merits and drawbacks. An advantage of the US is that if you don't like the town where you live, you can easily enough get up and move to another that's completely different in geography, climate, architecture, city planning, culture, people, without having to move to another country, just as there are advantages to the way things are done in other countries.
     
  20. May 31, 2006 #19

    Monique

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    Actually I loved the US malls, I was there every weekend when I could (I actually took pictures of the huge parking lots :wink:). Both have their charms and neither would fit in the other's environment.

    Not quite, I've been to other cities like Boston. Los Angeles was the worst of suburbian sprawl that I have seen. But I agree that Detroit could be an extreme, the suburban area is huge and streets are over 20 miles long. At first I didn't understand that they would have the same street name in different suburbs, until I understood it was actually the same street.

    I lived in a condominium complex in a regular suburb and would bicycle to the SummerSet mall. First I passed through suburbs with small shabby wooden houses until I came to the suburbs with the huge mansions, every time I saw those I was in awe. Those were good time :smile:
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2006
  21. Jun 1, 2006 #20
    Contrary to what most say and think, from the satellite images, it seems that both the US and Germany are quite similar. They both have most people living in single family homes in suburb like areas, granted with some differences, but generally I see similarities and not differences!

    The differences are that Germany doesn't have malls or large shopping structures, but the towns are really suburbs and do resemble the american style to some degree. I may be wrong but that is the impression I get from seeing them both from above. Also if you look at random suburbs in the US there are all kinds of types many with winding roads and I think many different economic levels whereas Germany seems more monolithic, its towns are quite similar probably implying a not too large economic diversity.
     
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