Is Germany a good country?

We have already won another ranking. A study by the American magazine U.S. News and World Report according to Germany is the best country in the world. Wow. Of course, it doesn't get any better than the best, because the USA can pack up with its world's most recognized passport and the most powerful army. That the Swiss are the happiest people on earth and the Greeks have more sex - pah, who cares! We are no longer just the most popular nation, not just world champions, we are the best! The very best!

Drunk with joy at this maximum superlative, one wonders: The best at what, actually? How do the authors of the study come to this? And how good are we really?

That's what the data says

The magazine's survey, produced in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and BAV Consulting, compares 60 countries across ten categories, including adventure, life quality, Makes and Entrepreneurship. The latter is the only one in which Germany actually taps ten out of ten possible points. In all other categories it looks less good: Maximum place 4 (Makes), but also place 27 (Future viability) or even only 45th place (adventure).

So Germany is not particularly dynamic or unique, and we cannot score points with friendliness, sexiness, good food or cultural attractions. According to the survey, our strengths lie in a functioning bureaucracy, a well-educated population and a strong economy. So far, so unsurprisingly - but how did Germany come first with such a mixed record?

Not all data were rated equally. While the categories adventure and cultural heritage may only contribute three percent to the overall result Entrepreneurship and Citizenship weighted at 17 percent, i.e. rated six times as important. It's a bit like it used to be in school: To be top of the class, you need the A's in Latin and Maths. Anyone who excels in sports and music and breaks the hurdles in the main subjects is still somehow cooler. Like Brazil (1st place in the category adventure), Italy (1st place in cultural heritage) or India (place in the category Future viability).

This is how the data came about

No facts were analyzed for the individual categories, but people were asked about how they perceive the world. 16,000 people from 36 nations were asked questions about 60 countries. Each participant received a questionnaire on a country that was not necessarily, but at most coincidentally, the home country. Specifically, that means that, for example, an American was asked how she assesses the possibility of starting her own business in Luxembourg. Or a German according to how sexy and adventurous he thinks Brazil is.

With this approach, it's no wonder the results are just a collection of stereotypes: Sweden is the best country to raise children. Brazil is sexy, unique and a great country for adventurers. In Italy you can eat well and go to museums.

And now? Are we really the best?

The study says absolutely nothing about how it actually is - just something about how people think it could be. Interesting too, but something completely different. The authors of the study justify their survey method by stating that global perceptions and impressions have the potential to influence trade, investment and travel and thus also have a direct effect on the economy.

That may be so. But the fact that almost 300 people are of the opinion that Germany's political and economic system is working quite well does not justify the headline "Germany is the best country in the world".