Why do German institutions seem to trust me more than I expect?

I’ve just left the offices of The Gutenberg Society, a 101-year-old organization with a mission “to promote research into the history of printing and of the book, as well as to give moral and financial support to the Gutenberg Museum.”

If I was to become a member of any organization, this would be it (besides, membership lets me into the Gutenberg Museum for free!) and so I filled out the required form with my name and address and handed it to the friendly office clerk.

She handed me my membership card, my copy of The Gutenberg Yearbook (“the leading scientific yearbook worldwide in the fields of Gutenberg research and research into the history of the art of printing and of the book in general”) and sent me on my way with a a sheet of instructions on how to pay my membership fee via bank transfer or PayPal.

This kind of institutional trust seems typical here in Germany in my (admittedly limited) experience.

Last year at Druckwerkstatt in Berlin, for example, the situation was the same: I used their printing workshop, paper and supplies, and it was only when I got back to Canada that they emailed me a statement for payment. 

And, earlier last year at the Kreuzberg Museum, Luisa and I spent the day in their letterpress shop printing. All it had taken to arrange this was a bit of negotiation, helpfully mediated by Igor, earlier in the week. We didn’t need to sign anything, or fill out insurance documents, or really to anything other than shake hands and go to town. It was only because I insisted that any money changed hands at the end of the day.

In Canada I am used to institutions not trusting me at all: the default setting is mistrust, and thus it is typical to requirement payment, or proof of payment, in advance. 

Perhaps it’s just a thing in the printing community?


Dave's picture
Dave on July 5, 2012 - 13:01 Permalink

It’s a trap!