German cities and communities are so complacent!

I”m currently working in Gera, a city in Thuringia, Central Germany. Since I”m teaching English to two groups of young people from Gera I checked the website of their city to see if there is any information there in English. Much to my dismay, Gera.de looks awful on every level. What”s worse, you can”t just type “gera.de” into your browser. You need to add “www” which shows that the website operators are some amateurs at best. Also, after you type in www.gera.de you get the following URL which is anything but a “speaking URL”:
http://www.gera.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=10213

As you can see, they use a German CMS called “Six” provided by the German company Six Offene Systeme GmbH whose website is German only too. I wouldn”t trust any CMS that doesn”t have any documentation in English and which is developed by a company that doesn”t have an English version of their website.

Of course there is not a single word in English at www.gera.de — why should there be? Now that Gera has been part of Western Europe ever since Germany”s reunification, their citizens should have long realized the economic potential they could use if they provided information about their region in English. Since their website is in German only, Gera literally doesn”t exist outside of Germany. An American tourist will never find this place! But then again Gera”s website is not developed by its citizens but by an administration which is financed through public funds raised by taxes and subsidies. Why would anyone in Gera bother about the website of their city? If anything, an English version could result in even more foreigners coming to their region. In a recent survey 50% of the participants in Thuringia said they felt intimidated by too many foreigners. (The official rate of foreigners in Thuringia is below 3%.) You can”t expect the mayor of Gera, Dr. Norbert Vornehm to create an English version of his city”s website, can you?

I then went on and checked the websites of other medium sized German cities and got the same result: They are in German only. Interestingly enough, the websites of Leipzig and Chemnitz are in the following languages: German, English, Czech, Polish and French. That”s a good

So what would make perfect sense to have a Russian version of any German city”s website. Now, what about French? Only a handful French find their way to our region every year so before investing into maintaining a French version of leipzig.de it would be much more useful and effective to provide information in Russian. The Russians were the ones who helped us get rid of the Nazi regime before the FRG could be founded and now we are making a great effort to ignore them?

Only one Saxon city stands out positively when it comes to the Internet: Dresden. Their website is has 8 language versions: German, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Czech, Polish and Russian! Thank you, Dresden. You are a clever and modern city and if Leipzig doesn”t get its act together within the next few years, I”ll move!

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19 thoughts on “German cities and communities are so complacent!

  1. Dear Torsten! As you see You can always count of me. I read what you wrote about weak informing potential tourist from abroad by administrative region of Thuringia. I’ll focus on the matters concerning Russian language-that seems to be in your main interest. Russia is nowadays the country of big differences of human existence.I believe that region of Thuringia is a very interesting touristic place. But I suppouse that this very rich people in Russia are rather interested in their business benefits that exploring nice regions. They prefere spending their money and free time in the hot and amusement places. The poor ones can’t afford nothing like this.
    Alicja

    • Hello Alicja, there certainly are quite a lot of super rich people in Russia and I agree, they might not be interested in visiting a place like Gera or Thuringia for that matter. But if you look at the numbers, you will also see that Russia’s middle class has been constantly growing since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The same holds true for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, etc. where large parts of the population speak Russian as their first language. What’s more, there are already a substantial number of Russian speakers living in Thuringia and Saxony. I would say there are at least 10 times more Russian speakers in Central Germany than there are Polish and Czech speakers combined. If a city’s website is in French and Czech, why is it not in Russian and Turkish too?

      By the way, for some strange reason Warsaw’s official website is in two languages only. Why exactly is that?

      • Dear Torsten! It is probably so that English is consider to be commonly known and it is enough to fulfill all needs. I heard that there is big decrease in Russia of learning English. That country becames to be still poorest and poorest. There is no other sources of maintenance except their resources. Of course this ok publishing in other languages. It is your proffesion and it natural that you are devoted to it.

        Alicja

  2. Dear Torsten! Something crossed my mind and I tried to find that topic about shuttlebike but it was deleted. I just thought that maybe there was your respond to my message and I didn’t notice it?

    • Hi Alicja, I decided to deactivate the ShuttleBike topic until we incorporate CityAdvertising GmbH. As soon as this happens I will restore it and you can post your thoughts. I look forward to them. Thanks for your patience.

  3. Hello Alicja, who told you that the numbers of Russians learning has been decreasing and where does this person have their information from? It’s simply not true that Russia is becoming a poor country. Most people confuse facts with their opinions. Maybe you want to become Russia a poor country but the facts show a different picture. When you want the facts you need to look at how average income levels in Russia have been developing in relation to the living costs. Do you have these numbers?

    • Dear Torsten! anfortunately you must reconsile that in fact you will never know the whole TRUE from official sourcis. You are young and maybe you don’t know how it there works.We older generation know ,that it all is only one big lie. I have nothing against common Russian .
      My father even loved them. But they are muzzed by this who keep rule. And about average numbers and all their statistic!!! like everywhere it is only mockery. People oll over the world are so naive and it is easy to manipulate them.
      Alicja

  4. Dear Torsten! I wasn’t just interested in the topic Shuttlebox even so I’m very interested in sports and so on. I only hoped that you gave respond about your attitude to my proposal about my family. I just like you and I always tray to drag such people to my close circle. Many people this way were really satisfied. F.e. I had once an English teacher young American ,architect and sculptor. He didn’t know Polish at all .But I liked him and I wanted to help him. I arranged his appointment with members my family who were dean in art academy in Katowice. It happend to be beneficial for both sides ,because he could help them in their English. And it has been really friendship there.

    Alicja

  5. Well, I have been to Russia more than 10 times, I know a lot of Russians my wife is from Kiev so we travel there a lot. I can use my eyes and ears to see what is going on. What I clearly see is that both countries, Russia and Ukraine have made great strides in their economic development. The young generation wants exactly the same as anyone from a western country: A stable income so they can raise a family, a government they can trust and democracy.

    As with any former communist country it takes time to achieve those goals. Of course Russia has still a long way to go before they reach an acceptable level of democracy but this doesn’t prevent them from creating companies that operate based on western principle. I have been working with three of those companies, two of them are from Ukraine and one is from Omsk. Based on my experience I can say that those companies are much more effective and reliable than their German counterparts. It’s amazing to see the progress they have been making the past couple of years. Ignoring Russian speaking tourists and potential customers is a big mistake committed by most German cities and companies.

  6. Dear Torsten! You are experienced and you are certainy right. You know, eweryone has his rights. There is a sparkle of hope recently. Many people opened their eyes. But so far they are going to find themselves in a prison. And about Ukraine: see you what happend with Timoszenko? Independently of her faults ,there is terrible revange taken on her. There is only a little hope that our World will go in the direction of demokracy. Now everything seems to be on the verge.

    Alicja

  7. Dear Torsten! I just realised what you said. It will be great pleasure to send You my serious thoughts. Thank you very much.

    Alicja

  8. I’ve just received the following email from the Chemnitz city administration:

    Sehr geehrter Herr Därr,

    vielen Dank für Ihre Anfrage an die Stadt Chemnitz.

    Tatsächlich gibt es bereits Überlegungen, die Informationen auf
    http://www.chemnitz.de auch in russischer Sprache anzubieten.
    Momentan stehen dafür leider keine finanziellen Mittel zur Verfügung.
    Die Übersetzung und Umsetzung in kyrillische Schrift ist finanziell
    aufwendiger als in die bisher bereit gestellten Sprachen.

    Gern nehmen wir Ihre E-Mail aber als Anregung, die baldige Umsetzung
    einzuplanen.

    Ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen dritten Advent.
    Mit freundlichen Grüßen

    Michaela Haustein
    Stadt Chemnitz
    Bürgermeisteramt
    Abt. Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit

  9. Dear Torsten! So you see earlier as I could predict there is some way confirmation of my words. I’m a foreteller/ I’m joking/. On the verge. I understand German but I had no opportunity to speak it. I’m still watching my beloved sitcomes in German on Tv. When we meet with Bernard we speak English. I like him, he is reall funny
    gay. You would like him.

    Alicja

  10. Hi Torsten,

    I don’t know why, but when I typed gera.de in the address field of my browser, it brought me right to the city’s website. Could it be that they improved the site by now or is it perhaps your browser? I’m using the newest version of Mozilla Firefox and had no problems getting to that page. Strange that Gera’s site is only in German.

    Würzburg.de is in six different languages, though the Japanese version is under construction.

    Claudia

  11. Dear Torsten! I must say I was sorry of planted me of malevolance against the Russions. At all, I’m a person who loves people. Especially those who need help.The past of my family from the side of my father is a mist shrouded mistery. And because of my groundmother who was a very beautiful woman. Even Germans gave when she was arrested in characteristics “a beautiful woman”. She was 57 years old in that time. I only know that she left her husband and became involwed with the Russian aristocrat. They lived in a palace in Kyev. My father was in that time a boy. After the death of this nobleman she came back to Poland.Since that time my father loved Russians and their culture. He had very good voice and he use to sing many Russian songs. That’s all for now…….Alicja

  12. Dear Torsten! I must say I was sorry of planted me of malevolance against the Russions. At all, I’m a person who loves people. Especially those who need help.The past of my family from the side of my father is a mist shrouded mistery. And because of my groundmother who was a very beautiful woman. Even Germans gave when she was arrested in characteristics “a beautiful woman”. She was 57 years old in that time. I only know that she left her husband and became involved with the Russian aristocrat. They lived in a palace in Kyev. My father was in that time a boy. After the death of this nobleman she came back to Poland.Since that time my father loved Russians and their culture. He had very good voice and he use to sing many Russian songs. That’s all for now…….Alicja

  13. Dear Torsten! That mistake on the Christmas card it wasn’t joke , just my usual fault. That card I designed specially for You.

    Alicja

  14. Hello everyone,

    I’ve received the following email from a Leipzig government official which is very interesting:

    Sehr geehrter Herr Därr,

    vielen Dank für Ihre Anfrage, die zum ersten Mal bei der Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH eingegangen ist.

    Unser Internetauftritt umfasst die touristischen Seiten unter http://www.leipzig.de und http://www.leipzig.travel/www.ltm-leipzig.de. Die Unterteilung hatte zum Zeitpunkt Ihrer Erstellung rechtliche Gründe. Beide Auftritte sind untereinander verlinkt.

    Derzeit sind wir dabei, unserem Internetauftritt unter http://www.leipzig.travel/www.ltm-leipzig.de einem Relaunch zu unterziehen. Nach dem Relaunch wird es neben den bereits bestehenden Sprachfassungen deutsch, englisch und japanisch auch noch eine niederländische und russische Sprachfassung geben. Die Fremdsprachenauswahl fiel auf die Sprachen englisch und niederländisch, weil aus diesen Märkten die meisten ausländischen Touristen nach Leipzig kommen. Die Auswahl der Sprachen japanisch und russisch folgte der Einschätzung, dass bei Touristen aus diesen Ländern das Zukunftspotential für einen Leipzig-Besuch sehr hoch ist. Für den japanischen Markt wurde dies kurz nach der Jahrtausendwende definiert (in der Zwischenzeit gab es dort leider aufgrund von SARS, Naturkatastrophen u. ä. aber auch begründete Rückgänge zu verzeichnen), für den russischen Markt wird dies auf Grund von starken Gästezuwächsen in den letzten Jahren im Zuge unseres Relaunches umgesetzt.

    Die Unterscheidung im englischsprachigen Internetauftritt in „Leipzig for UK visitors” und „Leipzig for Americans“ liegt in den von unseren Marktbetreuern herausgefundenen unterschiedlichen Interessen und der unterschiedlichen Besucherstruktur aus den beiden Ländern begründet.

    Ich verbleibe mit freundlichen Grüßen
    Ihre Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH

    Thomas Köhn
    Senior-Projektmanager Tourismusmarketing