Digital Nomad

Why I Sometimes Feel Ashamed to Be German

Digital Nomads, what is that?!? Don’t take me wrong, please! I do appreciate many things about Germany and being German. I think we have a great standard of living and many awesome values that help us succeed on an international level. But no one is perfect, not even the Germans! And sorry, no offence, I couldn’t help but feel a bit angry and ashamed of being German the other day…

Intolerance makes me a bit angry
Can there really be just one ‘correct’ way of living?

The reason for my anger was an article that I found in the online version of the German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’. In fact, it was the comments below that article that made me stop and wonder. The young journalist described an event for Digital Nomads on a cruise ship and explained in general what a DN looks like. The article wasn’t any better or worse than most average lifestyle magazines would publish. But readers from ‘Der Spiegel’ are not average and not amused by out of the box thinking or new-wave trends. After reading 51 comments out of which 47 were all against this ‘new’, ‘hollow’ and ‘bohemian’ concept, I asked myself:

Why does alternative Thinking mostly cause Fear and Anger?

It can be uncomfortable to see someone else doing things differently. Some people can literally feel irritated when something isn’t the way they are used to. And perhaps before thinking about it with an open mind, most people tend to criticise that other person (at first). At least, that came clearly through in most of ‘Der Spiegel’-readers’ comments.

All readers expressed their discomforts about Digital Nomads and their way of living: ‘The new form of street beggars; lazy; arrogant; no sense for community, selfish’, was one chain of argument. Others commented that Digital Nomads were dreamers and would all come crawling back to Germany eventually once they’d be old, broke or affected by cancer. Others said that the Digital Nomads’ lifestyle would create the next ‘bubble’ because their type of work was only supported by other hollow online businesses.

Beach in Mahahual, Mexico
Afterwork drink-setting for Digital Nomads…

I have read a lot about alternative ways of living, especially after I decided to not go back to my ‘old life’ and try to make life as a full-term traveller happen. And I am not the only one! In fact, there are so many people who work their way around the world and live a completely different lifestyle than most people would consider ‘normal’.  It seems to be a new style of travelling and for some it turns into a lifestyle. Slow-travel and working while you are travelling has revolutionised the tourism industry and it looks like there is more to it than just a ‘phase’.

The moment I left Germany to travel the world four years ago I noticed some sort of transformation happening in my way of thinking too. I met other people, heard their stories and saw examples that inspired me. I would go as far to say that travelling de-brainwashed my brain. So, when I read the comments of my fellow German citizens the other day, it almost shocked me how conservative and intolerant the main way of thinking was. And I realised how much I’ve changed. What I am criticising here is perhaps not unique to Germany or Germans. It is probably true for many other nations too that whenever there is something unconventional it causes fear and anger in people.

Hitch-hiking on Oahu
God forbid, she is hitch-hiking!!! :-O Perhaps another ‘no-go’ that would cause critique from many people… on Oahu, we got around just fine that way! 🙂


Dear reader of ‘Der Spiegel’,

Please keep eating your dinner at 7pm, then watch ‘Tatort’ on TV before going to bed. Routine is great! It will lead you well-organised to the only thing that you cannot control: the end. Fair enough, everyone makes their choices in life. How about you try and live your life for once though? Or at least, let other people live their lives and let them decide for themselves how they want to do so.

You know, I get it! You probably think that you will have to ‘clean up’ after those who don’t ‘fit in’ because everyone out of the norm brings nothing else but trouble. Isn’t that right? They seem to not get what you already figured out back in high-school. But let me ask you one question: Do you sometimes wonder, if you’re only goal in life should be to fit in and follow the way that everyone goes?

Please forgive me, but I have to say that for an intellectual person your comment appears a bit narrow-minded. If you ever try to change your way, I recommend you to travel for a while: Putting yourself into new scenarios and amongst other people can sometimes help to widen your horizon – at least that’s what they….

All the best!

A Digital Nomad

San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala
Digital Nomad-style: Working in a café in Guatemala…

Let there be travel!

Perhaps the readers of ‘Der Spiegel’ will be right in the end and all (Digital) Nomads eventually settle down somewhere and watch TV before they go to bed – who knows! But for now, let there be travel! It is already clear that there are more and more people around the globe researching about how to travel long-term. Teaching jobs or working in hostels are no longer the only options that makes it possible to go abroad.

For me it’s clear: The way of travelling has changed. And there are many people who are actually creating their lifestyles around their passion for exploring the globe. Why not be at least open towards this new way of living and welcome the positive aspects of being able to get to know all those places that this planet has to offer? Even if it means that one would have to turn into a Digital Nomad!

What is your opinion about digital nomads? Do you agree with the critics who think that this is a hollow lifestyle? Please leave a comment below, I would like to hear your thoughts!


By Julia Jerg

Julia is the founder and chief editor of Jey Jetter, a site that showcases the option of working remotely and travel as much as you like. Julia is a former PR/marketing consultant who turned into a remote working social media manager, travel writer and public speaker living location independently since 2011. She has been to 86 countries on all 6 continents and lived in several different countries for more than six months. Her laptop is her office and the label 'digital nomad' fits best to describe her lifestyle. On this site, she writes about personal freedom, remote work and her passion for travelling.

42 replies on “Why I Sometimes Feel Ashamed to Be German”

Spot on!Loved reading your post..infact I have been writing something similar too:) Glad to know you are fromGermany though..funnily I moved away from India and went to Germany about 4 years ago..and you left Germany that year I guess:)

The thing is, people seem to be more likely to comment on something if they have a strong negative perception, rather than a positive one. For this reason I’ve stopped reading the comments section on a lot of online news and lifestyle websites. Great and thought-provoking piece! Thanks

Thank you, Hannah, for your comment! And I think you’re having a valid point there, it is a bit like, bad news are good news in the sense that they provoke a reaction more easily than the positive ones..sad but true!

Great article, thanks for writing it!

The problem is not specific to Germans. I think it’s a combination of both jealousy and ignorance.

Sometimes I explain to someone what I do in simple words: “I work online, so I can work wherever I want”. It seems so easy to understand yet that same person will come back a few months later and ask me where do I get money from… I don’t know if they just don’t want to believe it, if it sounds too good to be true, or if maybe the concept is just hard to grasp for the average person.

I worked really hard in order to become a successful digital nomad, and I can confirm that this is not for everyone. Not because it requires any special skills, but because it requires an open mind, great doses of courage, and a hunger for freedom and independence that most people, unfortunately, don’t have.

I feel sorry for those back at home, who work all day in jobs they hate just to keep their heads above water, and don’t seem to have a way out. Sometimes I feel guilty too; it’s like I escaped from prison but left my friends there, carrying on with their life sentences.

But maybe this is just survival of the fittest after all, and we are the new elite.

Hey there, thanks for commenting and that interesting insight of yours! Great to hear that you’ve managed to establish yourself as a digital nomad, I know it’s not easy, so congrats! And I do agree that it requires determination and probably that hunger for independence. But perhaps it’s too much to say that those who don’t live like digital nomads live in a wrong way. You know, like you said, it’s not for everyone and that is, I think, not because they are not capable of doing it, but for some people other ways of living simply suit them better. I don’t believe everyone WANTS to become a digital nomad. Some people hate travelling and love their jobs, local communities, family routines, their friends close-by etc. and that’s fine. All I wish for is that people who do have that hunger inside themselves, that voice inside their heads that keeps telling them that they are not happy with life as it is, then that they at least try changing it. And if they can’t for whatever reason OR if they decide in the end for whatever reason to keep things like they are, then simply say, ‘at least I’ve tried’. The more annoying comments are from people who simply are against something that they don’t know much or they dislike it because they can’t tolerate alternative ways of living. You know, we all only have got this one life to live, so why don’t we simply acknowledge that with more than 7 billion individuals on this planet, that there can’t be only a handful of acceptable options to go through this life!?

This was incredibly interesting! When we decided to become “digital nomads” we were met with lots of confusion,incredulity and concern. IT’s definitely not a lifestyle many people understand or, evidently, agree with. Thanks for bringing to light some of the hardships we face when trying to explain ourselves and to the ignorance that exists around the concept of a digital nomad!

Thanks Carolann! It’s great to see how many others have similar experiences! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. I am overwhelmed how many supportive comments there are! All the best and happy travels to you 😀

An interesting perspective. There will be people who don’t like many things, but I don’t think that should dissuade you from celebrating life and living it the way you choose. Nor are those perspectives limited to Germany. There are lots of Canadians who love to criticize others and their chose lifestyle. Travel on! 😉

Thanks for your support and I think you’re right, Claudia! There will probably always be some people who think differently with whatever one chooses… But we would have a very hard time trying to suit all the different tastes, wouldn’t we! 😉

So I’m not a digital nomad yet, but I am a writer and I know the joys/lows of an unstable job like that. I think it’s easy for people to see the success stories, the photos of working at the beach, etc. that a digital nomad might show and think either a.) that looks amazing, but I could never do that or b.) that person is lying and will go back to working 9 to 5 (like those commenters on that Der Spiegel article seem to say). There are people out there who are negative and can’t see past their own unhappiness to something better (I was stuck like that for a while and it’s a horrible place to be), so I understand that people lash out and get defensive. At the same time I know that digital nomads have to work really hard to be successful. You have to be accountable for yourself, you’re in charge/responsible for everything and there’s a lot of pressure with that. I don’t think being a digital nomad is better or worse than a traditional 9 to 5 job, it’s just different and I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but it’s wonderful that it works for you. Can everyone be a digital nomad? No probably not, and some people might not want that either. Will the digital nomad lifestyle last long term for everyone who tries? No probably not as well, but if someone really wants to try it and has the discipline and hard work to be their own boss and create their own success then why not give it try? I think for some people seeing that this might even be at all possible for them is probably inspiring them to start making changes to being a digital nomad.

Thank you so much, Alouise, spot on! Sounds like you are considering it too… I just subscribed to your blog, so I will see how it goes for you! All the best and thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this topic!

Great article. Another travel partner in crime. I’m sitting in the airport as we speak. No routine for me.

This is a great post. One that makes you think. Personally I think it’s great if you can work and travel. I’m sorry that you feel that, type of thinking is a German thing when in fact a lot of cultures and generations still find it difficult to adjust to technology, alternative lifestyles, sexual orientation, religion etc…It’s been proven throughout history that people fear what they don’t understand. It will always what be what creates rifts between people. However, posts like this is what’s needed to bring those issues to everyone attention in order to change people’s thinking. I’m sure there are other Germans who share you point of view…

Absolutely Christopher! In fact, I know a lot of people from Germany who do relate to what I said in the article. That’s why I was a bit annoyed by those Germans who left such extremely opposite comments…I mean, everyone can express their opinions of course, but I had hoped that we’ve reached a century of a bit more openness towards a topic like this… You’re absolutely right to say that it is not a German thing, and yes, it is some sort of natural human reaction against the unknown…sadly that is true! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and all the best!

It is not just the Germans, I have noticed that a lot people in North America also feel this way about Digital Nomads. I don’t know if it is jealousy or just a dislike about how other people live their lives. Life is not just about paying bills, and buying stuff you don’t need. More people need to get out and travel. It is amazing how intolerant people have become, or maybe it is just me as I too have had my way of thinking transformed by full time travel.

Great comment, Rob, thanks for that! It does look like you’ve gone through the same transformation phase that I felt in me after a while of travelling…it’s a strange feeling when one looks back to ‘the old self’, isn’t it… Safe travels and thanks again

Great read! Could it be that the readers were from an older generation? I feel that often it’s because they fully don’t understand what exactly we are doing with our lives as digital nomads? They cannot grasp how the world is shifting so that being part of working society doesn’t mean you have to be tied down to one location. I can understand your annoyance though! 🙂 Let there be travel!

Thank you Anna, for sure it has something to do with age! But unfortunately I can’t say that it’s only the elderly who share this old-fashioned way of thinking, I personally know people my age who don’t agree with it either… But I believe that it’s just a matter of time until more and more successful examples of living a life location-independantly become public… you seem to be one of them, so let’s just keep doing what we’re doing, shall we! 😀

One of the downsides of travel is you come back to your home country and can’t help but notice all the shameful behaviour and stubborn ways of thinking. It’s not just your country I promise!
I don’t understand how travel can be considered a “hollow lifestyle”. To me that’s what a life of coming home after work and watching soaps is! Each to their own I guess

Hey Claire, thanks for your comment and yes, that is definitely one side-effect from travel! One notices afterwards some things in their home country that weren’t as obvious before leaving for a while. But I guess you said it exactly right: Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they want to do with their lives,…!

I would say your fellow Germans are jealous of your lifestyle I am jealous of it. Just keep on doing what your doing only you need be happy with what your doing. Ignorance breeds intolerance

On a side note. If any Germans would like to meet other Germans outside of Germany, go to Cape Town, you will find many there 🙂 Then again, Cape Town seems like a magnet for people from all over the world.

Oh my gosh, yes, the Germans are everywhere!! Hahaha, yes, I can definitely say that apart from that wave of critical comments below that particular article, Germans ARE one of the more wanderlust type of nation!! Watch out, I will pop by one day too, Cape Town is on my list! 😀

Hi there! Wie gehts? I am a digital nomad from Germany as well and I can absolutely relate to what you said. I considered myself open and educated before I had my first study abroad experience, where I tried to immerse as much as possible. It turned out, I had a pretty low tolerance towards other cultures’ approaches to work ethic and I became utterly frustrated in group work and quite the scrooge in behaviour. I soon made from with people from all over the world and that opened my eyes. Everyone is different but we are not that much different. it is just our expectations and attitudes vary but the world isn’t black and white and nothing is right or wrong and I started questioning everything. Why do Germans do this and that? Why do we think it is ‘normal’ or ‘the right thing to do’? Why do we think we know about other countries just because we watch Tagesschau? When I set out to travel the world and not stop not even two years ago, I set out to become less German, which for me meant less rigid, less opinionated and less uptight. I tried to challenge myself every day and whenever I get back home I realise how much I have changed and how narrow-minded many an ‘open-minded’ person’s opinions actually are. Argueing about it never leads to my hoped for revelation and in the end, I am a fierce advocat for travel. You can’t tell someone about the world and its wonder, they have to see it otherwise there won’t be change. And though I applaud the Germans lust for travel, going travelling and diving in deeper we certainly don’t do well. I just hope that changes in the future seeing that working holidays gain more and more importance. So thank you for your honest article! And safe travels.

Hi Andrea, thanks for your comments and your interesting thoughts! I really can relate to what you are saying and think that most people who leave their countries will find that their perspectives change once they look at it from outside. It is probably not only a German thing, but for sure in Germany there are the characteristics that you mentioned very present. Probably that’s why those Germans who leave and like the more relaxed and open-mindedness of some other nations, will most likely become a bit more distant and detached from home. Yet, to be fair and consider all sides, there are a high number of Germans out travelling and also a big percentage of the exisiting Digital Nomads are actually from Germany. So, I guess it’s just a matter of transitioning to a complete acceptance of alternative ways of living. But I hope and believe that we Germans will in the end accept all types of lifestyle one day. We just need to get used to the idea that living and working around the world is not affected negatively those who stay at home…. Thank you again for taking part in this discussion and all the best! I am following you blog too by the way, great to be connected! Happy travels 😀

Hello! New reader to your blog 🙂 I couldn’t agree more, and it’s not just Germans who think this way. I’d say it’s majority of ‘normal’ working people. I guess the unknown scares them in some way, and let’s face it, this is the path less trodden so people are bound to be sceptical. As I get older I do start to care more about things like health care and what I’ll do for a pension someday, but I’m trying to adapt to also meet my needs for security while I travel and work (if anyone has advice on how they deal with these things, I’d love to hear it!).

Anyway, this is why I love blogging and reading other digital nomad’s blogs, and I guess this is why I’ve fallen out of touch with what general opinion on DM is at the moment!

Hey Andrea, great to have you! And thank you very much for your comment! I guess that is exactly what happens, once you are out and mingle with like-minded people, other point of views and topics get further out of sight… I usually really don’t care what others think, but those comments just made me want to open up a public pledge for more tolerance! And I do agree, general topics like health care or pension is not related to your current lifestyle – everyone will get old eventually so we all need to find our way to deal with it. Haven’t figured it out yet either, but I will let you know if I do so! 🙂

I also just checked out your blog and really like your site! You are now officially counting a new reader. Let’s stay in touch and hopefully the nomadic lifestyle will one day be without mysteries and as easy as the conventional one! Happy travels

Hey Jey, thanks for posting! I am a digital nomad for nearly two years now and have been an active traveller during the years before.
I’m also Dutch, so I might have gotten a few things wrong here because of my poor German reading skills 🙂

Having said that, I don’t think all the criticism on the Spiegel article is completely off: Some commenters point out that the journalist/writer should’ve taken more distance from her subject. Another worries about ecology. One mentions it must be hard to make a living this way and he worries that the nomads will make use of the German welfare system once they come back broke (and he might be right:

Replying to them with:
“Please keep eating your dinner at 7pm, then watch ‘Tatort’ on TV before going to bed.”
seems a bit condescending to me.

My opinion on the digital nomad lifestyle is that it can be as hollow or fulfilling as you make it, just as with staying home.

Hey Abraham, great to hear an opinion from another Digital Nomad and neighbour! And you are absolutely right, it all depends 100% (like with almost everything in life) on each individual person. My reply was intentionally exaggerated and a bit cynic remembering some of the rather extreme comments such as the one with cancer… In general I am not so much interested in who is right or wrong, because in my opinion there is no such thing in this case. All I was hoping for was a bit more tolerance and open-mindedness towards other people who decide to try something new. Even if they don’t succeed, it’s everyone’s right to give it at least a try and live a life they think is best for them. Peace, over and out! 🙂

Sabine, Your heartfelt comment are excellent. There has always been a certain skepticism about people who do slow travel and work their way around the world. Being from New Zealand originally, where Kiwis have been doing slow travel since the 1960s, this way of life has never been considered off-base to me. Now, with Internet businesses, travelers can support themselves while they travel. I’m sure a lot of people are just jealous of the digital nomads, and are slinging off against them because they just can’t get their heads around how someone can support themselves without clocking in every morning and working a 9-to-5 job for “the man”. Perhaps this carefree attitude stands out more in German culture. Having spent a lot of time in Germany a few year back, I did notice that the German culture and lifestyle tends to be fairly rigid, and that people who don’t follow “the rules” are considered “different”. This sort of rigid belief system got Germany into a lot of trouble last century, when one dictator and his rabid followers hijacked the entire nation for 12 years of terror and untold destruction, which ultimately destroyed the country. Of course, since then Germany has become a model citizen of the world, and that is now one country where a total dictatorship will never be allowed to take hold. It may be hard to change what could be a “genetic” trait in Germans, that need for order, but I am glad that younger Germans such as yourself are taking exception to such stereotyping and objecting to such classifications. In another time, your name might be Sophie Scholl. Good for you for standing up for travel bloggers, Sabine. Your blog is excellent, by the way. Keep up the good writing!

Thanks very much for your thoughts and encouraging words, Roy! I agree, times have changed but perhaps the most characteristic stereotypes of a nation are hard to get rid off…I must say though, on the road and in the web, I see extremely present especially Germans who travel and adapted the nomadic/ alternative lifestyle. So, perhaps my post should have included them a bit more, because I now feel I did them wrong. There is a great wanderlust in all of us Germans as I can tell by meeting them all over the world every once in a while. So, I hope it came through that I was only addressing those Germans who don’t like to think a bit outside the box, which there are still quite a few left, I am afraid. Anyways, thanks again Roy, I really appreciate your thoughts and hope you are enjoying your own journey! Happy travels to you!!

Hi there! I am Sabine’s partner in crime, aka travel partner. At least we are sometimes made to feel like we are committing a crime. It is a deep in grained animal instinct to travel, to migrate. It’s just that most humans, I think, have succumbed to ‘the system’. Every time I watch The Matrix I see things in a different light. The red pill, or the blue?

I think it all comes down to plain old jealousy. That deep in grained instinct to migrate, or just travel is still there, but it has been so far repressed they lash out at those of us who have found a way out. This is also not a uniquely German thing, we have this problem in Belgium too.

I don’t like to think that we are fighting the system, we are not. I can fully appreciate the need for decent medical care, and a good pension might also be nice. But if we think we have found a better way to attain those things, why not?

Bill Gates is famous for saying he prefers to hire lazy people to do a hard job. They will find a quicker easier way to get the same job done 🙂 So they can sit on the beach and sip Pina Coladas sooner 😉

Interesting thoughts and thanks for your support! Yes, I think only those who try it out one day can actually relate to what we are saying or doing. Perhaps a few years ago I would have reacted and judged the same. And only because I am lucky or because I was brave/crazy or bored enough to step out and try something new, today I can actually evaluate both sides (if there is such thing). We are all still part of one big idea, and I don’t think long-term travellers or nomads are completely out of the system. I do agree with you that there is not EVERYTHING wrong with it, of course. In fact, it works quite well and I do understand that most people tend to decide for what works for them and has worked just fine. But it’s great to hear another adventurous soul’s opinion and to know that there is always room for alternatives… Happy travels to you guys and thanks again for stopping by!!! 😀

I loved reading this article. I think many people (sorry, many digital nomads) will feel exactly like you. But you know what, I just try not to let it bother me, because I know I don’t have a boring life. I feel sorry for them and their daily routine. And I think, jealousy can be very mean.
I’ve got friends with a normal life who have no idea what a digital nomad is, but they are content with what they have and are content with my digital life (even though they have no idea what it is about).
I also got friends with a ‘normal’ life who’d love to break out but are too scared to do so and those are the ones with the mean comments.
Way to go girl! Continue being a digital nomad!! 🙂

Thanks so much, Sabine! It really is great to know that there are others out there who feel the same! And you know what, I don’t actually feel sorry for people with a different lifestyle or opinion. As long as they are happy, all is good. But I would like them to simply leave other people alone and let them have their way too…we don’t ask them to change their lifestyle, do we!? 🙂 Anyways, thanks again for leaving this comment here and happy travels to you!!! 😀

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