From the amount they earn to their religious convictions and cars they drive, gaping differences between Germans in the former Communist East and the West persist after almost 25 years of reunification, a study published on Wednesday showed.
Many don’t even like each other, with a third of East Germans viewing westerners as arrogant.
The authors of the study, the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, said it would take another generation for Germany to grow together.
“The results of the study surprised us,” Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute, told reporters. “Now as then (in 1990) the two parts of Germany are astonishingly different.”
Helmut Kohl, chancellor at the time, pushed through political union, exchanged West Germany’s deutsche mark for the East German mark and promised flourishing landscapes for the former Communist states.
But a mix of factors, including outdated economic structures and a way of life imposed on citizens by communist rule, have hampered real integration.
“Unity is not a political act of will but a long process,” said Klingholz.
Although economic differences are narrowing and the flow of people moving westwards has largely dried up, the study showed East German workers earn on average a quarter less than western counterparts, work longer and have lower productivity.
While a few cities in the east, such as Dresden and Leipzig, are booming, property there on average is worth only half as much as that in the west, said the study.
Ahead of celebrations to mark 25 years of unity on Oct. 3, perhaps the most striking rifts are in peoples’ attitudes. Roughly three quarters of East Germans do not belong to a religious community whereas the situation is virtually the reverse in western states.
In a country obsessed by cars, brand preferences also reflect differences: West Germans drive luxury BMWs almost twice as much as East Germans who, in turn, prefer Skodas, originally from the Czech Republic.
Roughly 30 percent of West Germans believe that it is better for men to work full time and for women to stay at home, about double the proportion in East Germany where traditionally women went out to work.
Some 19 million Germans – just under a quarter of the population – have been born in the last 25 years and the report estimated that share would rise to more than half by 2040, when Germany celebrates 50 years of togetherness.
“By then, at the latest, we will have a new Germany,” said Klingholz.