Psychology: How the Place Affects the Character

I crossed over ten years ago and moved from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to Hamburg. Since then I am a chimera, half Wessi, half Ossi – a Wossi. I noticed this for the first time when they offered me bananas in Hamburg, grinning. But even then, there seemed to be little differences, and now I finally know why.


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Issue 41/2019

500 years ago: how a Spanish adventurer destroyed the mysterious Great Power

According to psychologists, the origin and the place of residence form the character. According to this, people in the north are actually overcooled, the southern Germans comfortable and big-city minded. The differences in the mind have far-reaching consequences: Several studies have shown in the past that the prevailing characters have a say in how a region chooses, how many crimes there are, how to cope with an economic crisis.


 The cool North German and the open-minded urbanites: the prejudices are correct

Severin Matusek / EyeEm / Getty Images

The cool North German and the open-minded urbanites: the prejudices are correct


In a new analysis, researchers led by Martin Obschonka of the Queensland University of Technology evaluated more than 73,000 questionnaires from people in Germany, where each person can estimate how chatty, open or nervous they are. Scientists from Germany also participated in the analysis.


The test reveals what psychologists call the five crucial characteristics: extraversion, that is, how extro- or introvert someone is, conscientiousness, openness, social acceptability, and emotional lability.


The process has pitfalls: researchers can hardly control whether the respondents answer truthfully and whether they assess themselves realistically. In addition, significantly more young people clicked through the questionnaire, the results are therefore representative only conditionally.


Nevertheless, they are conspicuously covered with stereotypes: in the East, people are conscientious but introverted, the same goes for the North. On the other hand, the most sluggish are the Lower Bavaria, Franconia and south-west Lower Saxony.


Obschonka et al./ Regional Personality Differences in Germany / Friedrich Schiller University Jena


Especially in the case of emotional lability, also known as neuroticism, Germany seems to be divided into two parts. However, not along the former inner-German border, but along a line that connects Cologne and Munich. Those who live north of this line are more prone to nervousness, are more irritable, less satisfied and susceptible to stress.


In contrast, the "happy personalities" in Germany live in big cities. The people there are considered particularly extroverted, cosmopolitan and resilient – the best conditions to be happy.


According to the test, I'm an O_41-C_64-E_89-A_74-N_18 big-five personality type and thus the typical Wossi: more conscientious than the average Wessi, but more extrovert than the standard Ossi. That explains a lot.


If you want to know your personality type, here's the test.




Yours, Julia Köppe


Feedback & suggestions?





My Reading Recommendations of this Week



  • Actually, the US fighter pilot F-35 should be invisible to radar systems. In a very readable story, my colleague Christoph Seidler explains how German technology still tracked the plane and what a pony farm had to do with it.

  • The idea that we lived in an exclusively selfish world seems outdated. Instead, nature evidently has developed a hidden code that rewards collaboration. In the podcast "Radiolab" you can hear why cooperation almost always pays off, especially for bank robbers.



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