Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Freecycle and the Germans

When we were living in Australia, Freecycle was extremely popular. We would actively participate by offering our stuff that we don't use anymore, and receiving stuff from others. There were plenty of other participants in Freecycle.

Now that we are living in Germany, we also want to participate in the local version of it. However, it doesn't seem to be as popular as the Australian versions.  The stats from the Cologne version of freecycle shows that only a small number of traffic.

The equivalent group in Frankston, Australia shows almost an order of magnitude more as the following screen capture shows.
I don't have any ideas why there is such a disparity between the two Freecycle groups. I do have a feeling that most of it may have to do with cultural differences.

In most part of Australia, there isn't a stigma of receiving or using second hand items. That stigma does appear to be present in Germany, especially among the locals. However, among the expat community, the sharing of used items are more prevelant. Having said that, Freecycle is not popular among expats as the language is German rather than English. The expat tends to use forums such as Toytown Germany or English Speaking clubs / community such as AIWCC or English Speaking Cologne.

All around town, I see many hard rubbish items sitting on the kerbside waiting to be picked up. Most of these items are is reasonable condition and would definitely be usable in someone's house. For a country that exercise plenty of recycling, and being environmentally friendly, I am really surprise that it does participate more in Freecycle.

Perhaps, it could just a case that I don't know where to look. Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Germans normally don't give it away for free but really cheap:-)

johanna elliott said...

I too am wondering what the cultural difference is. I came from Australia 8 years ago, but had never used (or heard of) the Freecycle platform. None-the-less, having finished with things like children's clothes, I had found a friend with a child a couple of years younger, who became the grateful recipient of all my son`s hand-me-downs. In contrast, a lot of women I know keep these things for years!!! I liked the idea of seeing the baby things in particular, being worn again. And of course, the environmental costs, etc. Years since then, I have come to realise that this was perceived by some as a somewhat foolish, and sometimes as an act of condescension on my behalf. One must carefully vet the recipient of any goods to establish that they won't be offended by the suggestion that they are in need of second hand clothes. Sometimes I have found things that I have given to others being sold on Ebay!!! Others have informed me about the health of wearing second-hand shoes...I kind of liked the concept of the Ebay Kleinanzeiger, because I always thought that if people were prepared to pay even a tiny sum, that established that they actually wanted the item, and were not just taking an unwanted "gift".
The system of putting "rubbish", or unwanted goods, "Sperrmüll" out on the street, is long established. There are a bunch of guys, usually on bikes with attached trailers, who go through everything you leave and will politely ask if they may take things, before the official city collection the next morning. This service is provided by the city. What the city then does with the stuff, I do not know. But I suspect that this service is the main reason that Freecycle didn't really take off.
I think that the cultural difference may be that in Australia, and USA, people assume it is their interest in the environment that motivated them to "gift" their old pushbike on Freecycle, but actually it is the convenience of having someone come and pick it up. Or is that too cynical? Happy to hear your thoughts.