The idea of "Gemeinnützigkeit"

3rd Blog: by Lotte von Hofacker - Saturday, 14 January 2023, 8:26 PM

As my time in Liechtenstein comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the many cultural practices and people that I encountered during my stay. One that stands out in my mind as particularly unfamiliar at first, but which has since become familiar, is the concept of "Gemeinnützigkeit" or "public benefit" in Liechtenstein's political and social landscape.

When I first arrived in Liechtenstein, I was struck by the small country's strong sense of community and civic responsibility. Many organizations and institutions, from charities to sports clubs, are structured as "gemeinnützig" entities, meaning they are legally required to operate for the public benefit and are restricted in their ability to distribute profits. At first, I found this concept confusing and even a bit limiting. 

However, as I spent more time in Liechtenstein and learned more about the culture and history of the country, I began to understand the reasoning behind this concept. Liechtenstein is a small country with a strong sense of community, and the idea of "gemeinnützigkeit" is deeply ingrained in the culture. By requiring organizations to operate for the public benefit, the government ensures that resources and efforts are directed towards serving the community as a whole, rather than individual gain.

As I became more familiar with this concept, I also began to see its practical benefits. I was struck by the number of volunteers and community members who were actively engaged in making their country a better place. From organizing charity events to volunteering at local schools, I saw firsthand how the idea of "gemeinnützigkeit" encouraged people to give back to their community.

This experience helped me to change my self-perception in a number of ways. First, it made me realize that there are different ways of approaching social and economic issues, and that profit is not the most important motivator. It also helped me to understand that my own cultural biases and assumptions can limit my ability to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others.

In conclusion, my experience in Liechtenstein has taught me the importance of being open-minded and willing to learn about unfamiliar cultural practices and institutions. By coming to understand the concept of "gemeinnützigkeit" and its role in Liechtenstein's society, I was able to gain a deeper appreciation for the country and its people, and to change my own perspective on what the country was representing. This experience has been truly invaluable in my intercultural learning and personal growth.