Germans have an uncanny ability to produce unique terms to describe every possible circumstance. One such word is Gießkannenprinzip, which describes exactly what it sounds like!
Literally translated, the term means “watering can principle”, and it describes the principle of giving everyone an equal share of something. Watering cans often have many holes in the cap where the water pours out, allowing for the equal distribution of water on a plant. The “watering can principle” therefore describes situations where a person or an organization distributes something (often money) equally among others.
Let’s look at two examples:
If a company pays all of its employees the same salary – regardless of performance – that company is operating by the Gießkannenprinzip. Even if one employee works harder and longer than the rest, while another employee sleeps at their desk, their pay stubs will always be equal.
As another example, a parent may have two children – a 7-year-old and a 16-year-old. That parent gives both children $5 in allowance every week, even though the 16-year-old has more expenses than the 7-year-old.
In some cases, the Gießkannenprinzip can be beneficial if a person or organization strives to treat everyone equally. But in other instances, it is not always fair or practical. If you’re reading the news in Germany, you may find articles using the word Gießkannenprinzip to describe an organizations flawed economic principles or a political party’s perspectives.
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy