Many people in the United States today come from diverse ancestry groups. German is one of the most popular with over 42 million people living the United States whose ancestry can be traced back to Germany. The largest immigration of Germans came to the United States in the mid 1800s. The German people brought their customs and traditions to the United States today. When reflecting on Germany, the culture can be understood and some of the customs and traditions may be recognized in everyday life.
The history of Germany can be traced back to ancient times. It was during the period between 9AD and 900AD that Germany became a distinct region. From around 900-1806, it was known as Germania and was part of the Holy Roman Empire. The name Germany evolved over the years from ancient times to the 19th century from a collection of names of the tribes who inhabited the region. The borders of Germany remained stable until the 20th century. After World War 2, Germany to split into two countries separated by the Berlin Wall. It wasn’t until 1990 that East Germany and West Germany reunified, and the Berlin wall was taken down. The capital of Germany is Berlin. It is the largest city with a population of almost 4 million people.
Germany is about the size of Montana. Even though that seems small for a country, it is the sixth largest country in Europe. The language spoken is German by at least 95% of its citizens. Germany is in Central Europe and is bordered by the Baltic sea, North Sea, and other European countries. The landscape elevates from below sea level to the snow-capped alps. It has a very diverse terrain from beaches, mountains, farmland and marshes creating a beautiful landscape pleasing to most.
Germany is a parliamentary and federal democracy. The German Bundestag, the constitutional body most present in the public eye, is directly elected by citizens eligible to vote every four years. The most important tasks of the Bundestag are legislation and to oversee the government’s work. The Bundestag elects the Federal Chancellor for the legislative period by secret ballot. Within the Federal Government, the Chancellor has the authority to lay down guidelines. The Federal Chancellor appoints the federal ministers, and from among them, a Deputy Chancellor (“Federal State”). There is a Federal Constitutional Court that is very influential in that it is considered the guardian of basic law.
The currency used in Germany is the Euro. Prior to 2002, the Deutsche Mark was the used. The switch to the Euro made it easy to make purchases with surrounding European states. Credit cards are also used to make purchases but are not widely used. The conversion to the Euro was a challenge for the citizens but it did not take long for most to discover the convenience to have the same currency as neighboring countries.
Everyone who earns money in Germany is subject to paying income tax. However, all resident individuals are taxed on their worldwide income (“Germany-Taxes”). The tax rate of an individual is subject to pay is based on a linear progressive scale that reflects a 42% tax rate on the high end. There are no local or state income taxes levied.
Germany has a mixed economy. It allows a free market economy in consumer goods and business services. But the government imposes regulations even in those areas to protect its citizens. Germany has a command economy in defense since everyone receives the benefit, while those with higher incomes pay more in taxes. The government provides health care insurance and education. That means you pay into the system according to your income and receive benefits according to your need (Amadeo, 2020).
Germany has the fourth largest economy in the world with the United States, Japan, and China as top three. Germany’s total GDP is $3.4 trillion (Amadeo, 2020). It is the largest manufacturing economy in Europe. The top exports are machinery which includes computers, cars, and chemical products. Top imports are machinery, including computer equipment, vehicles, and mineral fuels which includes oil.
Germany's economy has survived the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic because of an aid package that granted to prevent insolvencies, mass layoffs and a rise in poverty. The country, like all others, was forced to find other ways to keep business open and workers employed. If businesses must close, the economy will be affected by rising unemployment rates resulting in less manufacturing.
Covid-19 has affected all European countries. Germany has been praised for its tackling of the coronavirus pandemic, having managed to keep its deaths under 10,000 people while its European neighbors have seen higher fatalities (Ellyatt, 2020). Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany has shown elements of success across the four phases of preparedness and response framework: prevent, detect, contain, and treat. The country’s incredibly strong enabling environment, including a good local public and health care system and expert scientific institutions, has largely contributed to this broad-based progress (Wieler, et al. 2020). Measures such as social distancing and masking were also used to prevent spread of the virus.
There are several social issues that affect Germany. School violence and high school dropout rates, reunification, and immigration are a few of them. School violence in Germany is an ongoing problem, especially in elementary schools. It has gotten to the point where teachers have been writing the Senate Office asking if the school could be shut down. Bullying and victimizing children is the main problem. Also, school dropout rates have skyrocketed since 2008, especially in Eastern Germany. Some say it is their surroundings, such as bad neighborhoods, bad parenting, etc. The government is currently trying to stop elementary school violence and high school dropouts, but it is very hard to stop because of the high number of children taking part in both (Stroh, 2020).
Reunification issues continue between Eastern and Western Germany. Neither side can understand how each other thinks. There is a standard of living difference in which the government is trying to help by raising the standards to be equal. Both sides were governed differently until the reunification. When the countries divided, Russia drained the money out of Eastern Germany and the country was a communist country and its people lived by a lower standard (Stoh, 2020).
The immigration of Turks increased after World War 2 when they came to Germany to help rebuild. They were supposed come to work and go back home when the work was completed but that did not happen. The Turks stayed in Germany. Part of the problem is that the Turks do not want to renounce their citizenship in Turkey. They have a dual citizenship. However, German law does not allow dual citizenship so they must renounce their Turkish citizenship first (Stoh, 2020). Since the Turks continue to work in Germany, the German people feel as though the Turks are taking away their jobs. The German government will not ask them to leave because they want a more populated country.
The education system in Germany consists of an elementary education and a secondary education. The secondary education is split into a lower secondary education which is a vocational track and an upper secondary education which is a vocational-dual track. The elementary education starts at the age of six and lasts for nine years. Elementary education is the only stage in German education where all student study at the same type of school. From grades 1 to 4, almost all German pupils attend a Grundschule, where they study the same basic general subjects. At the end is foundation cycle, students move on to different types of lower secondary schools (Trines, 2016).
The secondary education system includes multiple programs at both the lower and upper secondary levels. These programs emphasize either vocational skills or preparation for tertiary-level education, depending on the track (Trines, 2016). The lower secondary school prepares the student for admission to the upper secondary vocational school. The upper secondary school has two tracks. One track focuses on academics and the other focuses on practical training. More than 50% of the students focus on practical training (Trines, 2016).
German schools emphasize academics. Even though they do provide some physical education, school sports are rare. Athletes that want to play a sport must attend sport school also known as Sportschule. These schools, found in most areas of Germany, specialize in developing a student’s talent in a sport, while also providing a strong academic program. Sport schools come in several varieties: public or private, boarding school or day school or both. They specialize in various sports (soccer, swimming, handball, rowing, boxing, skiing, field and track, etc.) (HF, 2018). Some of the sports schools are certified by national German sports organizations that earn them elite status. The goal of the elite sports schools is to produce athletes that can perform and win at the Olympics. Germany has 18 Olympic training centers which are partnered with the sports schools. About 30 to 60 percent of German medal winners and participants (winter sports have the highest percentage) at recent Olympic games have been current or former students of German elite sports schools (HF, 2018).
Germans have only one federal holiday and that is October 3. This is the day that East and West Germany reunified. Germany celebrates the Christian holidays including Christmas and Easter. About 65 to 70 of people recognize themselves as Christians, 29% of which as Catholics (Zimmermann, 2018). There is also a Muslim minority of 4.4%. A number as high as 36% do not identify themselves as having any religion or belong to another than Christianity or Muslim (“German Culture: Facts”).
One of the country’s biggest celebrations is called Oktoberfest. The celebration runs from September to October for a span of 18 days. Germans like their beer. It is the most popular alcoholic drink. Other popular alcoholic drinks are brandy, wine and schnapps. German food culture revolves around the preparation of hearty meals. Meat is typically eaten with most meals along with bread and potatoes (“German Culture”). A popular meat in Germany is the bratwurst. Pork is the most common meat consumed (Zimmermann, 2018).
One of the best traits of the German people and culture, is that they like to take care of each other. For example, lost items are hung on trees. For example, at a park in Germany, or anywhere near a tree, if there is something hanging at its lowest branches, That is a lost thing. Somebody has lost it, and the other one who found it took care to hang it on the tree. When retracing their steps, the owner will have it easier to find their belonging (“German Culture: Facts”).
Germany has many places of interest to visit. A few of them are its cathedrals, the Berlin Wall, and Dacahu Concentration Camp. Germany has cathedrals that were built during the Gothic era and some of the architecture was built in the 15th century. It also is home to several castles and palaces that have survived for centuries. A portion of the Berlin Wall remains in Berlin as a memorial when Germany was divided. It is a place of interest for many tourists and a reminder of the cold war. Dacahu Concentration Camp has also attracted many tourists. It was the first concentration camp in Germany and the only concentration camp to remain open the entire span of German rule.
Germany is a country rich in history, customs and traditions. It is a common ancestry in the United States and is evidenced in customs and traditions to many people. Many of us eat bratwurst especially at our tailgate parties during sporting events. Oktoberfest is also celebrated in some ethnic areas of the United States and the traditional holidays are widely celebrated by Christians. In reflection, Germany has a significant influence in the western culture and some of that culture is part of everyday life.
- Amadeo, K. “Germany’s Economy, Its Successes and Challenges,” The Balance, 28 Jul 2020, www.thebalance.com/germany-s-economy.
- Ellyatt, H. “Collateral Damage: Germany Has Limited Its Coronavirus Death Toll, but It Hasn’t Escaped Criticism,” Health & Science, 23 Sept. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/09/23/germany-has-limited-its-coronavirus-death-toll-but-faces-criticism.html.
- “Federal State,” The State & Politics, www.tatsachen-ueber-deutschland.de/en/politics-Germany/federal-state. Accessed 20 Oct 2020.
- “German Culture,” Expatrio, www.expatrio.com/living-germany/german-culture. Accessed 10 Oct 2020.
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- HF. “Sportschulen: Sport Schools in Germany,” The German Way & More, 21 May 2018, www.german-way.com/sportschulen-sports-schools-in-germany.
- Stroh, E. “Major Social Issues,” Germany, www.germanyglobalissues.weebly.com/ major-social-issues.html. Accessed 20 Oct 2020.
- Trines, S. “Education in Germany,” World Education News and Reviews. 8 Nov 2016, https://wentr.wes.org/2016/11/education-in-germany.
- Wieler, L, Rexroth, U, Gottschalk, R. “Emerging COVID-19 Success Story: Germany’s Strong Enabling Environment,” Exemplars in Global Health, 30 June 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/covid-exemplar-germany.
- Zimmermann, K. “German Culture: Facts, Customs and Traditions,” Live Science, 9 Mar 2018, https://livescience.com/44007-german-culture.html.