German Culture: Facts, Customs and Traditions
The people, language, and traditions are what make the German culture unique. It has had a key role in the history of Europe, and not only. English speakers call it Germany, Germans themselves call it Deutschland. Germany is known as the country of poets and thinkers.
German culture has been influenced and shaped throughout Germany‘s rich history once as an important part of The Holy Roman Empire, and later on as one of the most stable economies in the world.
Whereas today, Germany is home to 82.2 million people including Germans and minorities of other nationalities that respect each other, and together make Germany a country of values, unique celebrations, and customs.
In this article, we have given some facts about the German culture, which has its roots at the beginning of the first millennium, though through time it has lost and gained different traits from the historical events that have shaped not only Germany but the whole old continent of Europe.
Firstly, here are some facts about today’s Germany. Though English-speaking countries call it Germany, Germans themself call it Deutschland. It is Germania in Latin, l’Allemagne in French and Almanya in Turkish.
Berlin is its capital, but Hamburg, Munich and Cologne are also among the main cities of Germany. It is estimated that the average woman in Germany lives around 83 years, while the average man lives 79 years. The main language is German and main religion is Christianity.
There are a lot of stereotypes about Germans, as that they drink a lot of beer (which is true), they are hardworking and punctual (which is also true), and that the rate of unemployment in Germany is very low (true again).
Over 95% of the residents of Germany speak the German language, whether it is the standard German or any of its dialects. However, the German state has recognized four minority languages, which are the Upper and Lower Sorbian, Romani, Danish as well as North and Saterland Frisian.
Because of the high number of immigration, there are also languages spoken by a sizable number of communities, as Turkish, Kurdish, Russian, Greek. Albanian, Polish etc.
Today, the average German dress is typically western. Both men and women wear dark simple suits and shirts in business context. However, each region of the country have their own traditional costumes, which differ a bit from one another. For example, in the state of Bavaria, the traditional costume for men is leather trousers that end just above the knee, while for women it is a dress that incorporates a bodice, blouse, full skirt and an apron. You can see people wearing these costumes, especially during carnivals or festivals.
In Germany a percentage of 65 to 70 of people recognize themselves as Christians, 29% of which as Catholics. 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.
The German symbols have changed through different phases in history alongside the events that have shaped its culture and traditions. The eagle was part of the Holy Roman Empire, which after Prussia’s victory over Austria in 1886 has been shared by two different states. Martin Luther and luminaries as Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottfried von Herder and Johann Wolfgang Goethe are also important figures and very contentious symbols. Today the most known symbol of the country is its black, red and gold flag
Germany is one of the leading nations when it comes to reading, too. The German publishers, publish around 94 thousand new books each year, and the International Frankfurt Book Fair, which is the most important book event in the world, is held in Germany. Many don’t know, but the first known book was printed in German, just as the first ever known magazine.
According to a research conducted by Allensbach Media Market Analysis, 44.6% of the German population read a book at least once a week, while 58.3% of Germans buy at least one book per year.
Some of the most famous philosophers were born and lived in Germany, as Immanuel Kant, who played a central role in the history of philosophy, and he was inspired by German philosopher Schopenhauer and Nietzsche who spent their whole lives in Germany. On the other hand the developers of the communist theory Marx and Engels were also Germans.
Germans drink a lot of beer, eat sausages and make bread of different taste. That is not only a stereotype, but a true fact. It is estimated that the average German consumes around 140 liters of beer per year. Only in 2012 alone, Germans drank 2.25 gallons of beer, which is actually the lowest level since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990. They are the second largest beer consumers in Europe, after the Czech.
Wurst, which means sausages in German, are an important part of the German cuisine, which are made of pork, beef or veal and flavored differently. As for bread, there is a long tradition of bread-baking of which Germans take pride in. There are breads with different shapes, black and white, with different tastes and names, sweet, soft, plain with all types of seeds you could think of.
The German cuisine is also rich with different types of delicious traditional foods, as well as vegetarian and vegan. You may be a picky eater, but in Germany you will always have a lot of choices on what to eat and drink.
World’s most renowned classical composers, as Bach and Beethoven, who have marked the transition of music between the classical and romantic to western classical music, are Germans, who were born and died in Germany. Other famous composers from Germany are Brahms, Schubert, Handel, Telemann, Orff etc.
Nowadays, Germany is home to many music festivals, starting from electronic music to hip-hop and rock & roll. The largest music festival in Germany, which is also one of the largest in the world, is the Rock am Ring festival which gathers artists and performers, as well as music fans from all over the world.
Germany also has many opera houses, which also serve as a tourist attraction for foreign visitors.
The country has gone through a tumultuous history, the signs of which are evident in its rich and diverse architecture. Its palaces, castles, cathedrals and monuments best tell the story of Germany. Amphitheaters, spas and roman bridges are part of the ancient architecture and the civilization that bloomed in the territory that today is Germany. Pre-Romanesque architecture consists of churches as the Abbey Church of Saint Michael’s that dates back to the beginning of the 10th century. Whereas, during the Romanesque period a lot of cathedrals were built, which have survived through time till today.
The Cologne Cathedral as well as many other cathedrals were built during the Gothic era. The Renaissance, which bloomed between the 15th and 17th centuries, is characterized by castles and palaces as the Heidelberg castle or the ducal Landshut Residence.
Baroque architecture arrived in Germany in the 18th century, and a lot of building as the Wurzburg Residence or the Augustusburg Castle have survived through time until today, and are among the tourist attractions that gather a lot of tourists.
Buildings like that of the Semper Opera in Dresden, the Schwerin Palace and the Ulm Cathedral belong to the historicism architecture. As for the modern era, it consists of buildings as the Einstein Tower, Berlin Modernism Housing Estates and the Gliwice Radio Tower.
The German art has played a crucial role in the development and shaping of the Western art, especially of the Celtic art, Carolingian art and the Ottonian art.
Painting and sculptures in Gothic style were very famous in Europe, including Germany. The highlight of the 15th century were the design of altarpieces. Generations of German artists explored and showed their skills in Baroque and Rococo style, as well as of Neoclassicism. Romanticism is also a very important part of the German art.
Some of the most famous German paintings are: “The Sin” by Franz Stuck, “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich, “Studio Wall” by Adolf Menzel, “Heller Altarpiece” by Albrecht Dürer and Matthias Grünewald etc.
Though the Germans are known as very bureaucratic people, they too know how to have fun and enjoy life. The widely attended carnivals and festivals prove this statement best. Both types of events are a joyful period of the year in which whole cities engage in all-out parties and colorful celebrations. The Carnivals have a long history in Catholicism, while today they are celebrated by street parades of people wearing costumes and masks. There is a variety of carnivals and festivals celebrating all spheres of life and joy.
Their weddings are also very special. It is a tradition for the bride to carry bread and salt with her as an omen for food harvest. On the other hand, the groom is supposed to carry grain for good luck and wealth.
Paying the last respects to the dead is part of every culture. In Germany, the funeral lasts 3 to 4 days after the death of the person. Relatives and friends visit the family members of the dead. A priest and ministrants, wearing black and violet robes take part in the first day of the funeral.
Before the burial, the coffin is taken at the church where the priest says the requiem and sprinkles the coffin with Holy water. Then the bells toll and the mourners take the coffin to the cemetery, where they place it on the grave. After the short speech and prayers by the priest, the loved ones of the dead say they last goodbye and cover the coffin with soil.
It is estimated that around 27,000,000 Germans are members of a sports club, whereas an additional 12,000,000 pursue such an activity individually, what shows how keen Germans are in sports. The Bundesliga, which is a German football championship, attracts the second highest-average attendance of any professional sports league in the world. The German National Football Team remains one of the strongest football teams in teh world, having won a total of four World Cups (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014) so far.
During the periods of championships, whether it is FIFA World Cup, or the UEFA Champions League, huge screens are set in city squares, bar cafes and restaurants, where children and grandmas and anyone else in between, gather to watch the matches while drinking beer and eating sausages.
BONUS: Germans take care of each other
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. If you are at a park in Germany, or anywhere near a tree, and you see something hanging at its lowest branches, then known that this is a lost thing. Somebody has lost it, and the other one who found it took care to hang it on the tree. So when retracing their steps, the owner will have it easier to find their belonging.