German Facts and Statistics

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Germany, or Deutschland, is a country in central Europe.  It is called the Bundesrepublik Deutschland or the Federal Republic of Germany.  The nickname is Land der Dichter und Denker. This means the land of poets and thinkers.

Germany is known for its poets like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Grimm brothers, and Thomas Mann.  Famous scientists and inventors include Albert Einstein and the physician Robert Koch who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his tuberculosis findings.  Germans enjoy going to museums, concerts, and theaters.

Germany is one of the largest countries in Europe with more than 81.5 million people.  Many immigrants from other European countries come to Germany to live, work and study.

Germany is bordered to the north by Denmark and to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic. It is bordered to the south by Austria and Switzerland and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  The Baltic Sea and the North Sea along with the lowlands form borders in the North of Germany. Southern Germany borders are formed by the Alps and the Bodensee (Lake Constance).  The highest mountain in Germany is the Zugspitze Mountain part of the Wetterstein Mountains between Germany and Austria.  It is almost 3000 meters high.

There are sixteen states called Bundesländer in Germany. Each of these regions has some differences which make the country of Germany more interesting.

Berlin is Germany’s capital and largest city. Germany was divided into two different countries, East Germany and West Germany after World War II.  The city of Berlin was part of both countries.  There was East Berlin and West Berlin.  The Berlin Wall was built to separate the city into two parts. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down.  Germany became one country again.  Today, most Germans as well as their neighbors like the peaceful reunified Germany. October 3rd is celebrated as “German Unification Day”.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin.  Built in 1791, the gate is the entrance to Berlin.  It is the most popular and visited landmark in Berlin and a symbol of the city.  The gate is closed to car, taxi and bus traffic.

Sports are very popular in Germany.  Many Germans join sports clubs.   Die Fussball-Bundesliga is followed closely by many soccer fans.  Besides soccer, other popular sports in Germany include tennis, swimming, and skiing.

German Etiquette

  • German people value order, privacy and being on time. It is not polite to visit others at their homes unless you plan for this ahead of time.

  • They value saving money, hard work and respect for all people.

  • People shake hands when they meet and when they leave.

  • A “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of appreciation or agreement.

  • In a restaurant, you raise your hand to call the waiter or waitress.

  • It is polite to wait for the hostess to sit down before eating and wait for the hostess to make a toast before drinking. Guten Appetit is said before eating and means “enjoy your meal”. Guests respond by saying Guten Appetit in return or Danke Ebenfalls (thank you).  It is polite to keep your hands on the table, not on your lap.  Elbows should be off the table.

  • Most foods are eaten with silverware.  Even sandwiches and fruit are cut and eaten with forks.

  • It is polite to eat all of your food and to place your knife and fork side by side when finished eating.

  • If you are talking or resting from eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

  • When invited to someone’s house, always bring a small gift to the hostess. For a larger party, it is appropriate to send flowers before the party or the next day after the party.  Never give 13 flowers as it is unlucky.  Favorite flowers include yellow roses or tea roses.  Chocolates are also a popular gift.

  • A man walks to the left of a lady on the sidewalk or in a hallway.

  • Men open doors for women.

  • It is appropriate to stand when someone older or someone with earned respect (i.e., a doctor, dentist, teacher, etc.) enters the room.

German Food

Germany is known for many different kinds of bread and baked goods.  You will find lots of bakeries. Pumpernickel bread is a sour, dark rye bread that is popular in Germany.  German bread is a mix of wheat and rye flour so they are dark bread.   Brezeln is the name for “pretzels” in English.  This food was first made in Germany.  German pretzels are exported to many other countries.

Strudel is a popular German dessert pastry that is baked with layers of fruit or cheese. People usually eat it for breakfast. Black Forest cake is a dark chocolate cake filled with cherries and cream. Stollen and Lebkuchen are delicious cakes and ginger biscuits eaten during the  Christmas season.

Meat, mostly different kinds of sausage, is very common in dishes throughout Germany.  A well-known German dish is schnitzel. This dish is made of veal that has been breaded and fried. The veal is often sliced open and cheese placed inside when the dish is cooked.  Schweinebraten (roast pork knuckles) is very popular in Southern Germany while Rinderbraten (beef roast) is more popular in Northern Germany.  Semmelknoedel with a creamy mushroom sauce is bread dumplings eaten with meat dishes or as a side dish.

Sauerkraut is probably the most famous vegetable of Germans.  It is eaten at many meals and with potatoes and meat. Another healthy vegetable is spargel, a white asparagus that is harvested in the springtime.

Germany’s south-western regions are well-known for their wine growing areas.  They attract a wine festival each year with over 600,000 visitors from around the world.

German Fashion

Germans wear the same everyday clothes as most Americans and other Westerners. For dress up, their clothing is as fashionable as any modern city or country in the world.  There are many design schools and fashion magazines in Germany.  German people pride themselves on being fashionable and well-dressed.

For festivals and special holidays in Germany, women may wear a dirndl (a traditional dress) and men may wear lederhosen (short leather pants).  These are typical clothing of long ago.

The dirndl was the uniform of servants.  It is made of a blouse, a full skirt, a petticoat to be worn underneath and an apron. The dirndl is often embroidered with lace, ribbons and trim.

Lederhosen worn by boys and men are knee breeches.  There are suspenders and front flaps.  These breeches are worn with shirts and sweaters of coarse linen or wool.  Wool knee stockings, jackets and hats are added.

Children’s Games   

Mensch ärgere Dich nicht is a very popular German board game.  It is almost 100 years old.  The game involves players throwing a die and moving their pieces around in a cross-shaped pattern. The game is similar to the Indian game Pachisi, the Colombian game Parqués, the American games Parcheesi and Trouble, and the English game Ludo.  The name of the game means “do not get annoyed” because in the game, the player’s piece will be sent back to start if another player’s piece lands on it as in the game of Sorry.

Topfschlagen is a traditional German game for children.  In English, Topschlagen means “hit the pot”. To play this game, an adult hides a pot with a small prize inside. One child closes his/her eyes and is given a wooden spoon to bang around on the floor until the pot is found. Everyone else shouts “hot” and “cold” to let the child know how close or far away they are from the pot. When the pot is found, the child gets the prize inside.  Then, it is another child’s turn.

German Children’s Stories

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm known as the Grimm brothers are German.  They are famous for collecting, writing and publishing German fairy tales and folktales.  Some of the most well-known ones are Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, The Frog Prince and Rumpelstiltskin. Their first collection had 200 folktales.  In addition, The Grimm brothers wrote mythologies and worked on a German dictionary.

The Grimm’s folk tales are very popular.  Today, they are available in more than 100 different languages.  Many of these folk talks have been adapted for films and Walt Disney movies.

German Holidays

Most people in Germany are Christians.  The Christian holidays of Easter (Ostern) and Christmas (Weinachten) are very important holidays in Germany. The Christmas tree tradition comes from Germany.  Decorated gingerbread cakes called lebkuchen are also a German Christmas tradition. Christmas markets are set up in many towns and cities. At home, people make their own Advent wreaths out of pine branches and decorate them with candles. Important traditions include decorating the Christmas tree with ornaments and candles and a large feast. There is a Christmas meal of sausages and potato salad or a Christmas goose.

December 6th is St. Nicolaus Day, or Nikolaustag in German.  For this holiday, children leave their shoes in front of the door. St. Nicholas fills them with gifts during the night.

Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) is celebrated on April 30th.  This day is one day before May Day.  Traditionally in Germany, it is a time to drive out evil spirits usually with loud noises. There are dances and bonfires.  People wear scary masks like on Halloween.

Oktoberfest is a famous festival in the German city of Munich.  It is the most visited festival and the world’s largest fair.  It starts at the end of September until the first weekend in October.  It is an important part of the culture of Bavaria, a region in southern Germany.  People enjoy traditional Bavarian music. They eat Bavarian foods like pretzels, sausage, and drink German beer.

German Common Names

German people have a vorname (first name) and a nachname (last name).

(Madchen) Girls’ Names

Anna

Claudia/Klaudia

Christina/Kristina

Johanna

Julia

Katharina

Katja

Lena

Maria

Monica

Sabine

Stefanie

Sofia

Ursula

(Jungen) Boys’ Names

Andreas

Christian/Kristian

Dieter

Gunter

Hans

Jacob/Jakob

Jens

Karl

Kurt

Lucas/Lukas

Michael

Paul

Stefan

German Alphabet and Language

German, or Deutsch, is the most common language of Germany.  It is an official language in Germany and neighboring countries of Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.  German is also one of the three official languages of Belgium.

German is a European language that is closely related to English.  The German alphabet has all of the same basic letters as the English alphabet.  However, German has one letter that is only in the German alphabet and no other alphabet.  This letter is ß.  It is a double S or scharfes S.  This letter is used instead of “ss” in the middle or at the end of some German words.

Some German words have two small dots placed over the vowels.  This sign is called an umlaut.  It means the vowel is pronounced differently.  For example, in the word fräulein which means young woman, the letter “a” with the umlaut is pronounced with an “ao” sound.

German people value education.  99% of the adults can read and write.

Simple German Phrases

Guten Tag

Guten Morgen

Guten Abend

Gute Nacht

Tag

Tschus

Auf Wiedersehen

Wie geht es dir

Bitte

Danke

Entschuldigen

Wie heißt du?

Ich heiße _____

Good day

Good morning

Good evening

Good night

Hi

Bye

Goodbye

How are you?

Please

Thank you

Excuse me

What’s your name?

My name is ______

German Traditional Music and Musical Instruments

German music includes many volkslieder or folk songs.  These are taught to children.  The many different regions of Germany have their own different styles of folk music. Oom-pah is a type of music played by the brass bands.

Bavarian folk music is likely the most well-known outside of Germany.  Yodeling and schuhplatter dancers are found mostly in the south of Germany. Schuhplatter dancing is a series of jumps and hip movements to the time of the music.  Performed my male dancers, they strike their thighs, knees and soles of their feet.  They also clap their hands and stamp their feet.

Popular folk songs include emigration songs, work songs and songs about democracy.

Some of the most famous composers of classical, baroque, and opera music were German.  You might have heard these names.  These composers include Ludwig von Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Shumann, Richard Strauss and  Richard Wagner.

A Traditional German Christmas Song – Kling, Glöckchen, Kling

Deutsch Version

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Laßt mich ein, ihr Kinder!

Ist so kalt der Winter!

Öffnet mir die Türen!

Laßt mich nicht erfrieren!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling! Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Mädchen, hört, und Bübchen,

Macht mir auf das Stübchen!

Bring euch viele Gaben,

Sollt euch dran erlaben!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling! Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Hell erglühn die Kerzen,

Öffnet mir die Herzen,

Will drin wohnen fröhlich,

Frommes Kind, wie selig!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling! Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

English Version

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!

Ring, little bell, ring!

Let me in, you kids!

So cold is the winter!

Open the doors for me!

Don’t let me freeze!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling! Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!

Ring, little bell, ring!

Girls, listen, and boys,

Open up the room for me!

I bring you many gifts,

You should enjoy them!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling! Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!

Ring, little bell, ring!

Brightly glow the candles,

Open your hearts to me,

I want to live there happily,

Devout child, how blessed!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!  Ring, little bell, ring!

German Travel Destinations

Germany has many large cities to visit including Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Dresden, and Hamburg.

The Black Forest is a large forest in Baden-Württemberg, It is a popular place for hiking and outdoor activities.

The famous mountain range called the Alps is in the southern part of Germany called Bavaria.  It is a place for skiing, hiking and taking vacations.

Some of the longest rivers in Europe are in Germany. These are the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe.

Germany is known for its many well-preserved medieval towns and beautiful castles.  One very famous German castle is Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria.   The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland is modeled after the Neuschwanstein Castle.

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