Post-Unification and Beyond to a Modern Germany

In the lead-up to reunification and the first all-German elections two months later, German chancellor Helmut Kohl had promised people on both sides a “blooming landscape” in the East within five years, and a country in which, “Things won’t be worse for anybody, and will be much better for many.”

We Are The People

Still, many East Germans elected to stay home and push for substantive changes in their government and society.

Voting With Their Cars and Feet

Later that same year, when Hungary ripped down its section of the Iron Curtain, hundreds of unhappy East Germans stormed across the Austrian border, from there traveling on to West Germany.

The Normality of the Abnormal

Both Germanys continued to develop along divergent paths, earning prestige and envy for their many achievements.

Greater Divides

While both Germanys excelled in their respective spheres, they did not exactly form a mutual admiration society.

Economic Miracle

Taking all the energies and resourcefulness that had made them a great power before, both Germanys set about to regain their place among the world’s major nations.

The Politics of Division

Over the four years of occupation, Germans on both sides assumed more and more administrative tasks and functions.

Two Germanys – One People?

But a major split remained between the three Western zones and the Eastern zone, which widened as the Occupation proceeded.

Occupation and Rebirth

Germany had fought to the bitter end, and that end had proved quite bitter indeed: much of the “thousand-year Reich” lay in rubble, and the country was occupied by the four major allies who had combined to defeat the Nazi regime (the USA, Britain, the Soviet Union and France).

World War II

At first, afraid of confronting a resurgent Germany, Western democracies watched its aggression with gritted teeth. But when German troops invaded Poland on 1 September, 1939, the worst war the world has ever known was unleashed.

The Third Reich and its Periphery

The man who finally assumed the mantle of Führer was a somewhat unlikely candidate: Adolf Hitler, a native Austrian who wasn’t even a German citizen until 1932, shortly before he ran for president of Germany.

Weimar Republic

The first republic in German history, known as the Weimar Republic, had more than its share of birth pains, including armed uprisings of extremist factions on the left and the right.

First World War

As German imperialist zeal flourished, it was inevitable that the young power would come into conflict with the older, more established colonial empires.

Germany Up and Running

As predicted, the new state soon assumed its place among the world’s great powers.

The First German Unification

A number of political attempts – most notably the 1848 democratic revolutions – were made during this period to realize the dreams of liberal, democratic idealists.

The Reformation

The tensions reached their boiling point in the early 16th Century when a German monk, Martin Luther, boldly challenged the theology and authority of the established Roman Catholic Church.

Pre-Modern ‘Germany’

The basic German business structure is highly hierarchical with strongly defined roles.

Business Meetings

The issue of negotiations is probably a good place to look at the nature of business meetings in Germany. The rules here are simple: Germans like to “get down to business” rather quickly and dispense with any special rituals.

Task-masters and Problem-Solvers

Just as “thorough” is something of a mantra here, another word you will hear quite often in these parts is “Ordnung”, or order.

The German Approach

Germans have managed to maintain their reputation for high-quality work even under the pinch of shorter working time – because of their tradition of thoroughness.

The Work Day

You may already be aware that Germans are not the driven workaholics of popular legend: an eight-hour day is much more the exception than the rule in this country where the average work week only runs to 37.7 hours (but to be fair, this is very close to the western European average).

Job Hunting in Germany

If you find yourself looking for a job in Germany, you should be aware of several factors which will shorten the entire process and in the end lead to more success.

Directness – Not Rude, but Honest

One thing to prepare yourself for is the slap of candor: Germans can be rather blunt when they offer stern advice or criticism.

Right Time, Right Place

As you can probably gather from the above, Germans tend to believe strongly in the concept of a right place and right time for everything.

Formality – the tricky Sie or Du

Closely aligned to this formality is the obligation to use the “Sie” form of address with people you don’t know that well.

The Basics of Understanding German Culture

Making generalizations about any society is difficult, but if you are a newcomer in Germany you will likely notice many small and seemingly large cultural differences.

Holidays and Celebrations

Here’s a quick rundown of the legal holidays and celebrations observed in the Rhein-Main area.

German Cuisine

One of the more flavorful aspects of German culture is its cuisine. It is often all to easy to fall back to the familiar … particularly when it comes to food.

Christmas Markets

One of the most impressive and lively variations of the Straßenfest is the Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindelmarkt (Christmas market).

Street Festivals

Another favorite way for Germans to amuse themselves is the Straßenfest (street or block party). These are pleasant events organized and sponsored by local governments and local businesses.

The Pub Culture

As an indispensable antidote to indulgence in organized sport or other strenuous physical activity, the Germans have achieved a highly developed pub culture, where various alcoholic libations can loosen the tongue, warm the heart, and soothe a troubled mind.

Sports Clubs

As is true of most nations, more people in Germany tend to be fascinated by sports than there are active participants. Armchair experts abound, with the airwaves full of sports shows, sports reports, and live broadcasts of sporting events.

Clubs and Organized Fun

You’ve often heard about the Germans’ strong skills for organizing. Well, they are even adept at organizing fun and free time.

Taxis

Of course, public transport is not the only way of getting around in Germany. The two leading forms of private transport are taxis and private automobiles.

Driving in Germany

Many German traffic regulations may differ from those in your home country, so it is essential to familiarize yourself with the basic rules and to get acquainted with the international road signs.

Using the Postal System

The market for postal services in Germany has been deregulated, meaning that private companies are allowed to deliver both letters and packages.

Electricity

When moving into a new apartment in Germany, most people keep the same electricity provider used by the previous tenant.

Paying TV and Radio Licensing Fees

German television and radio broadcasters are state-funded, and you, too, will have the pleasure of contributing to the system while you live here.

How to Receive English Language Programming

Your new apartment or house may already be wired with cable or a satellite receiver. In some cases, cable television fees are included with your apartment’s monthly maintenance fee.

Telephone Services

If you often call friends and family in a specific country, you should consider booking a flat rate for international calls.

Wireless Hotspots and Call-by-Call

Wireless LAN Public Access Points (or so-called Hotspots), which allow you to surf the Web away from home using your own laptop or smartphone, can be found in countless cafés, restaurants and hotels across Germany.

Choosing a Provider

You’ve found your new home, and now it’s time to get connected (along with a few other tasks). To have a fixed-line telephone installed in Germany, there are two basic options.

Having a Baby

For the last few decades, Germans have been worried about declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy and the obvious demographical problems caused by these two trends.

Hospital Stays

Should you need to go to hospital during your time here, your doctor will arrange a bed for you and find a specialist on that hospital staff to attend to your problem.

Doctors & Physicians

Very soon after becoming enrolled in a health care plan, you will receive a plastic card with a microchip, which resembles a credit card.

Sick Pay & Travel Insurance

Should you fall ill while in Germany, your employer will usually pay six weeks’ full salary; after that, the government scheme health insurer (Krankenkasse) pays a percentage of your income, up to approximately 2.887,50 per month as statutory sick pay (Krankengeld) for up to 78 weeks.

Private Medical Insurance

If your gross monthly salary is higher than 4,575 euro, you can choose to enroll in a private health insurance program.

Government Health System

Public health insurance in Germany is based on the principle of solidarity, which means that everyone’s premiums are based on the same percentage of income.

Taxes & Payroll Contributions

Suffice it to say, the German tax system is complex. There are a maze of deductions, special exemptions, tax breaks for families, and much, much more.

Banking Services

Direct Banking, Online Banking, Transfers, Checks and Balances, Regular Payments …

Opening an Account

To open an account in Germany, you, of course, need money. …

Recycling Rules

Environmental awareness in Germany is extremely high. In a country with limited natural resources and high population density, it is not surprising that there is broad consensus on recycling, conservation and renewable energy.

Your Housing Contract

Whether you rent an apartment or a house, a rental contract must be signed. In most cases, this contract is a pre-printed version of the document recommended by the Tenants Society of Germany (Deutscher Mieterbund e.V.).

How to Apartment Hunt

There are many ways to go about apartment hunting. Start by making a list of your “must-have” points, followed by “nice-to-have” points.

The Hunt for Housing

Before you begin your house hunt, take a hard look at your disposable income and set yourself a budget. The reality in Germany is that most people spend up to one-third of their gross salary on rent.