Germany is a modern, cosmopolitan country with about 82 million inhabitants, 19 percent of whom have an immigrant background. Its society is shaped by a plurality of lifestyles and truly different ethnocultural diversity.
Most people – both young and old – are well-educated and enjoy a high standard of living as well as sufficient freedom to plan their lives as they themselves see fit. Young people are continuously reinventing how things are done, from the latest technology to the newest forms of music or most popular fashions.
Of the approximately 4,500 municipalities and associations of municipalities, 30% are towns or cities and 70% are rural communities. However, the large percentage of rural communities is deceptive. The bulk of the population lives in an urban environment. About three-quarters of Germany's inhabitants live in metropolitan regions.
Work, shopping, leisure and cultural activities - cities as the crystallization points of social, cultural and professional life, and as places where people like to live. By international comparison, Germany's urban character is shaped by a system of numerous, different sized cities and metropolitan regions. The remarkable thing is that, although there are many large cities, only four have more than a million inhabitants: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne. And there's another striking point about the German federal system: the capital, Berlin, is not the only major urban center.
The classic rural population that lives permanently on the land is more of an exception in Germany. Nowadays, rural life is often found in the surrounding region or within reach of large cities, where about 40% of all the jobs are located.
very country is host to a unique set of traditions and quirks when it comes to having and raising children. Most importantly, perhaps, those parents can expect a lot of governmental support—both financially and in the form of legal rights. Young Germany has compiled a list of “parenting vocabulary” to introduce some of the concepts that make the experience in Germany unique.
Kindergeld is an allowance paid to parents by the federal government in order to ensure the livelihood of their children. In 2010 the amount paid for a couple’s first child was raised 20 euro to a sum of 184 euro per month per child. For a second child, parents receive an additional 184 euro per month and for a third or fourth child, 190 and 215 euro respectively.
Parents or guardians are eligible to receive Kindergeld at least until the child’s 18th birthday. Children who pursue further education after high school may receive Kindergeld until they are 25, while children with unemployed parents may receive payments until they are 21 years old. Though it is generally the parent or guardian of the child who receives payments, in the case of orphans or missing parents, the money may be paid directly to the child.
Manyexpats are surprised to hear about the Mutterschutzgesetz, or Maternity Protection Act, as it offers much more extensive support for mothers than is common in most English-speaking countries. This law, instituted in 1968, was created to ensure that mothers are not the target of workplace discrimination, as well as ensuring time-off and job security when and if a mother decides to return to work once her maternity leave is complete.
Elternzeit — refers to the right of parents in Germany to take up to three year's time off from work to care for a new child. Both parents are entitled to Elternzeit, and employers are legally compelled to keep the position open for the parent’s eventual return to work. If the employer is in agreement, 12 of these months may be carried over to any time between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthday. Parents may not be dismissed from the job during the Elternzeit.
The responsibility for the German education system lies primarily with the states (Länder) while the federal government plays only a minor role. Optional Kindergarten (nursery school) education is provided for all children between two and six years of age, after which school attendance is compulsory. The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to ten.
German secondary education includes five types of school. Most German children only attend school in the morning. There are usually no provisions for serving lunch. The amount of extracurricular activity is determined individually by each school and varies greatly.
In order to enter university, students are, as a rule, required to have passed the Abitur examination.
The reasons for studying in Germany are many, as is the number of students choosing to do so. After the United States and Great Britain, Germany is now the world's third-most-popular host country for international students. With approximately 240,000 foreign students studying in Germany, or one in ten of all university students, the higher education landscape in Germany has never been so diverse as it is today.
Two compelling reasons to study in Germany are the sheer breadth of course offerings at Germany's around 400 institutions of higher learning, with 15,000 degree programs, and the many and varied opportunities to receive funding and scholarships, in virtually any field you can imagine. Did you know that Germany today has over 1,500 degree programs (BA, MA, PhD) taught entirely in English? No matter what your interests, Germany's rich higher education landscape has something for you.
Healthcare in Germany
Germany has a universal multi-payer health care system with two main types of health insurance: "Law-enforced health insurance" (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) known as sickness funds and "Private" (Private Krankenversicherung).
Compulsory insurance applies to those below a set income level and is provided through private non-profit "sickness funds" at common rates for all members, and is paid for with joint employer-employee contributions. Provider compensation rates are negotiated in complex corporatist social bargaining among specified autonomously organized interest groups (e.g. physicians' associations) at the level of federal states (Länder). The sickness funds are mandated to provide a wide range of coverage and cannot refuse membership or otherwise discriminate on an actuarial basis. Small numbers of persons are covered by tax-funded government employee insurance or social welfare insurance. Persons with incomes above the prescribed compulsory insurance level may opt into the sickness fund system, which a majority do, or purchase private insurance. Private supplementary insurance to the sickness funds of various sorts is available.
The segment health economics of Germany was about US$368.78 billion (€287.3 billion) in 2010, equivalent to 11.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and about US$4,505 (€3,510) per capita. According to the World Health Organization, Germany's health care system was 77% government-funded and 23% privately funded as of 2004. In 2004 Germany ranked thirtieth in the world in life expectancy (78 years for men). It had a very low infant mortality rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births), and it was tied for eighth place in the number of practicing physicians, at per 1,000 people (3.3).
Overall crime and safety situation
Germany is a safe country with the most widespread crimes relating to theft.
According to German crime statistics the most common incidents include theft of unattended personal property, pick-pocketing, residential break-ins, vehicle vandalism, vehicle break-ins (smash and grab), and vehicle fires.
Non-violent consumer fraud such as credit card skimming and credit card-related fraud is also reportedly on the rise, and there have been reports of credit card information being compromised even in well-known hotels. Visitors should practice the same sound, common sense personal security practices that are an everyday part of life in any major city.
Crime rates dropped in 2012 and police solved a record-breaking number of crimes although the statistic was tarnished by the rise in Internet crime.
German authorities are vigilant in combating terrorism and other threats to security. They have on occasion uncovered specific threats and prosecuted suspects, though Germany itself has been largely free of terror incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Germany’s open borders with its European neighbors limits its ability to track suspect individuals entering and exiting the country.
Immigration of Foreign Workers
Migrants now make up nearly 20 percent of the German population. In 2008, the Turkish population represented the largest migrant group and has grown to 2.5 million people, followed by Italians, Greeks, and Poles. In the future, their importance with respect to their numbers will continue to grow, because the German population is shrinking.
The integration of these families revealed problems but also success stories. Being a migrant means a radical change in one’s living circumstances. A migrant has to learn to adapt to a new culture. Many groups fear rapid assimilation and try to preserve something of their own cultural identity for their children's generation. Competency in the German language, a school diploma, and vocational training have proved to be key components for social upward mobility.
Over the past years, much has also changed politically with respect to immigration and integration in Germany. In 2000, nationality laws were reformed; in 2005, an immigration act was adopted. Integration summits and Islam conferences were held, and a host of German private organizations are now dedicated to the study of migration and integration.