Situated in the heart of Europe and bordered by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland as well as the Netherlands and Czech Republic, Germany has a population of over 80 million.
The country’s official language is the German language with over 95% of the population using it primarily. Other languages that can be heard in Germany are Serbian in the east, albeit by less than 1% of the population, and North and West Frisian, both used in the Rhine estuary region, although their penetration in overall percentage terms is minimal.
As a result of Germany’s proximity to Denmark, Danish is spoken within the border area, with immigrant languages such as Turkish and Kurdish also employed, albeit again to a small extent, as is the indigenous language Romani.
Germany is very much recognised for a fondness for planning and organisation, with a culture that takes pride in forward thinking and being prepared. It is also adopts an enthusiastic view towards rules and regulations, with little room for misinterpretation or lack of clarity. Likewise, its public buildings, amenities and facilities all ooze complete cleanliness, tidiness and neatness compared with many European counterparts, as do German homes.
Clear demarcations also exist between professional and personal lives, with Germans arguably achieving an ideal equilibrium. The sacrifice being very early starts to the working day, the flip side is that a proportion of the afternoon remains to pursue non-work related interests. This structured day also proliferates down to school level where a full day’s studying, towards the respected Abitur for older students, has been completed by 2pm.
Given the country’s clear divide between work and home life, Germans’ professionalism means that most communication errs on the formal side, with the domestic environment very much reserved for family and close friends. In a similar way, greetings are generally more formal with a firm handshake in the traditional style and new acquaintances addressed with their title until invited to do otherwise.
Unlike cultures such as France and Italy, Germany is not widely appreciated for its outstanding cuisine; however there are numerous typically German dishes, many of which have expanded from regional traditions, and the country clearly has distinct preferences in terms of its food and drink consumption.
The German breakfast, the most notable meal of the day, generally involves cold meats – the country’s famous sausages (Wurst) included, cheese and various breads, such as small crusty rolls (Brötchen), often seeded, and the equally traditional dark brown rye bread (Schwarzbrot). And if the first breakfast of the day does not fully satisfy, there is a tradition of a ‘second breakfast’ in the Bavarian region of southern Germany, involving coffee, pastries and/or sausages.
Fish and vegetables also form part of the staple German diet, with trout, pike, carp and European perch often found on menus, and carrots, turnips, spinach, beans, broccoli and many types of cabbage commonly consumed.
To wash it all down, Germans are keen consumers of sparkling water, fruit juice – particularly apple – and other fruit drinks such as schorle (fruit juice and sparkling water), in addition to coffee and herbal blends. In terms of alcoholic preferences, Germany has a strong tradition towards flavoured beers and is also well know for its sweet, dry wines.