German culture: facts, customs and traditions

Germany is at the center of Europe, not only geographically, but also in terms of politics and economy. The country is the second most populous in Europe after Russia, with more than 80 million inhabitants, according to the World Factbook. The German economy is the largest on the continent and the fifth in the world.

While German exerts its influence on the countries bordering it – Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Poland – all of these cultures have, to varying degrees, helped shape the Germany today.

The population is 91.5% German, with Turks being the second largest ethnic group with 2.4%, according to the World Factbook. The remaining 6.1 percent are mainly made up of people of Greek, Russian, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian and Spanish descent. About 75.7% of the population is urban.


The Germans place a high priority on structure, confidentiality and punctuality. The German people adhere to the values ​​of economy, hard work and diligence and place great emphasis on ensuring that “trains run on time.” According to Passport to Trade 2.0, an online guide to business etiquette from the University of Salford in Manchester, England, “Germans are most comfortable when they can organize and compartmentalize their world into controllable units. Time is therefore carefully managed and calendars, schedules and agendas must be adhered to.

Germans are stoic people who strive for perfectionism and precision in all aspects of their lives. They don’t admit mistakes, even when joking, and rarely give compliments. At first, their attitude may seem hostile, but there is a strong sense of community and social awareness and a desire to belong.


Not surprisingly, the country’s official language is German. More than 95 percent of the population speaks German as their first language, according to the Center for International Studies at Angelo State University. Other languages ​​spoken include Serbian in East Germany; North and West Frisian, spoken around the Rhine estuary; and Danish, mainly spoken in the area along the Danish border. Romani, which is an indigenous language, Turkish and Kurdish are also spoken.


Christianity is the dominant religion, with 65-70% of the population identifying as Christian. That number is 29 percent Catholics. Muslims make up 4.4 percent of the population, while 36 percent are unaffiliated or have a religion other than Christianity or Muslim.

German food and drink

Germans love rich and hearty cuisine, although each region of Germany has its own definition of what a traditional meal looks like.

Pork is the most consumed meat, according to the German Food Guide. Schweinshaxe (braised pork knuckle) and Saumagen (pork stomach) are a few traditional pork dishes.

Bratwurst, a form of sausage, is closely associated with German cuisine. Cabbage, beets, and turnips are usually incorporated into meals, as they are native to the region, and potatoes and sauerkraut are also stars of German cuisine.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, and the country is known as the birthplace of a number of varieties of beer, including Pilsner, Weizenbier (wheat beer), and Alt. These beers were made under Reinheitsgebot, or the “Law of Purity,” a 16th-century Bavarian law that decreed that beer could only be brewed from barley, hops and water, according to NPR. Brewers used the yeast available in the air. Brandy and schnapps are also the favorite alcoholic drinks of Germans.

The Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate in Berlin that was rebuilt in the 1700s as a triumphal arch. (Image credit: S. Borisov Shutterstock)


Culture doesn’t just refer to the way people interact and look. “Culture also means refined intellectual, artistic and creative achievements, for example in the field of cultural knowledge or of a cultured person,” Cristina De Rossi, anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate College, London told Live Science.

The Germans made enormous contributions to classical music, and the traditions of famous German and Austrian composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler continue today.

With their penchant for precision and engineering, it’s no surprise that the Germans have a strong tradition of woodcut engraving and engraving. There is also a strong representation of all phases of architecture – including Romanesque, Gothic, Classical, Baroque, Rococo, and Renaissance – represented in cathedrals, castles, and public buildings. A well-known example of classical German art is the Brandenburg Gate, a former city gate which is now used to symbolize the unity of Berlin.

Corporate culture

The desire for order is spreading in the professional life of the Germans. Surprises and humor are not welcome. Everything is carefully planned and decided, with changes rarely occurring after a deal is struck, according to the German Guide to Business Culture.

German is highly regarded by engineers, as evidenced by the country’s success in the automotive industry. Because of this high level of respect for practical expertise, businesses tend to be run by technical experts rather than lawyers or people with financial training.

Workers at all levels are judged highly on their competence and diligence, rather than on their interpersonal skills. Communication with colleagues as well as with outsiders tends to be direct and not always diplomatic.

About 50 million Germans identify as Christians. Cologne Cathedral was started in 1248. It was not completed until 1880 and was the tallest building in the world (516.4 feet / 157.38 meters) until 1884, when the Washington Monument was been built. (Image credit: Nickolay Vinokurov /

Parties and celebrations

Germany celebrates many traditional Christian holidays, including Christmas and Easter. German Unification Day, October 3, marks the reunion of East and West Germany and is the only federal holiday.

While the country’s great Oktoberfest is called “Oktoberfest,” it begins on a Saturday in September each year and ends 16-18 days later on the first Sunday in October. The tradition began in 1810, with the marriage of Crown Prince Louis of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, according to the city of Munich.

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