This is the second part of our article 20 curious facts about Germany (Part I)
In Germany the University system offers a tremendously wide range (426), public (306) and private (120) institutions of the highest standard throughout the country, and not just in the big urban centers. Almost all the inhabitants of the country have close access in their regions to prestigious free universities, for example the Ruprecht Karls University of Heidelberg is the oldest in the country and an eminence in the philosophical and legal areas, the University of Cologne is the second most old and currently recognized for being the one with the largest face-to-face enrollment in the country (approx. 50,000); in Munich, the Technical University is the most prestigious in Germany and one of the main European and world level, as is the Ludwig-Maximilians University with the presence of 34 Nobel Prize winners; the Humboldt University of Berlin is also recognized for the 29 Nobel Prize winners in it, the FOM (for its acronym in German) or Essen University of Economics and Management is recognized for its impact on applied sciences and for being the second of highest concentration of students in Germany, which might catch your eye as the latter is a private university.
The German higher education system actively promotes its institutions, the private ones do so through financing from private sponsors and scholarships for their German and foreign students. For their part, state universities, in addition to providing direct funding to their students, promote their cultural and educational integration abroad through the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). So if you are interested (your nationality doesn’t matter!) in studying in Germany, of course you should consult the website of this service, and you will see that there are no limitations to study in this country… not even the language!
12. Castles and the relationship with Disney
Let us remember that the unification of the German territory only dates from the 19th century, which explains the existence until that time of different kingdoms, principalities (electors and palatinates), dukedoms, marquisates, margraviates… an enormous amount of nobility!… that originates mainly in the remote era of the Holy Roman-Germanic Empire and that coexisted in a parallel way until the unification of the German Empire that gives primacy to the Prussian Kingdom based in the city of Berlin, in the hands of the Hohenzollern dynasty (the same of King Frederick II “The Great”).
You will understand that with all these “kingdoms” their rulers needed palaces (Palast) to live in and castles or fortresses (Schloss or Burg) to defend themselves or as a show of power and that is why in the vast German territory today we recognize more than 2100 of these buildings, a Route of the Castles (which goes from Frankfurt to Munich) and, of course, two castles that we recognize in the current image of Disney… Remember that a few sections ago we told you that many of the stories of the Brothers Grimm inspire the current Disney stories!, hence the castles of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald): Neuschwanstein Schloss (near Munich) and Hohenzollern (near Stuttgart) are their main image today. You don’t believe me, it’s just a matter of comparing their photos.
*A piece of information that we bring you: the translation into Spanish of the concepts of the palace, castle, or fortress makes no distinction, but in German or English these concepts differ since a palace is traditionally a place of residence of the nobility and a castle a site of defense or strength of power.
13. Control and registration of pets.
In Germany, having a pet implies a great responsibility, expense and bureaucracy, the rental contracts of the houses expressly regulate the animals that can be kept at home and, in general (not unanimously) allow the possession of dogs or cats, reason for which we will focus on our beloved dogs to explain its operation, since the possession of cats only requires filling out a state registry… naturally the rules between each federated state also differ, but in general they are in the way that we will explain to you .
To have a puppy that accompanies your days, you must bear in mind that you must enter a bureaucratic registration system of each federated state so that your pet has a patent, which must be visible at all times (basically it is its ID for the state ) and also, believe it or not, he must attend classes! (yes, your dog!) and not only the owner but in some cases it is also required as a whole, depending on the breed and its size. Also as the owner you must pay taxes, which in general per year are close to 200 Euros. Also, regardless of the time of year you should take them for a walk daily, regardless of the time of year at least three times, hence all public parks have a playground only for dogs and, on many occasions, going to them requires that you even register your visit in advance according to the level of occupation.
For the rest, you will understand that with these regulations it is very difficult to find abandoned animals or roaming the streets, which is why families who want to have a pet generally must go through a long process for its adoption (from foreign countries) or buy in the regulated hatcheries of the country. We told you, a whole bureaucracy…
14. Burocracy and Deutsche Post.
With regard to the control of pet ownership, it is a very appropriate time to talk about a tremendously widespread topic to this day: the German bureaucracy, and to know how much reality and myth there is about it. We’ll see…
Let’s start by saying that this myth is the terror of foreigners who come to live in this country, we also see a tremendously serious and structured society that only leads us to increase this fear and much of what we have heard is really true, but do not feel afraid, nothing is so terrible. Indeed, institutions at the local, federal and national levels that usually structure a communication that is not very understandable (not only because of the language, which it already is) through local mail, and we are not referring to electronic mail, we are referring precisely to the postal mail of the Deutsche Post, we are inclined to agree with this topic.
In this area, we must understand that the German Post is one of the most prestigious institutions today, created already in times of German unification (Deutsche Reichspost) has become the current Deutsche Post, a model entity in the world that remains tremendously alive , since in this country today more than 60 million letters are sent internally daily, likewise this company -reformed as such in 1996- has implemented package delivery services through DHL International (nationally and internationally), currently transforming it into one of the world’s largest mailing and amendment companies and, with all its past and bureaucratic tradition, it is clearly an export model.
Germany is structured as a Social Welfare State, which is why the payment of taxes from income, goods and large capitals are the basis of its fiscal coffers and of the policies implemented by governments, not paying them can bringing quite serious sanctions and learning how to do it correctly is difficult even for the Germans themselves. Here is a little guide.
All residents in Germany must have a Tax Identification Number (Steuer Identifikationsnummer/Steuer ID) which you receive immediately after registering at your local town hall (Bürgeramt) and according to this you will be charged the following taxes:
– Religious tax (Kirchensteuer) close to 1 or 2% on the income of each person, depending on the faith that each person professes must contribute to their religious cult for the maintenance of buildings, for example, if you do not profess any religion you must declare it to the State so that this tax is not charged. Remember that this country since the days of the Prussian Kingdom is the center of religious tolerance, your only obligation is to be tax responsible for the religion you profess.
– Tax for Public Radio and TV (Rundfunkbeiträge) of 18.36 Euros per dwelling, in order to avoid political interference in German public radio and television.
– Solidarity Tax (Solidaritätzuschlag) of 5% on the income of each person, born from the German reunification (of which we already spoke extensively in the previous sections), where the inhabitants of the old zone of the west or of the Federal Republic German, more prosperous at that time, had to contribute to the reconstruction and new services of the east or the occupation zone of the former GDR (Soviet side). Currently, only 10% of the inhabitants of this area are still really paying it, since most of this tax stopped being paid in January 2021.
– German social security system (Sozialversicherungsystem), which is divided into various health and social insurances on the income of each person, of the following person:
– Health (Krankenversicherung) of 15.6 or 15.7%.
– Retirement (Retenversicherung) of 18.6%.
– Unemployment (Arbeitlosenversicherung) of 2.4%.
– Health insurance (Pflegeversicherung) of 3.05 or 3.3% (if you have children).
– Accidents (Unfallversicherung), variable depending on the industry and union, which is paid by your employer or your private insurer.
– Income tax (Lohnsteuer), calculated based on 6 different tax classes. This tax is progressive and is one of the most complex to calculate, so we will not try to explain this world in this section.
– Tax for the possession of dogs (Hundesteuer), we already talked about this point in the previous section and you know that the sum is around 200 Euros per year.
– Direct tax (VAT) and indirect (USt or MwSt) on consumption.
Whatever your type of work in Germany, you will be finally obliged to make an Income Statement (Steuererklärung) in your respective Finanzamt. So welcome to the world of German taxes!
16. The use of cash
Speaking of money, it is a good time to tell you about one of the strangest traditions of the use of money to this day, because you can imagine that being Germany the economic and industrial power that it is and with the number of financial companies and international banks, the use of bank and credit cards is tremendously common and widespread, however reality tells us that many daily actions and medium and small businesses almost only work with cash and the Germans pay to pay that way (as you read it!).
There are many reasons to stay loyal to cash, but the main ones are related to the control and use of private and personal data that come from the use of bank cards, but it is not only fear of private ones, but also of state control in which it can become . Likewise, the banking and financial crises after World War I and II, respectively, have broken the confidence of the Germans in these institutions, which often saw their money deposited in them affected. Finally, another more practical reason that is attributed to the widespread use of cash has to do with the control of our finances, you can imagine that a society as structured as the German one needs to have complete control over monthly expenses (… yes! , paying taxes too!).
If you wonder if the Covid-19 Pandemic influenced in some way the way Germans pay, the answer is yes, many of the businesses born in recent times accept cards as a form of payment and others do not even accept them. cash, only cards, although it may seem paradoxical, we see some businesses with this operation.
So now you know, if you come to Germany, you must come prepared with all the cash you have or manage to change.
17. Football: A national sport
We talked a few sections back about the automobile industry and its impact on motorsports as the second national sport, still far from the first and most recognized for us: soccer or Fußball. This sport dates from 1873 when it arrived from the British Isles to Germany and the following year the first local football club (Dresden English Football Club) was created, from there the whole story was born.
Currently, this sport of amateur origin has been transformed into the German Football Federation, which brings together 86 women’s and men’s football associations, bringing together the German Football Team and organizing the German Championship, the German Football Cup and the extinct World Cup. of the German League.
Undoubtedly, from the German Men’s Soccer Team you recognize its 4 world titles (1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014), the most important was undoubtedly that of 1990, the year of German reunification, it meant a symbol of the new era German and brotherhood between (former) two nations; although for us the most remembered title is that of the recent 2014 that in the semifinals defeated the host Brazil by a historic rout of 7-1 and in the final against Argentina by 1-0. However, for the Germans the World Cup lost in the semifinals of 2006 (against Italy) still sinks deep.
At the level of the local men’s championship (Bundesliga), you surely recognize the fame of FC Bayern München (the top winner in this category with 32 titles), the rivalry and fanaticism of Borussia Dortmund, the age and tradition of Bayer 04 Leverkusen and the recent RB Leipzig fame.
Although we recognize women’s soccer only at the beginning of the 20th century, it has had a sustained rise over time that only at the level of the absolute team has been recognized in approximately the years close to the 70s, however, since 1990 we recognize the formation of the Women’s Bundesliga and the coveted World Cup title for the first time in 2003, repeated it in 2007 and has had outstanding participation in European leagues and in the Olympic Games.
Although the football industry is tremendously professionalized and fans take their role seriously, many football teams are recognized for their defense of different social causes and for their fan community, such as FC St. Pauli in Hamburg, which stands out for be ideologically close to the left and cultural movements.
As you can see, in Germany football is lived and breathed in any area and layer of society, hence since 2003 this country has become the only one at the level of absolute teams that has won as much as in men and women. A soccer country.
Germans are renowned for their outdoor life, which makes sense if you think that winter days are harsh and darkness lasts for almost 6 months, hence the few sunny days in spring, summer and autumn are occasions perfect for everyone to leave the house.
The public life of the Germans during the days of good weather means that everyone fills the streets and parks, you will see everyone enjoying these spaces and freely drinking beers and other spirits, because yes: in this country it is also allowed to drink in the public highway (perfect or better?). Also, with more time the Germans leave the cities and fill the wonderful forests to practice hiking, a very widespread hobby in society and, which has wonderful routes of different technical levels, accommodation suitable for all prices, fantastic landscapes full of variety and a network of excellently marked trails, which is why the Germans bring out their best gear.
Also, to enjoy all these places you will always have the German public transport system, one of the strengths of the state lies precisely in this well-connected network that allows us to reach almost all the places we set out to do. So, it’s time to plan! Get out your travel guides.
Germany is one of the countries at the forefront of the recycling system in Europe and in the world, and almost all Germans take waste control and separation seriously at home (some skeptics do not believe that waste processing will continue). in the chain), more or less as follows:
– Public containers and containers at home refer to the way of classifying waste: a green or brown container for organic waste, a yellow container for plastic, a blue container for cardboard and a black container for unclassifiable waste. Just be careful not to overflow them, if they are beyond their capacity the Cleaning Service will not take them.
– Glass is recycled by classifying it into colours: white, brown or green (the latter also receives bluish and yellowish colours).
– The plastic and glass containers are returnable, so in our purchase a value is added for it, then in your next purchase you go with these containers and you will receive the same value charged (Pfand)… that is why you find so many containers in the houses German (they keep them until the next supermarket purchase).
– Regarding the above, an entire informal economy is generated around the collection of containers on public roads, which is why they are never thrown directly into the warehouses and many homeless people take advantage of this to generate money. This also helps keep the streets clean.
– It is also not uncommon to find deposits for more dangerous waste (such as batteries, batteries or light bulbs, for example) in supermarkets and drugstores.
– Collection and recycling points: large or bulky furniture is left in these places, if it is in good condition, other neighbors can take it away, otherwise the Cleaning Service will pick it up at some point during the week.
– Likewise, at these recycling points on the street, products such as clothing or other goods that are no longer used at home are often left “To give away”, it is not at all frowned upon that you pick up and check, it is part of the culture of recycling.
20. Life at home
Finally, life in the house of the Germans is something more unknown, since you will intuit, with regard to everything that we have told you about society, that it is not easy to acquire an invitation to visit a German house, but as soon as you do You have to keep in mind that the first thing you should do when you enter is to take off your shoes and leave them in the corridor, the idea of dressing relaxed and in comfort is widespread in Germany. Then you will find three more rooms, the main one (which can be a bedroom and the preferred German piece of furniture: sofa), bathroom and kitchen, the latter the main place for social gatherings of families, also regardless of whether you live in a building or house they will have a basement (Kellar).
Likewise, houses usually have a series of decorative plants and spaces of different shapes and sizes of candles and chandeliers.
The Germans are also recognized for their passion for gardening, hence even when their homes do not have spaces for gardens and plantations, you will find huge fields of small gardens in parks, forests, or on the shores of lakes and rivers, where the famous Kleingärten, they usually have a small cabin and grow all the flowers or plants they want. If you have a house, since the time of the war you must have fruit trees in your garden and, specifically, 3 Nogales (a form of war survival).
We have given you a series of unknown, anecdotal, and interesting facts about German society, with which you can learn how to relate to and visit the country, which as you can see is much more than bureaucracy and natural beauty: Germany is an avant-garde, progressive and very open to the reception of all. So with our tours, we invite you to get to know and enjoy this country, where we will take you much deeper into the culture.