Culture of Germany

German culture has spanned the entire German-speaking world. From its roots, culture in Germany has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular. Historically, Germany has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker (the country of poets and thinkers).[1]

There are a number of public holidays in Germany. The country is particularly known for its traditional Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich, its carnival culture and globally influential Christmas customs known as Weihnachten.[2][3] 3 October has been the national day of Germany since 1990, celebrated as the German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). The UNESCO inscribed 38 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List.[4]

Germany was the world's second most respected nation among 50 countries in 2013.[5] A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognized for having the most positive influence in the world in 2011, 2013, and 2014.[6][7][8]

Schloss Neuschwanstein, a symbol of German Romanticism (left) and Berlin, the center of creative industries (right)

Language

German is the official and predominant spoken language in Germany.[9] It is one of 23 official languages in the European Union, and one of the three working languages of the European Commission, along with English and French. Recognised native minority languages in Germany are Danish, Sorbian, North Frisian and Saterland Frisian. They are officially protected by the ECRML. The most used immigrant languages are Turkish, Kurdish, Polish, the Balkan languages, and Russian.

Faust
Spoken German in Goethe's Faust

Standard German is a West Germanic language and is closely related to and classified alongside English, Dutch, and the Frisian languages. To a lesser extent, it is also related to the East (extinct) and North Germanic languages. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family.[10] Significant minorities of words are derived from Latin and Greek, with a smaller amount from French and most recently English (known as Denglisch). German is written using the Latin alphabet. In addition to the 26 standard letters, German has three vowels with Umlaut, namely ä, ö, and ü, as well as the Eszett or scharfes S (sharp s) which is written "ß".

German dialects are distinguished from varieties of standard German. German dialects are traditional local varieties and are traced back to the different German tribes. Many of them are not easily understandable to a speaker of standard German, since they often differ in lexicon, phonology, and syntax.

Around the world, German has approximately 100 million native speakers and also about 80 million non-native speakers.[11] German is the main language of about 90 million people (18%) in the EU. 67% of German citizens claim to be able to communicate in at least one foreign language, 27% in at least two languages other than their first.[9]

In the German diaspora, aspects of German culture are passed on to younger generations through naming customs and through the use of spoken and written German. The Goethe Institute seeks the spread the knowledge of German culture worldwide.