german culture german history

Die Berliner Luftbrücke – The Berlin Airlift

Die Berliner Luftbrücke - The Berlin Airlift
© Pixabay

Berlin is a city full of rich history, culture and diversity. It has witnessed many deep impacts, was severely destroyed during WW II and separated afterwards. But nothing might have influenced the city more like the Berlin Blockade and the Luftbrücke: From June 1948 until May 1949, the Western Part of Berlin was blocked by the Soviet Union.

 

 

The Berlin Blockade

 

To understand the meaning of the Berlin Blockade, you have to know about the geographic situation and the history. The allied forces and the Soviet Union split the city into four occupation zones: The three western zones of the US, Great Britain, and France and the eastern zone of the Soviet Union. The last one was later also a part of the GDR and its capital, whereas the western parts of Berlin became part of the western Federal Republic of Germany.

 

 

 

To rebuild the country after the war, the three western occupants decided to introduce a new currency in the western sectors: The Deutsche Mark. The introduction of the new currency happened in 1948 without the Soviets knowing about it. The eastern occupants then feared the flooding of their zone being with the old currency, the Reichsmark. To prevent this, they had to introduce a new currency in the East, also called Mark. But the standing of Berlin was yet unsolved: The Russians planned to introduce their currency in whole Berlin, the French, British and Americans refused: The Deutsche Mark should also be the currency of West-Berlin. The tension between the Allies and the Russians grew in the following month and Berlin became more and more a game point of world politics once again.

 

 

 

But the Russians had one big trump in their hands: Because Berlin was just an enclave inside the eastern zone, the Soviet Forces just blocked all the entries to the western part of the city. They could do so because Berlin was still a big field expanse of rubble and was not able to take care of itself or the two million inhabitants in the western sectors. The Russians cut all entries on the land, the rivers and also railroads and the electric cables.

 

 

 

The establishment of the Luftbrücke

 

The Allies now had two possibilities: To give up the city and make the Russians overtake their sectors or to try everything to supply the inhabitants. They did the last one. They could to so because there have been three air corridors to Berlin that had been guaranteed by a particular treaty – to be in sharp conflict to the land and the rivers where there wasn’t any treaty like that.

 

 

 

The Allies and especially the Americans then decided to use those corridors to supply the city by airlift. It was a huge duty for the pilots and their stuff and also for the political decision-makers. Over 8.000 tons of goods had to be delivered to the city each day: Not only food but also common products like coal or gasoline. The allied managed to do over 200.000 flights in one year to save the inhabitants of starving – and also to prove the Russians their stamina. Over one year later, they reached their goal: The Soviet Union stopped the Blockade, all the necessary goods could be delivered by land and water again. The Berliners thus are still thankful to the Americans that they have never given them up.

german culture

Vereine – Associations in Germany

Vereine - Associations in Germany
© Pixabay

Are you a Vereinsmeier?

Wanderlust, Fernweh, Fahrvergnügen – there are many words in the German language that one can’t translate into English. Many of them also describe some basic German virtues. One you might not know yet is “Vereinsmeierei.” It represents the German specialty to organize themselves in voluntary associations or, as you would better call it, Vereine. But a Vereinsmeier does more than that: He (or she) lives the Verein – or better, even more than just one. You can find a Verein for almost everything in Germany and some would even say you are not a real German if you are not a member of at least one.

 

The best-known kind of Verein

This might be the Fußballverein (football club). It is of course also possible in Germany to play soccer outside a club, but almost everybody who likes to score goals not only in the yard but on a real field will sooner or later be at a point when he or she joins a Fußballverein. In this example, it becomes apparent what’s the difference between a Verein and just a loose group of people doing the same stuff together. A real Verein is “eingetragen,” that means it has been officially registered and thus has the letters e.V. at the end of its official name (as you can see, for example, the former logo of FC Bayern München e.V. that was used until 1996.

But when you think you can just get incorporated and get started, you are wrong: If you get engaged in such an association in Germany, you are into some serious business. Not only do you have to come together at least once a year to vote for a chairman, a cashier, and others, you also have to participate in the activities of the Verein, depending on its orientation, and there are many different styles of clubs in Germany.

 

Famous types of  Vereine

One of the most “notorious” Verein is the Schützenverein (Shooting Club). There are not only uncountable Schützenvereine in Germany, but it is also the one with the most current clichés about the members and the tradition. Shooting is very restricted in Germany and therefore, most of the shooters use air guns. But mostly it’s not about shooting at all; it is the kind of tradition that comes with joining such a Schützenverein. The annual presentation of the most successful shooter, the Schützenkönig (King of the Shooters) is at least as important as the gatherings like the Schützenfest that comes with the “crowning” of the King. Of course, each of the Schützen has a Uniform.

Many of them are not only for pleasure but for helping others or the members. Selbsthilfevereine (self-help associations) for example can help alcoholics or other addicts with their problems by coming together with other affected persons. Also, Junggesellenvereine (bachelor associations) exist where singles gather to have fun or even to have the opportunity to find somebody to love.

But whereas shooting might be something more or less sportive and helping others something noble, there are also associations that occur just a bit bizarre, for example, the snuffing or smoking clubs that also organize competitions in snuffing or smoking. There is, in fact, a Verein for everything. So if you are a Vereinsmeier yourself, make it to Germany.

german culture german customs and traditions

Über Integrationskurse – About Integration Courses

Über Integrationskurse - About Integrationcourses
© Pixabay

Everybody is talking about immigration, refugees, whether they are allowed to stay or even who is allowed and who not. But what’s next? What happens if somebody comes to Germany and gets his permission to stay? Besides the urge of a flat and work, there is one crucial aspect: Learning the language and getting integrated into German society. Because both is not easy in many cases, there is the opportunity and, sometimes, even the obligatory to attend an Integrationskurs  – an integration course.

Who has to attend an Integrationskurs?

First of all, not everybody who is coming to Germany and is planning to stay is obligated to attend such a course. It would not even be possible because there aren’t even enough courses for those who need one. There is a difference between the obligatory and the optional courses. As soon as somebody gets his or her Aufenthaltsgestattung, the permission for staying in the country, he or she can apply for a course until three months after receipt.

But as said before, sometimes you have to take a course. This is the case if the Ausländerbehörde (the bureau for foreigners) has the opinion that you are particularly needy to get integrated into German society, for example, if you won’t find a job. This is also the case if you will receive social welfare of a particular kind or, for instance, your kids have problems at school that could be put down to you or your behavior.

What does an Integrationskurs include?

No matter if somebody is obligated or not, the Integrationskurs contains two different parts: Learning the language and learning about the culture of Germany. Both is, of course, very tightly linked and especially the language course ought to teach you about the cultural circumstances of your new home country. The language course consists of 600 hours of lessons, separated into basic and advanced courses. The focus of this courses lies especially on coming around in your everyday life as a new citizen of Germany. Consequently, you will not only learn how to deal with your neighbors or the people at the bakery but also how to understand German bureaucracy. The goal is “intercultural competence” and you can achieve it through ongoing analysis of the differences between Germany and the according culture of origin. At the end of this language course, you will have to pass the Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer (German test for foreigners).

What happens afterwards?

After 600 hours of learning the German language, the second part – the Orientierungskurs (orientation course) – contains just 60 hours. It is designed to teach the participants about German culture, history, law and matters of dealing with your fellow citizens. Also, this course ends with a test.

The classes are not held by public governmental agencies, but by social institutions. They get a certain amount of their money by the German state, but also the participant of the course has to pay one-half of the costs. Because the payment for the social institutions depends on the number of participants, there have also been cases of fraud where the participants could only speak unsatisfactory German.

But after all, integration courses are a superb opportunity for new citizens to become a part of this country by learning not only its language but also its very own culture.

live in germany transportation

Live in Germany – Travelling between cities

Travelling between cities
© Pixabay

Germany has many beautiful places worth visiting. But besides the beauty of the country, it is also one of the largest in the European Union. So what to do if you are planning to travel Germany, to see as many places as possible and all this perhaps even in a very short time? Don’t waste time by making yourself an overview how to travel from city to city: Here you can get all the possibilities at once.

Travelling by Car

Germany is a nation of car drivers and also car manufacturers. The inventor of the car was German, just as the man who thought out the engine. You know BMW, Audi, Mercedes and of course the Autobahn. The last one is the reason why traveling by car is an excellent opportunity to come around in the Bundesrepublik. The country has one of the largest and also best-equipped highway systems in the world. You can get everywhere by using a car (watch Tom Hanks talking about his experiences on the Autobahn here). There are many areas where you can drive as fast as you want, and the Autobahn is (still) free of toll. So it is always a good way to get around very quickly – at least if you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam. As an alternative, you can also use the Landstraßen where you can see much more of the countryside.

Mitfahrgelegenheit

If you don’t have an own car, there is the possibility to join a Mitfahrgelegenheit (car pooling). There are many different platforms like blablacar.de on the internet that offer those lifts. They cost about 5 or 6 Euros per 100 Kilometers.

Travelling by Hitchhiking

If you are on a low budget trip, hitchhiking can also be a possibility. Germans are rather open to pick up hitchhikers, and it is common to do. Also, it is mostly very safe to ride with a stranger. But beware: If you are hitchhiking on an Autobahn, only do it from the service areas. It is forbidden to catch rides on the Autobahn itself or the motorway slip. A sign with your direction can be helpful.

Travelling by Bus

A rather new way of traveling in Germany is the so-called Fernbus. These modern and comfortable buses connect almost every major city and also the smaller ones getting better connections every month. Those buses are equipped with Wifi and toilets, but can be very crowded on weekends. But after all, they are a cheap way of coming around. Of course, they are also delicate to get stuck in traffic.

Travelling by Plane

There are many international and even regional airports in Germany, but mostly only the long distances, for example from Munich to Hamburg, are worth flying. Germany is just too small to go by plane inside the country. There are cheaper ways that are also more environmentally friendly. If you are flexible and booking a few weeks before, you can get a domestic flight for about 120 Euros.

Travelling by Train

The German railroad system is very well established. There are not only regional trains but also high-speed trains called ICE that connect the major cities of Germany. Unfortunately, the Deutsche Bahn is rather expensive and has a very complicated pricing system. An excellent way to get a cheap ticket is to have a look on ltur.de. There you can get cheap tickets always from one week before the date of travel. If you are flexible and not fixed on Friday or Sunday, you can get a one-way ticket even all the way through Germany for 27 Euros.

german industry

German Technology – The DIN-Norm

German Technology - The DIN Norm
© CurtisMmedia // Pixabay

Everything has its rules in Germany. It is not only a standard cliché but also true in many cases – especially when you take a look at the so-called DIN, the Deutsche Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization). This institute might be as German as Bratwurst and Sauerkraut. But besides confirming a cliché, it also makes the country and especially its economy work like a well-oiled machine.

The Origins of the DIN

It all began in times of war: When the German Reich was participating in World War I, every capacity of German industry was used for producing the goods they needed for the battles, especially shells, products of armor and machinery. For that purpose, factories in every part of the Reich had to contribute their parts. When they later have been assembled, they often just didn’t fit. That is why there was the need to standardize those goods – the so-called Deutsche Industrie-Norm (German industry norm) was born. The first step was to create production standards for heavy machines – they consist of uncountable different and sometimes even tiny parts, a proper fitting was, therefore, obligatory. The first part to be standardized was thus the taper pin, many other followed.

The war ended, and the German Kaiserreich stopped to exist, but the DIN was still alive and gained more and more importance. In the year 1920, the Deutsche Industrie-Normen became a voluntary association, and in the following years, it published those norms that are not only still in use, but the best known until today, for example, the DIN 476 that defines the different sizes of paper. It is not only used today (for example as size A4) but was also taken over by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to an international norm. Another popular standard was established in that time, the DIN 1451 that is still defining the letters of traffic signs in Germany. 

The Principles and Importance of the DIN in Germany

Soon, not only industrial goods were standardized by the DIN, but also other products of daily use. In the 1970s, the foundation even signed a treaty with the German government that proves that the DIN will be consulted in every matter of standardization of public goods and also that it will represent Germany in international affairs of standardization. Today, the DIN-norm (DIN 820) even defines the fundamental principles of the DIN: It says, for example, that norms are made for the public and not for the benefits of single companies and also that they are made to improve every part of life.

For that purpose, everybody can ask for a norm for something by just addressing the DIN and explaining the reasons why standardization would be necessary in this particular case. After publishing, they become a kind of recommendation towards industry, manufacturers, distributors and the customers: Nobody should be forced to follow the norm, but most of the affected persons and companies would normally do – it just makes things much easier. But in some cases, the German government even takes advantage of the DIN’s work by referring to their norms when passing new laws. Then, the norms become obligatory. So appreciate the work of this German institution when writing on a sheet of A4 paper the next time.

live in germany medicine and healthcare

Masernparty in Germany

Masernparty in Germany
© Pixabay

Many people are afraid of diseases and try not to get infected when it comes to contact with ill persons. Especially the children are to be protected because of their delicateness towards infections. But some parents are doing the exact opposite: As soon as one of the classmates or friends gets ill, they throw a party to get all the other kids infected, too. That is of course not the case with all types of diseases, but mostly for those that you only get once in a lifetime such as chicken pox or the measles, i.e. childhood diseases. But what is it good for?

The Intentions for throwing a Masernparty

Some would say that this is highly irresponsible to expose your kid. But the intentions of the mothers (and fathers) throwing the Masernparty are easy to explain, yet hard to understand. As already mentioned above, some of the diseases can just break out once in a lifetime. If you ever have had the chicken pox, you won’t get them again because your body has become immune to the pathogens. But if you have never had them, you will probably get infected. Because many of those infections are said to be much worse on impact if you are an adult, some people prefer to suffer them at a rather early age. Kids, thus, can’t make this kind of decision – their parents decide for them.

That doesn’t mean that the children won’t suffer at all if they get the chicken pox or the measles in early years: they are just not as dangerous as they would be for older people. Besides, they won’t have the risk to get infected in the future anymore. But is this reason enough to deliberately get your kid infected by a disease?

The Risks of attending a Masernparty

Besides the fact that once you got the chicken pox you will never get them again, there is another reason that is always cited by the supporters: As soon as many kids out of one’s class or one’s circle of friends will get infected, they will be ill one or two weeks all at the same time. Afterward, the risk of infection will decrease after they are healthy again. In the case of the measles, there is another argument cited, mostly by those who are skeptical about vaccinations: They are of the opinion that vaccinating the kids would be more harmful than just letting them become sick in a controlled manner. Besides most respectable medicals and scientists would vehemently disagree, it is also dangerous: Although measles is a childhood disease, this does not mean that they are not able to severely damage the kid’s health forever. Not getting sick at all is just better than becoming infected.

The legal Side of having a Masernparty

In Germany, therefore it is illegal to organize such a party. It can be seen as serious bodily injury. Because after all, you can say that those who think children would benefit by joining a pox party and getting infected by them with childhood diseases should just think about what they are doing: They are deliberately risking the long-term sanity of their child and also its friends or classmates.

german culture

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Fall of the Berlin Wall
© Pixabay

There is hardly any other date in the latest German history that has influenced the country more than November 9th, 1989. It is the time where the Berlin Wall came down, and people from the east and the west could meet again in freedom for almost 30 years. It was also the event that made the reunification of Germany possible only one year later, on October 3rd, 1990.

The Division of Germany

After World War II had ended, the remaining parts of the former Reich have been divided by the victorious forces into four sectors. But after only a few years, the relationship between the three western occupants USA, France and the United Kingdom on one side and the Soviet Union on the other side became colder and colder – so cold that the Cold War came on the rise. But not only the country itself was divided into sectors, but also the capital Berlin. The eastern area of the Soviet Union soon became part of the Soviet occupation zone which later was acclaimed as the German Democratic Republic, whereas West-Berlin remained more or less independent, but also was strongly connected with the German Federal Republic that had been founded in the meantime in the three western sectors.

As the tensions grew, the Soviets went the whole hog and built a wall between their part of Berlin and the western sectors. Soon, the rest of the inner German border followed. Since 1961, Germany, therefore, used to be a divided country – not only by state and ideology but also by barbed wire and fences. The “real” concrete wall thus was only to be found in Berlin.

Tension rises in East Germany

Over the years, it became more and more apparent that the socialist state could not provide as much wealth and especially freedom for its citizens. The social and political tensions grew inside the eastern bloc and also inside the GDR. Many people demonstrated in the streets in the late 1980s. But luckily, those demonstrations remained peaceful. The tipping point has thus been the fact that Hungary has disabled its border controls so thousands of East-German citizens could flee into the west crossing the Austro-Hungarian border. Hungary then stopped further Germans to do the same and brought them back to their country, while the government of the GDR prohibited its citizens from traveling to Hungary any more. In the meantime, also Czechoslovakia opened its borders towards Bavaria. Those who have been on their way through Czechoslovakia got informed about the events and entered the West German embassy in Prague. They could do so because West-Germany still saw them as “Germans” and therefore also their citizens. In the following weeks, they were more or less trapped in that embassy. Something had to happen.

The missunderstanding that led to the Fall of the Berlin Wall

In the meantime, the leader of the GDR, Erich Honecker, resigned and Egon Krenz became his successor. He did not want to close the borders to Czechoslovakia because an agreement of free traveling which made even more East-Germans go to the neighbor countries. Günter Schabowski, the spokesman of the SED party, was therefore chosen to communicate new regulations of traveling to the public on November 9th. Those rules included opening the borders between East and West of Germany, which made the wall in fact fall that day. But as Schabowski did not know, the regulations should officially come into force the other day. Though as he was asked about the point of time they will be official, he just said: “As far as I know effective immediately, without delay.” Those words are not only still one of the best known in Germany, but were a point of no return: The Berlin Wall fell just that night – more or less by mistake.

german culture german customs and traditions

Halloween in Germany

Halloween in Germany
© Pixabay

It’s on again on October 31st: It’s Halloween. But while Americans are becoming nervous about the upcoming celebrations, the pumpkin-carving and the quest for the perfect creepy, yet sexy costume for the party, Germans are uncertain what to think. Is Halloween just another holiday imported from the US to make a profit or is it something that was also celebrated way before the Teutons came out of the woods?

The Development in Germany

It is more or less clear that Halloween isn’t a German holiday. To proof that, it is enough to look back to the past, let’s say, the 1970s. Halloween was not celebrated and mostly not even known. Not exactly on October 31st, but on November 1st, Germans are traditionally celebrating another holiday: Allerheiligen/All Saint’s Day. This particular Christian holiday is not nice to celebrate. Traditionally, you are thinking about your relatives and loved ones that have passed away by coming together at the graveyard. People sing sad songs and are freezing in the gray and unhappy November rain. This time is traditionally everything but happy or worth being celebrated with parties, as you can see. In some Bundesländer, the day is also a “Stiller Feiertag” with Tanzverbot. That means, you are not allowed to dance that day – or to be more precise, clubs and bars are not allowed to play loud music and to make their guests dance.

How is Halloween celebrated?

The last fact is also something that still influences the way Halloween is celebrated, especially in areas where this Tanzverbot is still in practice. In this mainly Catholic Bundesländer, Allerheiligen is an official holiday. But what do you do when you have a spare day as a youngster but no opportunity to go out the night before because of official Tanzverbot? You have to start a private party – and celebrating Halloween is a fair reason to do so.

Who celebrates it?

Celebrating Halloween in Germany is thus more or less exclusively something young people do. Not only private Halloween parties are very popular, but also clubs and bars are having decoration and Halloween-themed parties (sometimes without dancing, though). Germans do dress up for Halloween, but in a different way as Americans would do. The creepy thing is way more important for them. Ghosts, Zombies, Killers – you can see gruesome and bloody costumes in Germany for Halloween, but not many regular or sexy ones. The reason for that is simple: There is another opportunity in Germany to get dressed funny or sexy called Karneval/Fasching.

What do you have to be aware of?

Because of the many American TV series and movies, Halloween is an import to Germany. That’s why kids are more and more likely to do trick-or-treat. But unlike the kids in the movies, it doesn’t work well in Germany: Especially older people are not used to it and mostly do not even agree with celebrating an American tradition. The doors remain closed. But nevertheless, you can see kids in costumes walking around and begging for candy. Sometimes they will get some; mostly they don’t. But if you are old enough to drink, you can also have a fun day in Germany on October 31st.

accommodation live in germany living in berlin residency

The advantages and disadvantages of sharing a flat

WG
© Wikipedia

Many students in Germany don’t live on their own or at their parent’s house. They mostly live together with at least one roommate in a Wohngemeinschaft, a WG. Living together with others, especially when you didn’t know them before, can be nice, but also exhausting. If you can’t decide whether you want to move into a WG or not, we have collected advantages and disadvantages. 

Privacy and peace

The most obvious disadvantage of living together with flatmates is the fact that you have to do without parts of your privacy. Having other people around you can be stressing very quickly. Do you have to pee after you woke up in the morning? Sorry, your flatmate is taking a shower. Do you want to cook a nice meal after you returned from work? Sorry, he is making a chili. Do you want to go to bed soon? Sorry, he is having guests for some beers. You must be able to handle such situations, or you are going to have a bad time.

Space

Another very natural thing about a WG is the fact that you won’t have a lot of space compared to your own flat. You might have a room and most of the time, that’s it. You can be lucky if you have a big kitchen or even a living room where you can sit together. But in this case, you have to think about point 1: You will have to share it.

Cleaning

Cleaning might be one of the biggest disadvantages of a WG: You do not only have to clean the mess your flatmates produced, but you have also clean much more and also much more often as it would be the case if you would live alone. Speaking of the bath, cleaning can quickly become more like a horror movie.

But of course, there are also some advantages!

New people

Especially when you are moving to a new city, it can get a bit lonely when you are living in your own flat. With roommates, you will never be alone and also will soon meet many new and exciting people. Your flatmates can also show you the coolest spots in your new hometown and make you feel welcomed from the first day.

Costs

A very pragmatic reason for living in a WG is, of course, the price: As soon as you share a flat with others, it becomes much cheaper for every single one. It is not only the rent itself but also the many additional costs. It’s just much easier if you can share the fees for electricity, water, the internet and, especially in Germany, the notorious Rundfunkbeitrag

 

Moving in and out

It is not only cheaper but also much easier to find a room in a WG than renting your own flat. It is also possible to move in just for a few months without making long-term commitments. And it is also easier to move out if you realize that you might better live alone again…