12 Main Things You Have to Know About German Culture with Examples

The method we advise you to use for language learning isn’t just about learning the language. The Conversation Based Chunking method is a lot more and has lot more to offer. It’s all about engaging with your target language and that also means getting to know its culture.

German culture is one of the richest in the whole world: from history through art and literature to everyday life in German-speaking countries, the German culture and the German language captures everything. In this blog post, you’ll learn about the 12 most important categories related to the German language.

You might be wondering how it compares with other cultures. Lucky for you, Spring German (a project I co-founded) made a comparison video on American vs German culture:

1. German History

We can divide the German history into 3 main parts: early history, medieval times and modern history.

In ancient times, Germany was home to different tribes like the Germanic tribes. Just like with other tribes, the Roman Empire had a big effect on how they lived: the Romans built roads and towns (some places still have Roman ruins). One of the famous Roman sites include the Porta Nigra in Trier.

During medieval times, the Holy Roman Empire still ruled over some of the regions what we today know as Germany. Germany todays has many castles from medieval times: Neuschwanstein and Hohenzollern are two of the most acclaimed.

Regarding the modern history, probably all of you know that Germany was involved in both World Wars, and after World War II, Germany was divided into East and West Germany.

The Berlin Wall stood between the two parts from 1969 until 1989. The wall fell in 1989 and it reunited the country, brought together separated families and helped with the reunification of Germany.

german culture fall of the berlin wall

Today, Germany is one of the most important countries in the European Union, and the economic powerhouse of the world.

2. German holidays and festivals

German-speaking countries have a lot of holidays and festivals. Let’s list out the most famous and important ones in this section!

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world, held in Munich.

People wear traditional clothes like Lederhosen and Dirndls, and there are lots of beer tents, music, and rides – and to be honest, drunk people. 🙂

The activities include drinking beer, eating pretzels and sausages, dancing and altogether, enjoying the parade.

german culture oktoberfest from drone view

Christmas

Just like in other Christian religious countries, Christmas is the most important religious holiday. You can immediately check how to say Merry Christmas in German.

German’s celebrate with Christmas Markets that sell gifts, decorations, and delicious foods like gingerbread. Famous markets are in Köln, Nuremberg and Dresden.

A holiday related to Christmas is St. Nicholas Day: kids clean their shoes and leave them out on December 5th. St. Nicholas fills them with treats on the night of December 6th.

The time when people are waiting for Christmas is called Advent: families light candles on an Advent wreath each Sunday leading up to Christmas.

Easter

Saying happy Easter in German is another important phrase you should learn.

The Easter celebrations include the egg hunts when kids look for colorful eggs hidden by the Easter Bunny. People also light Easter Bonfires: these are big fires lit to celebrate the coming of spring.

Karneval (Carnival)

Karneval is celebrated mainly in the Rhineland, especially in Cologne. It’s a time for parades, costumes, and parties before Lent.

People dress up in costumes, attend these parades and sing traditional songs.

Unity Day

German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) is a public holiday celebrated on 3 October in Germany.

It celebrates the reunification of West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) and East Germany (German Democratic Republic, or GDR) into a single state on 3 October 1990.

3. German customs and traditions

There are some interesting German customs and traditions that might not be so popular or the same around the continent or the world.

Germans celebrate their birthdays with a special cake made for the birthday person (but you might have to take the cake yourself to your job), and friends and family give gifts. You can check 10 ways to say happy birthday in German.

German-speaking countries also celebrate the weddings and they have special wedding customs: the bride and groom saw a log together to show teamwork. The Polterabend is the evening before the wedding, when friends and family break dishes to bring good luck.

4. German food and drink

German food and drink is famous – and it’s famous because it’s good!

Popular dishes include Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Schnitzel, Pretzels and more typical German food. The desserts include the Black Forest Cake: a chocolate cake with cherries and whipped cream.-

It’s not surprising but beer in Germany is one of the most popular beverages. There are many types with famous brewing regions like Bavaria. And beer gardens (das Biergarten) are also a thing: it’s where people sit down, enjoy good beer and other drinks while talking through everyday life.

The Riesling Wine is also a popular beverage of the German culture: it’s a type of white wine from the Rhineland.

5. German art treasures and literature

Germany has made significant contributions to arts and literature.

Classic authors such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller have left a huge mark with their works; Goethe is famed for his monumental drama “Faust,” while Schiller is celebrated for his powerful plays like “William Tell.”

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, have enchanted generations with their collection of fairy tales, with timeless stories like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Cinderella.”

The modern art scene in Germany has also been highly influential.

The Bauhaus Movement by Walter Gropius revolutionized design and architecture with its minimalist and functional approach.

Expressionism further pushed artistic boundaries by focusing on emotional experience, with artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner leading the way.

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin houses an impressive collection of ancient artifacts, while the Alte Pinakothek in Munich is known for showcasing masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.

6. German music and dance

Classical music in Germany has been shaped by composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Wagner – their works continue to influence the genre.

Modern music features artists like Rammstein and other styles like electronic music.

Traditional dance forms like the Schuhplattler and the Waltz are all cherished cultural expressions in German-speaking countries.

7. German educational system

The German education system is structured to guide students through different stages of learning.

It typically starts with Kindergarten, which is an optional early childhood education program for children aged three to six. After this, children enter Grundschule (primary school), which lasts for four to six years depending on the federal state. Students receive a foundational education that prepares them for secondary education.

After completing Grundschule, students are generally directed into one of three types of secondary schools:

  • Hauptschule,
  • Realschule, or
  • Gymnasium.

The Gymnasium is notable as it prepares students for higher education by offering a rigorous academic curriculum that culminates in the Abitur examination – a qualification necessary for university admission. The other types of schools (Hauptschule or Realschule) focus more on vocational training or practical education.

Higher education in Germany is well-regarded globally.

Germany is home to several famous institutions of higher learning.

Humboldt University in Berlin is famous for its contributions to the modern research university model. Another prestigious institution is the University of Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university, known for its strong emphasis on research across a variety of disciplines. Both universities have a long history of academic excellence and continue to play significant roles in global education and research.

8. German language media and entertainment

In Germany, there are both public and private TV channels. Public channels like ARD and ZDF are funded by a fee paid by households and offer quality programs without commercial influence. Private channels like RTL and ProSieben provide a mix of shows, including reality TV, dramas, and international movies.

The print media scene in Germany is also strong. News outlets like Der Spiegel and Die Zeit are respected for their thorough reporting. Many newspapers and magazines, both national and regional, have also developed a strong online presence to reach a broader audience.

Germany hosts the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the world’s top film festivals. Music is another key part of German entertainment. Germany is famous for classical music composers but it’s also known for modern electronic music, especially in cities like Berlin.

9. German-speaking countries sports enthusiasm

People love sports, especially soccer (Fußball) and handball.

german stadiums are part of the german culture

When it comes to famous soccer teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are very well-known. In 2024, Germany will host the Euro 2024 Football – and you can check the related German vocabulary for it.

Big soccer events in Germany include the Bundesliga, which is the top soccer league, and the DFB-Pokal, a major cup competition. You can also read more about football in German on our blog.

10. German fashion

Traditional clothing is still celebrated in Germany in regions like Bavaria.

Dirndl is what women typically wear; it’s a dress with a fitted bodice, a full skirt, and an apron.

Lederhosen are what men often wear; these are leather shorts or trousers held up with suspenders.

On the modern fashion front, Germany is very much up-to-date and influential.

Berlin Fashion Week is a major event where designers from all over the world come to show their latest collections. It’s a big deal in the fashion world and helps set trends.

11. German lifestyle of values and etiquette

Punctuality is highly valued. Being on time is considered a sign of respect and reliability, and if you’re late, Germans look at you with a certain disbelief. They are known for their commitment to being prompt. Showing up late is often seen as disrespectful and can leave a negative impression.

Direct communication is another key feature of German culture.

Germans generally prefer to get straight to the point. This directness can sometimes be perceived as blunt by those from other cultures, but it’s all for clear understanding.

When it comes to work, Germans are known for their strong work ethic. They are often described as hardworking and efficient.

All these traits—punctuality, direct communication, and a strong work ethic—contribute to Germany’s reputation for reliability and high standards.

12. Everyday life in German culture with German people

And finally, let’s take a look at everyday in German culture. The daily routine for many people revolves around the main activities: school or work, and meals.

The days usually start early with children heading off to school and adults commuting to their workplaces. The 3 main meals are giving structure to these routines. Transportation is also good and well-built in Germany, so in big cities people frequently use public transport or bikes instead of owning their own cars.

Trains are a popular choice for both short and long-distance travel – although the Deutsche Bahn has been hit with some negative reviews in the past couple of years.

Social life in Germany is vibrant: people often meet in cafes to enjoy a coffee and a true German conversation.

Parks are also a frequent gathering spot, because they are a relaxed environment for socializing and other outdoor activities.

Learn everything about German culture with Conversation Based Chunking

All of this is really useful to get closer to German culture but the true purpose of this blog would be to teach you the language.

And what other way to do it then to enroll in a German Conversation Based Chunking Guide! In it, you’ll get tons of content like an essential chunking list, my favourite resources to learn German, access to German practice worksheets and more – even a chance to start a 7-in-7 Challenge.

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