Germany is a federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe, formally known as the Federal Republic of Germany. It comprises 16 component states, a land size of 357,021 square kilometers (137,847 square miles), and a mostly moderate seasonal climate. Germany is the most populous member state of the European Union, with about 82 million people. It is the world’s second most popular immigration destination after the United States. Berlin is Germany’s capital and biggest city. Ruhr, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Düsseldorf are among the major cities.
Since ancient antiquity, several Germanic tribes have inhabited the northern portions of contemporary Germany. Before the year 100 AD, there existed a territory known as Germania. The Germanic tribes pushed southward during the Migration Period. German lands were an important component of the Holy Roman Empire beginning in the 10th century. Northern German areas were the Protestant Reformation’s epicenter throughout the 16th century.
Germany became a nation state in 1871, when the majority of German states merged to form the Prussian-dominated German Empire. The Empire was succeeded by the legislative Weimar Republic after World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919. The creation of a national socialist government in 1933 precipitated World War II and genocide. Following an Allied occupation period, two German states were established: the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The nation was reunified in 1990.
Germany is a major power in the twenty-first century, with the world’s fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and fifth-largest by PPP. It is the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of commodities, as well as a worldwide leader in many industrial and technical areas. Germany is a developed nation with a high quality of life that is supported by a trained and productive workforce. It maintains a social security and universal health care system, as well as environmental preservation and tuition-free university education.
In 1993, Germany became a founding member of the European Union. It is a member of the Schengen Area and a founding member of the Eurozone in 1999. Germany is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Group of Eight (G8), the Group of Twenty (G20), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The country’s military spending ranks ninth in the world. Germany, known for its rich cultural past, has long been the home of important artists, philosophers, singers, athletes, and businesspeople. It is a scientific and technological powerhouse on a worldwide scale.
With 407 million overnight stays in 2012, which included 68.83 million foreign tourists, Germany is the 7th most visited country in the world. More than 30.4 million international tourists came to Germany in 2012. Berlin is now the third most visited destination for city trips in Europe and more than 30% of Germans also spend their holidays in their own country, most of them in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Domestic and international travel and tourism together contribute more than €43.2 billion to Germany’s GDP. Industry, which includes indirect and induced effects, represents 4.5% of Germany’s GDP and provides 2 million jobs (4.8% of total employment).
Germany is known for its various tourist routes, such as the Romantic Road, the Wine Route, the Castle Road and the Avenue Road. The German Half-timbered Houses Route connects cities with examples of these buildings. There are 41 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany, including the old town centres of Regensburg, Bamberg, Lübeck, Quedlinburg, Weimar, Stralsund and Wismar. Germany’s most visited attractions are Neuschwanstein Castle, Cologne Cathedral, Berlin Bundestag, Munich Hofbräuhaus, Heidelberg Castle, Dresden Swinger, Berlin TV Tower and Aachen Cathedral. Europa-Park near Freiburg is the second most popular theme park in Europe.
As a federal republic, Germany is a highly decentralised country, which does justice to the cultural differences between the regions. Some travellers may think only of beer, lederhosen and Oktoberfest when it comes to Germany, but the famous German alpine and beer culture is mainly to be found in Bavaria and Munich. The annual Oktoberfest is the most visited festival in Europe and the largest folk festival in the world. However, the south-western regions of Germany are known for their wine-growing regions (e.g. Rheinhessen and Pfalz) and Bad Dürkheim on the “German Wine Route”, where the world’s largest wine festival is held each year with more than 600,000 visitors.
Immigration has also played a major role in Germany over the past 50 years. About 20% of the total population are foreigners or have a “migration background” (Germans and non-Germans who moved to Germany after 1949 or who have at least one parent who did). Many cities have large communities of Turks, Poles, Italians and people from Southern and Eastern Europe or the Middle East.
Many cities have lively LGBT scenes, especially Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin Tourist Office and other tourism organisations are actively courting gay and lesbian travellers to their cities. Public figures – such as the former mayors of Berlin and Hamburg and other celebrities – are very sympathetic to openly gay or bisexual people.
Germany is located in Western and Central Europe. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria to the south-east, Switzerland to the south-south-west, France, Luxembourg and Belgium to the west and the Netherlands to the north-west. It usually lies between latitudes 47° and 55° north and longitudes 5° and 16° east. Germany also borders the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in the northeast. With Switzerland and Austria, Germany also borders Lake Constance, the third largest lake in Central Europe. Germany’s area covers 357,021 km2 (137,847 m2 ), of which 349,223 km2 is land and 7,798 km2 is water. It is the seventh largest country in Europe in terms of surface area and the 62nd largest country in the world.
The wooded low mountain range and the North German lowlands (lowest point: Wilstermarsch at 3.54 m below sea level) are crossed by major rivers such as the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe. German Alpine glaciers are melting. Important mineral resources are iron ore, coal, potash, wood, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, nickel, farmland and water.
With 80.2 million inhabitants based on the 2011 census, being the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and one of the 16th most populated countries in the world. Its population density is 227 inhabitants per square kilometre (588 per square mile). General life expectancy at birth in Germany is 80.19 years (77.93 years for men and 82.58 years for women). The birth rate of 1.41 children per woman (2011 estimate) or 8.33 births per 1000 inhabitants is one of the lowest in the world. Since the 1970s, the mortality rate in Germany has been higher than the birth rate. In Germany, however, birth and migration rates have increased since the early 2010s, mainly due to an increase in the number of highly skilled migrants.
Four large groups of people are called ‘national minorities’ because their ancestors have lived in their respective regions for centuries. In the northernmost federal state of Schleswig-Holstein is a Danish minority ( approximately 50,000). The Serbians, a Slavic people of about 60,000, to the Lusatia in Saxony and Brandenburg. Romanies live all over Germany, while the Frisians are located at the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein as well as in the north-western part of Lower Saxony.
About 5 million Germans live abroad.
In 2014, about seven million of Germany’s 81 million inhabitants did not have German citizenship. 96 percent of these people lived in West Germany and mostly in urban areas.
In the 1960s and 1970s, German governments invited “guest workers” to come to Germany to work in German industry. Many companies preferred to employ these workers in Germany after they had trained them, and the number of immigrants in Germany has steadily increased. In 2011, about six million foreign nationals (7.7% of the population) were registered in Germany.
The Federal Statistical Office classifies citizens according to migration background. In terms of migration background, in 2009, 20 % of the country’s inhabitants, i.e. more than 16 million people, had a migration background or a partial migration background (including people descended or partially descended from ethnic German immigrants). In 2010, 29% of families with children under 18 had at least one parent with a migration background.
According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Germany hosted the second highest number of international migrants worldwide in 2015, about 5% or 12 million of all 244 million migrants. Germany ranks 7th among EU countries and 37th globally in terms of the percentage of migrants in the country’s population. In 2014, the largest national group came from Turkey (2,859,000), followed by Poland (1,617,000), Russia (1,188,000) and Italy (764,000). Since 1987, around 3 million ethnic German repatriates, mostly from the former Eastern bloc countries, have made use of their right of return and emigrated to Germany.
Germany has been approximately 2/3 Protestant and 1/3 Roman Catholic from its foundation in 1871, with a significant Jewish minority. Other faiths existed in the state but never reached the demographic importance and cultural influence of these three denominations. Germany lost its Jewish minority almost during the Holocaust and the religious composition of the country gradually changed in the decades after 1945, with West Germany becoming more religious through immigration and East Germany becoming predominantly irreligious through state policy. After German reunification in 1990, diversification continued.
According to the 2011 census, Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, accounting for 66.8% of the total population. In relation to the total population, 31.7 % declared themselves Protestant, including members of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) (30.8 %) and free churches (0.9 %), and 31.2 % Roman Catholic. Orthodox believers accounted for 1.3 %, Jews 0.1 %. Other religions accounted for 2.7 %. The Catholic Church had 23.9 million members in 2014 (29.5%) and the Protestant Church 22.6 million (27.9%). Both major churches have lost significant numbers of adherents in recent years.
Geographically, Protestantism is concentrated in the north, centre and east of the country. These are mostly members of the EKD, which includes Lutheran, Reformed and administrative or confessional amalgamations of both traditions dating back to the Prussian Union of 1817.
In 2011, 33 % of Germans were not members of an officially recognised religious community with special status. Irreligion in Germany is strongest in the new federal states and in the large conurbations.
Islamic religion is the country’s 2nd largest religion. In the 2011 census, 1.9% of Germans said they were Muslim. More recent estimates suggest that between 2.1 and 4 million Muslims live in Germany. Most Muslims are Sunnis and Alevis from Turkey, but there are also small numbers of Shiites, Ahmadiyyas and other denominations.
Other religions that make up less than one per cent of the population in Germany are Buddhism with 250,000 followers (about 0.3 %) and Hinduism with about 100,000 followers (0.1 %). All other religious communities in Germany have less than 50,000 followers each.
It has a social market economy characterised by a high-skilled workforce, a high capital stock, and a low level of corruption and the high level of innovation. It is the third largest exporter of goods in the world and has the largest economy in Europe, which is also the fourth largest in the world with a nominal GDP and the fifth largest with a PPP[.
Services account for about 71% of total GDP (including information technology), industry for 28% and agriculture for 1%. The unemployment rate published by Eurostat is 4.7% in January 2015, the lowest of all 28 EU Member States. At 7.1%, Germany also has the lowest youth unemployment rate of all EU Member States. According to the OECD, Germany has one of the highest labour productivity rates in the world.
As a part of the European Single Market, Germany accounts for more than 508 million consumers. Different national trade policies are determined by agreements between the members of the European Union (EU) and by EU legislation. Germany adopted the single European currency, the euro, in 2002. It is a member of the euro zone, representing some 338 million citizens. Monetary policy is determined by the European Central Bank, which has its headquarters in Frankfurt, the financial centre of mainland Europe.
As the home of the modern car industry, the German car industry is regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world and is the fourth largest in terms of production.
Of the 500 largest listed companies in the world in terms of turnover in 2014, the Fortune Global 500, 28 are based in Germany. 30 companies headquartered in Germany are included in the German equity index DAX.
Germany is known for its high proportion of specialised small and medium-sized companies, known as the Mittelstand model. About 1,000 of these companies are world market leaders in their segment and are known as hidden champions. Berlin developed into a thriving, cosmopolitan centre for business start-ups and became a leading location for venture capital-backed companies in the European Union.
The list includes the largest German companies in terms of turnover in 2014:
Germany is a Federal Republic composed of 16 federal states (Bundesländer). The Bundestag is elected every four years in a fairly complicated system that includes both direct and proportional representation. During the first session, the parliament elects the Chancellor, who acts as head of government. The federal states are represented at federal level by the Bundesrat. Since many federal laws must be approved by the council, this can lead to situations where the council and parliament obstruct each other if they are controlled by different parties. The Federal Constitutional Court has the right to rule on the constitutionality of laws.
The formal Head of State is the Federal President, who does not deal with day-to-day politics and has mainly ceremonial and representative duties.
The two largest parties are the centre-right CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and the centre-left SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany). Through the system of proportional representation, smaller parties are also represented in parliament, covering the full spectrum of political views, from the free market economy and environmentalism to extreme left-wing socialism. The far-right parties are not represented at federal level because they have not received enough support to win a seat in parliament.