Rising from the ashes of two World Wars, Germany has emerged as a powerful player in the international arena. This Central European nation boasts the continent’s largest national economy, and is a world leader in industry, research, and technology.
Germany has faced many obstacles to national prosperity. Partitioned by the Allied Powers after World War II, for 40 years the country was a symbol of the divisiveness and tension of the Cold War era. But rapid development, improved foreign relations, and German reunification have transformed the country’s image into one of progress and modernity. The economic growth trends created by massive reconstruction in West Germany gained momentum following reunification, and have turned the country into the world’s largest exporter and second largest importer. Germany has also devoted itself to enhancing its reputation abroad by forging a strong alliance with former enemy France and taking a leading role in the European Union; as a result, it took the top place in the 2008 Nation Branding Index, a measure of countries’ global popular perception.
Today’s Germany is distinguished by its increasing wealth and global presence. 37 of the world’s 500 largest publicly traded companies are headquartered in Germany, and many of their names, including Nivea, Adidas, and BASF, will be familiar to readers. The German automobile industry has a longstanding reputation for quality. Affordable Volkswagens are seen in the streets of many cities, and Mercedes, BMWs, and Porsches have become status symbols both at home and abroad. In addition to the European Union, of which Germany is a founding member, the country is a member of the G8, OECD, and NATO; it has also taken a more active role in international military operations in the past decade, sending troops into combat for the first time since World War II in 1999.
Foreigners have long been drawn to Germany’s stable economy, large job market, and extensive social services system, so much so that the country is home to the world’s third largest immigrant population. Germany saw a huge influx of Gastarbeiter, or foreign workers, in the past; most of these came from Turkey, and represent Germany’s largest ethnic minority group. However, social and political pressures have led to a push for immigration reform in recent years, and immigration policy is thus becoming increasingly restrictive, especially for unskilled workers. In general, non-EU citizens must either 1) be enrolled in a German school or university, or 2)possess an academic degree or specialized job training and fall within certain government-defined employment categories in order to be granted residency. Prospective immigrants are advised to research the government websites listed below thoroughly before making any relocation decisions.
German is, of course, the official language of Germany. Many regional dialects exist; Standard, or High German, is used in government and taught in schools. It is a close relative of English, but the vocabulary and grammar are quite different, having had less influence from Latin. Several immigrant and minority languages are present as well, including Danish, Frisian, Turkish, and Polish.
Germany at Wikitravel
Germany.info: German Missions in the United States
Monster.de Job Board