Germany – Facts & Figures

Germany is one of the big players in the European Union. It's got the highest population, the largest GDP, and the most exported and imported goods. It's often referred to as the EU's de facto leader, or the 'powerhouse' of Europe.

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Little wonder, then, that Germany is a popular choice for potential expats from around the world. A country with a strong economy, a stable political system, and high quality healthcare and education: the perfect combination for a great many people.

Many expats see the cities of Germany as a great combination of culture and structure: Berlin and Frankfurt are home to more restaurants, nightclubs, museums and art galleries than you can shake a stick at, and yet the public services are efficient and the trains usually run on time.

Germany is not seen as dangerous – personal safety is not usually a concern in the country. There are some exceptions: public transport can be a bit dodgy at night time, and you’d be wise to stay away from crowds of drunken football fans. It doesn’t have a big drug problem, although there are murmurings that narcotic use is on the rise.

Germany has suffered through a series of terrorist attacks in recent years. It is seen as a ‘high risk’ destination for further attacks, similar to France.

In general, though, Germany is a safe and pleasant country in which to live and work. In fact, Mercer’s 2018 Quality of Living Survey, popular with potential expats, put three German cities in the top ten: Munich (3), Düsseldorf (6), and Frankfurt (7).

Although the Berlin wall came down a long while ago, West Germany (home to Wessis: Westerners) and East Germany (home to Ossis: Easterners) are still culturally and economically divergent. What is now Germany was split and merged many times in many combinations before the latest, Soviet-led separation. The two regions are, and always have been, distinct in lifestyle, political views, and demographics. I thoroughly recommend James Hawes’ The Shortest History of Germany ( from Amazon) to get an idea of the historical context.

For a modern update, How reunification is going – how far a once-divided Germany has grown together again (in German) and this summary of it (in English), both from 2015, are useful. You will see that wages and general prosperity are lower in East Germany. As the Independent article puts it,

As cars are the most conspicuous indication of a German’s wealth, it is worth noting that a west German is twice as likely to drive a BMW, with an East German twice as likely to drive a Skoda.

West Germany is home to far more foreigners than East Germany (around 25%, compared to around 4-9%), and is often more welcoming towards them. That’s not to say that you should discount East Germany if you want to live or work there – after all, it includes Berlin – but it’s worth doing some research on both ‘sides’ of the country, and visiting both, before you make your decision.

The basics

The Country: Germany (Deutschland)

The Nationality: German (deutsch)

The People: Germans (das Deutsch)

Languages: Around 94% of the population speak German as their first language. Many people also speak a second language: over 30% speak English, around 9% speak French and about 8% speak Russian. (LanguageKnowledge.eu)

Time Zone: UTC+1

Currency: Euro

Currency Code: EUR

ISO International Country Code: DEU

Internet Domain: .de

Telephone Dialling Code: +49

The geography

Capital City: Berlin (population: approx. 3.7million)

Area: 357,022 sq km (64 out of 254 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Coastline: 2,389km

Terrain: Varied. Forests, mountains, plains, lowlands and lots of rivers!

Climate: Moderate. Warm summers and cool winters, with greater temperature extremes further away from the coast.

The people

Most of this is from the Germany CIA World Factbook page – we’ve linked to other pages where relevant.

Population: 80,594,017 (19 out of 237 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population growth: -0.16% per year lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Median age: 47.1 years lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Life expectancy at Birth: 80.8 years lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Urban population: 77.3% of total population lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Religion: Roman Catholic 29%, Protestant 27%, Muslim 4.4%, Orthodox Christian 1.9%, other 1.7%, none or members of unrecorded religious groups 36% (2015 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Ethnicity: German 91.5%, Turkish 2.4%, other 6.1% (made up largely of Polish, Italian, Romanian, Syrian, and Greek) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

UN Human Development Index: 4 of 188 countries (2016). This index attempts to measure a country’s achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and a number of other areas. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 4 of 188 countries (2016). This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality this index and the HDI would show the same result. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population Below Poverty Line: 16.7% lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Foreign-born population of Germany

According to Destatis (the German Federal Statistics Office), Germany was home to 9.2million foreigners in 2016, and 18.6million people with a ‘migrant background’. Some 22.5% of the German population are either first- or second-generation immigrants (2016). These figures saw a big boost during 2015/16, as Germany took in many asylum seekers during the refugee crisis.

Turkish people make up by far the biggest group of foreign nationals in Germany. See below.

RankCountryNumberPercentage of foreign national population
1Turkey1,492,58014.9
2Poland783,0857.8
3Syria637,8456.4
4Italy611,4506.1
5Romania533,6605.3
6Greece348,4753.5
7Croatia332,6053.3
8Bulgaria263,3202.6
9Afghanistan253,4852.5
10Russia245,3802.4
11Iraq227,1952.3
12Serbia223,1002.2
13Hungary192,3401.9
14Austria183,6251.8
15Bosnia and Herzegovina172,5601.7
16Netherlands149,1601.5
17Spain146,8461.5
18Ukraine136,3401.4
19Portugal136,0801.4
20France130,9151.3
21China129,1501.3
22United States114,1451.1
23United Kingdom107,0051.1
24India97,8651
25Iran97,7101
26Macedonia95,5701
27Vietnam89,9650.9
28Morocco75,8550.8
29Pakistan73,7900.7

The medical system

Germany has a good-quality, universal healthcase system – funded by a mixture of private and public money.

Health Expenditure: 11.3% of GDP (CIA World Factbook) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Doctors: 4.19/1000 (CIA World Factbook) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Hospital Beds: 8.3/1000 (CIA World Factbook) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

World Health Organization ranking of health systems (last release in 2000): 25 of 191 countries.

The government

Germany is a multi-party democracy. Its federal legislation is dealt with in the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament) and the Bundesrat (a body that represents Germany’s 16 federated states – it serves much the same role as the UK House of Lords, or the US Senate).

Germany is led by a Chancellor: currently Angela Merkel, who has held the position since 2005. Her party, the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) formed a ‘grand coalition’ with the CDU’s main opposition, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). Social democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier is president. This coalition was formed in 2013, after a strong election for the CDU.

In 2017, both the CDU and the SPD suffered massive losses to the benefit of smaller parties, particularly the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which claimed 94 seats in the Bundestag – the first far-right party to win seats in parliament since the 1950s. The SPD was reluctant to renew their coalition with the CDU but, after much in-fighting and five months of government limbo, the ‘grand coalition’ was renewed in March 2018.

The Peace Index

Germany is ranked 16 out of 163 countries included in the 2018 edition of the Vision of Humanity “Peace Index”. This is just ahead of Norway and just behind Australia. Iceland comes first. Syria comes last.

The methodology used to make this index may be open to some debate but it is a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The Global Terrorism Index

Germany is ranked 38 out of the 162 countries in the 2017 edition of the “Global Terrorism Index”. A low rank/high number is good, so this is not a particularly encouraging score for the country. Iraq is number 1 on the list.

This is another interesting snapshot, from people behind the Peace Index. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The legal system

Germany was only united in 1872, so its legal system is far from ancient. It adopted the French legal system, making changes where necessary to reflect and better fit with the established laws of the region. The government has put together this page as an introduction to the legislative system.

Germany is ranked a pleasingly high 6 out of 113 countries included in the 2017-18 edition of the World Justice Project’s “Rule of Law Index” (with 1 being the best). Germany scored particularly well in the ‘Civil Justice’ and ‘Fundamental Rights’ categories. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Germany also scores well on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Germany is ranked 12 out of 180 countries included in the 2017 edition of the index. They scored similarly to Australia and the UK. New Zealand and Denmark top the rankings, and Somalia and South Sudan sit at the bottom. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The economy

Most of this is from the Germany CIA World Factbook page – we’ve linked to other pages where relevant.

GDP (purchasing power parity (‘PPP’): US$4.15 trillion (2017 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP per capita: US$50,200 lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP Growth 2017: 2.1%.lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Inflation: 1.6% (2017) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Public debt: 65.7% of GDP (2017 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Unemployment: General: 3.4%; Youth 6% (April 2018, Trading Economicslightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Currency: Euro

Business

The stereotypes ring true in Germany. Businesses in Germany are superb at forward-planning, fantastically thorough in fact-checking, and very averse to sudden changes or surprises.

Germany ranks 20 out of 189 on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business Index” (2018). lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject It is classed as “very easy” to do business in. Germany is rubbing shoulders with the UAE, Latvia, Austria and Canada, and beating neighbours France (31) and Italy (46), but trailing some way behind the top: New Zealand (1), Singapore (2) have long dominated, and Denmark (3) has been inching its way upward.

As already mentioned, Germany scores well on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Germany is ranked 12 out of 180 countries included in the 2017 edition of the index.

 

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