INFOYER I German Wiki - Culture in Germany

Culture is often defined as the cumulative characteristics and knowledge of a group of people influenced by the history, literature, philosophy, music, art & architecture, lifestyle, beliefs and values shared by the group, over years. 
Every country therefore has its own culture. Germany is no exception and is in fact a country highly esteemed for its rich cultural heritage. 
Culture in Germany, right from its origins, has been majorly influenced by great intellectual and popular forces in Europe. Historians have referred to Germany as "Das Land der Dichter und Denker" (the country of poets and thinkers) time and again. The country owes this title to its many great writers and philosophers who played a crucial role in the development of western thought and culture.

Culture in Germany: History of German literature

The history of German literature goes all the way back to the Middle Ages, when names like Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach reigned the literary circles. Over the years, critically acclaimed German poets and authors like Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Hoffman, Brecht, Heine and Schmidt achieved great heights of fame with their remarkable contributions to the world of literature. German folklore was made internationally accessible and popularized greatly by the Brothers Grimm. Works by Theodor Mommsen, Gerhart Hauptmann, Heinrich Böll, Hermann Hesse and Günter Grass among several others are acknowledged as some of the greatest in the world and have won the Nobel Prize in literature. 
The Germans are just as renowned for their significant role in helping various philosophical movements gain momentum. Gottfried Leibniz’s work on rationalism, Immanuel Kant’s enlightenment philosophy, the theories of classical German idealism by Fichte, Hegel & Schelling and Schopenhauer’s contribution to metaphysical pessimism are good examples. No discussion of German contribution to philosophy would be complete without a mention of names like Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Nietzsche.

Culture in Germany: History of music

Music forms an integral part of any culture. German & Austro-German classical musicians are some of the most famous in the world with everlasting impressions, marking the transition between the Classical & Romantic eras by composers like Bach and Beethoven. Brahms, Wagner, Schubert, Mendelssohn & Strauss are among the other unparalleled names in western classical music.  
Germany is home to several other genres of music as well. Large rock music festivals are an annual feature in the country. The 70’s marked the revival of a lively popular culture, with its roots in Berlin, the capital, known for its vibrant music and art scene. Opera houses in the country like Semperoper, Komische Oper Berlin, Munich State Theatre and the Bayreuth Festspielhaus are prominent names worldwide. 

Culture in Germany: History of German Art

German art has a distinguished history and a noteworthy influence on western art. Artists who made a name during the Renaissance period were Dürer, Holbein the Younger, Grünewald and Cranach the Elder. Peter Paul Rubens and Johann Baptist Zimmermann were prominent artists of the Baroque era. German influence in Romantic art can be seen in the works of Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Spitzweg, while Max Liebermann and Max Ernst are celebrated names in the field of Impressionism and Surrealism respectively. Sculptors like Otto Schmidt-Hofer and Julius Schmidt-Felling are names engraved in gold in late 19th & early 20th century German art history. The country hosts important art festivals and exhibitions, examples of which are the Documenta, the Berlin Biennale, Transmediale and Art Cologne. 
Carolingian and Ottonian architecture which preceded the Romanesque style are regarded major contributions by the Germans along with the classic medieval Brick Gothic style. Distinctive German elements can also be easily identified in Renaissance and Baroque architecture.  
Religion, celebrations, rituals, sport & cuisine are some other important aspects of culture. 

Culture in Germany: Religion

A majority of the population follows Christianity, both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The country imposes a special tax on people who declare a religious affiliation with the Church. In recent times, there are large non-religious groups in several parts of Germany. Being a secular country which gives you the freedom to follow any religion, custom or tradition, Germany offers every expatriate the opportunity to practise the religion of their choice and a quick internet search could be helpful in locating local churches, mosques, synagogues or monasteries. 

Other typical characteristics about culture in Germany

Christmas (Weihnachten) in Germany is special and some of the things that make it so, are the customs and traditions surrounding the festival, Advent wreaths, Christmas trees, Stollen (a kind of Christmas cake) and the lovely Christmas markets with whiffs of Glühwein (mulled wine) and roasted almonds drifting through the fresh and crisp winter air. Other popular festivals include the world famous Oktoberfest (a beer festival) in Munich and Karneval (carnival) or Fasching, known for its vivacious celebrations, lively street parades and colourful costumes.

There are regional differences in German cuisine and the country shares some culinary commonalities with a few of its neighbours like Switzerland and Austria. Sausages of various kinds (Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Currywurst to name a few), a variety of breads and pastries, and Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) are a few staples in German cuisine among many others. The country being home to diverse ethnic communities, several other international varieties of food are also easily available. German beer purity regulations enjoyed the reputation of being the world’s oldest active food-quality control measure until its repeal some years ago. Despite the growing fondness for wine especially across the country’s wine regions, beer continues to be the most popular alcoholic beverage. 

Sport is yet another aspect without which any discussion on German culture would remain incomplete. Football is the unanimous favourite and the German national football team has made the nation proud and played a crucial role in strengthening the country’s love for the sport by winning the world championship four times! Germany also happens to be one of the top motor sports countries in the world. A few other popular sports are boxing, ice hockey, tennis, horse riding, golf and water sports like sailing, rowing and swimming. German athletes have also enjoyed success in the Olympics and other landmark sport events such as the Summer/Winter Games. 

Writings on culture almost always invariably fall short owing to the vast, all-encompassing nature of the term ‘culture’. Needless to say, the best way to understand cultural nuances, appreciate cultural differences, learn about and imbibe a culture is to experience it first hand – live in the country, interact with its people, learn the language, explore, discover and learn wonderful, new things everyday!