Germany has been largely viewed through the prism of culture, and this country could not be that much politically and economically developed without its inherent German culture. German nation has brought lots of scientific discoveries and cultural masterpieces to the world. Therefore, there is no surprise that Germany had been a home to the world’s most influential schools of philosophy. Yet, how all of that had begun?
A little slice of German history
The present-day Germany as we know it was formed from various tribes that populated the lands of what we know today as Germany, Northern Italy, and Eastern France at the beginning of the 10th century. Otto I, whom we know more as Otto I the Great nowadays and who inherited rulership over the Duchy of Saxony from his father, played a key role in unifying the German tribes. His ambitions, however, were not limited by the creation of the medieval German state and defense of it against the Magyars, yet he strived to create an empire. Actually, the creation of the Holy Roman Empire, the state that existed up until the beginning of the 19th century and where the German nation had played a key role, happened under his rule after he had taken over Rome.
Otto I the Great is considered to be one of the most influental personalities in German history
Even though the German state has evolved over centuries, the key concept of it remains same: federalization and a large share of power given to the local authorities. This specialty of Germany can be seen through centuries, and one can easily notice how significantly varies the German culture across the country’s regions.
Significance of the German culture and its impact on the world
When speaking about such a matter as the German culture and its impact on the world’s development, one of the most common topics many people talk about is German philosophy. Only such a country like Germany was able to bring so outstanding philosophy school that a short period in the country’s history (not more than 30-40 years) marked a great milestone in the development of philosophy. Namely, it is going about the German classic philosophy that includes such philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, Johann Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Ludwig Feuerbach, all of who have exerted an enormous influence on the development of philosophical thought.
Apart from the German classical philosophy, there was a much larger number of distinguished German philosophers, including Gottfried Leibniz, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Engels, and Martin Heidegger. There is no need to say that all those philosophers influenced actual events in the world, like Karl Marx and his impact on revolutions across the world or Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger and their influence on the Nazis. All in all, German philosophers majored in all philosophical branches and groups, from idealism (Kant and Hegel are the most distinguished philosophers of this group) up to materialism (Feuerbach and Marx).
Another significant contribution Germans made in classic music. There is no doubt that there was no other way than to enrich the world’s intellectual and cultural heritage with such second to none composers like Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, and Richard Wagner.
Another field where you can spot excellence of the German culture is, actually, literature. Who has not read the impressive poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (though he wrote prose works too) and the tragic masterpieces of Erich Maria Remarque? Throughout the history of Germany, its literature became renowned thanks to a large number of its representatives, including the following (most distinguished, though it can be disputed) ones: Franz Kafka (usually regarded as German because of his writing in German language), Heinrich Heine, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Herman Hesse, Gunter Grass, and Erich Kaestner.
The place of religion in the German culture
In the medieval Europe, religion had occupied one of the key roles in the life of society, and there is no surprise that German lands (that were included in the state of the Holy Roman Empire then) were highly religious and, of course, Catholic. Moreover, Germany had a direct connection with Rome – in order to become an Emperor and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, a lord should have gone to Rome and should have received a blessing from the Pope.
The monument to Martin Luther in Worms, a German city in which he was declared to be a heretic after his refusal to renounce his religious views in 1521
That status quo changed, however, when Martin Luther, a German priest and monk, nailed his work known under the name “Ninety-five Theses” to the doors of the All Saints’ Church in the German city of Wittenberg. This occurrence took place in 1517 and it had been considered as an act of defiance against the Emperor and against the Pope. Those theses, particularly, included a statement that a believer does not need a church or a Pope in order to get in touch with God. All this threatened the power of both the Emperor and the Pope, and so it is not a wonder that repressions against Lutherans – the followers of Martin Luther are known under this name – followed shortly. All in all, that was a beginning of a major religious war between Catholic and Protestants.
As for the present time, Germany, despite a huge inflow of Turkish immigrants and immigrants of other nationalities, remains mostly Protestant. However, considering that from 65 up to 70 percent of the population identify themselves as Christians, 24 million of Catholic citizens in Germany is rather an impressive number, which is just a little bit lower than the number of Protestants.
Stereotypes about the German people
What associations do we have when thinking of Germany and Germans? The first words that come to our minds are: beer, sausages, football, punctuality, and organization. Indeed, Germans deserve a particular respect for their ability to produce amazing beer and great food. Yet, what we can say about personal qualities?
The first thing that comes to one’s mind is actually punctuality, because the phrase “German punctuality” became a byword in lots of countries. And actually punctuality is deeply rooted in the German culture. Besides, punctuality in German sense does not mean just not to come late, yet it also means not to come earlier. The logic goes as the following: if you come earlier, you make the person you are going to meet feel as if he/she was late, and so this is considered to be an impolite behavior.
Another attribute of the German people is being hard-working and easy to organize. Indeed, Germans pay respect towards their work and the work of others, and industriousness is one of the key components in their culture.
Thriftiness is one of the key qualities of the German people
If one looks at the economy of Germany and the way it functions, it will be hard not to notice another attribute that is inherent in the German culture: thriftiness. Just spot the contrast between Anglo-Saxons and Germans: whereas the first ones heavily invest in stocks and shares, Germans largely save their money on deposits. Moreover, they save the money in institutions known as Sparkassen, tiny savings banks scattered all over the country. These two qualities – thriftiness and industriousness – made Germany to be one of the few countries in the world with a budget surplus and a large gap between exports and imports.
One other key value that should be mentioned here is pedantry. Germans think that the house should be always clean, each item belongs to a certain place, and each thing has to be done at a certain time. Indeed, all of these qualities are a generalization of the whole German population and, indeed, there are exceptions from it. Yet, those stereotypes were proven to be true for Germans long time ago.
If you want to find out more about German culture, here are a few sources you might consider as useful ones:
Deutsche Welle: Here you can find lots of news about Germany and German culture in your native language. It is a German analogue of the BBC.
Goethe Institute: Without any doubt, it is the most respectable German institutions in the whole world, where you can learn German language and get to know more about German culture.