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Five maps that explain Saarland, Germany’s 100-year old state

In honor of Saarland's 100-year anniversary as a German state this year, we look at its most important aspects, from history to geography.

Five maps that explain Saarland, Germany's 100-year old state
A sign reads "Welcome to Saarbrücken," the capital and largest city in the state of Saarland. Datenschutz-Stockfoto/Depositphotos

Saarland is Germany's smallest non-city state by land mass, and with just under one million inhabitants, is only larger than Bremen by population. 

READ ALSO: Big birthday in a small state: Saarland celebrates its 100-year old history

An international state with heavy influences from France and Luxembourg and a history of independence, Saarland presents a beautiful, eclectic culture. 

Let's begin with the basics. 

Geography

Located in the westernmost point of Southern Germany, Saarland is surrounded almost completely by the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. France creates a border to the south, while Luxembourg shares a small border with Saarland to the northwest.

The capital and most populous city of the state is Saarbrücken.

Source: ingomenhard/Depositphotos

History
 
The Saar region has a well-documented history, from being conquered by the Holy Roman Empire to being parts of the kingdoms of the Carolingians and Franks.
 
The 100-year anniversary of the founding comes from the 1920 Treaty of Versailles, which gave the then-British and-French occupied Saar area an independent League of Nations mandate lasting 15 years. The map below displays the state's new territory.
 
Source: Soerfm via Wikimedia
 
After the mandate was over in 1935, Saarland's population voted with around a 90 percent majority to join Germany.  
 
Post-World War II
 
After World War II, Saarland fell under French occupation as France attempted to take control of the coal-rich industrial areas like North Rhine-Wesphalia's Ruhr area and Saarland.
 
France didn't manage to do this, and the Saar fell under France's Saar Protectorate, as shown on the map below. This meant the state was dependent on France for protection, but retained some measure of independence and autonomy. 
 
Source: Paasikivi via Wikimedia
 
Language
 
Historically, France has been very influential in Saarland. So influential that the government announced in 2014 it aims to make schools include French as a language requirement by 2043.  
 
 
However, Saarland remains mostly German-speaking and has its own dialectical characteristics. People in the area generally speak Moselle Franconian in the north and Rhine Franconian in the South, divided by the famous dat/das line that zigzags across Europe.
 
The line passes above the capital but below Saarlouis, as shown in the map below. Another characteristic is the tendency to refer to women in the neutral form rather than feminine.
 
Source: Roßbacher via Wikimedia
 
Religion
 
Saarland is one of Germany's most religious states, and is the only one with an over-50 percent Catholic majority. The map below shows the concentration of self-identified Catholics in Germany, according to a 2011 census.
 
Most Catholics are centered in former West Germany, either in Bavaria or farther to the west in North-Rhine Westphalia or, as mentioned, Saarland. More recent statistics from late 2017 show that almost 60 percent of Saarland's population identifies as Roman Catholic.  
 
Source: Michael Sander  via Wikimedia

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RETIREMENT

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?

Unlike in EU countries such as Portugal or Spain, Germany does not have a visa specifically for pensioners. Yet applying to live in the Bundesrepublik post-retirement is not difficult if you follow these steps.

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?
Two pensioners enjoying a quiet moment in Dresden in August 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Due to its quality of life, financial security and health care, Germany snagged the number 10 spot in the 2020 Global Retirement Index. So just how easy is it to plant roots in Deutschland after your retirement?

Applying for a residency permit

As with any non-EU or European Economic Area (EEA) national looking to stay in Germany for longer than a 90-day period, retirees will need to apply for a general resident’s permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) under which it will be possible to select retirement as a category. 

READ ALSO: How does Germany’s pension system measure up worldwide?

This is the same permit for those looking to work and study in Germany – but if you would like to do either after receiving a residency permit, you will need to explicitly change the category of the visa.

Applicants from certain third countries (such as the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Canada, and New Zealand) can first come to Germany on a normal tourist visa, and then apply for a residency permit when in the country. 

However, for anyone looking to spend their later years in Germany, it’s still advisable to apply at their home country’s consulate at least three months in advance to avoid any problems while in Germany.

Retirement visas still aren’t as common as employment visas, for example, so there could be a longer processing time. 

What do you need to retire in Germany?

To apply for a retirement visa, you’ll need proof of sufficient savings (through pensions, savings and investments) as well as a valid German health insurance. 

If you have previously worked in Germany for at least five years, you could qualify for Pensioner’s Health Insurance. Otherwise you’ll need to apply for one of the country’s many private health insurance plans. 

Take note, though, that not all are automatically accepted by the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office), so this is something you’ll need to inquire about before purchasing a plan. 

READ ALSO: The perks of private health insurance for expats in Germany

The decision is still at the discretion of German authorities, and your case could be made stronger for various reasons, such as if you’re joining a family member or are married to a German. Initially retirement visas are usually given out for a year, with the possibility of renewal. 

Once you’ve lived in Germany for at least five full years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit, or a Niederlassungserlaubnis. To receive this, you will have to show at least a basic knowledge of the German language and culture.

READ ALSO: How to secure permanent residency in Germany

Taxation as a pensioner

In the Bundesrepublik, pensions are still listed as taxable income, meaning that you could be paying a hefty amount on the pension from your home country. But this is likely to less in the coming years.

Tax is owed when a pensioner’s total income exceeds the basic tax-free allowance of €9,186 per year, or €764 per month. From 2020 the annual taxable income for pensioners will increase by one percent until 2040 when a full 100 percent of pensions will be taxable.

American retirees in Germany will also still have to file US income taxes, even if they don’t owe any taxes back in the States. 

In the last few years there has been a push around Germany to raise the pension age to 69, up from 65-67, in light of rising lifespans.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could people in Germany still be working until the age of 68?

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