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LIVING IN GERMANY

IN NUMBERS: How life in Germany has changed since reunification

As Germany marked 31 years of reunification on October 3rd, we looked at what has changed in the past three decades, from life expectancy to religion.

Many aspects of life in Germany have changed since reunification, including the average life expectancy.
Many aspects of life in Germany have changed since reunification, including the average life expectancy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Strauch

Life expectancy

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the average life expectancy in Germany is currently around 83 years for women and 78 for men. 

In 1990, the average life expectancy amongst those born in former West Germany was 79 for women and 73 for men. 

According to figures from 1989, women born in the East could expect to live until they were about 76, while men could expect to live to around 70-years-old on average. 

Beer

According to the German Brewers’ Association, the average German consumes about 100 litres of beer a year. 

Just over 30 years ago the average amount was 143 litres. Beer consumption in Germany reached its peak in the West in 1976, when the average citizen consumed a record 151 litres.

READ ALSO: Ten things you never knew about German reunification

Football

The 2020 European Football Championship was cancelled due to coronavirus (and later rescheduled to 2021).

1990, on the other hand, was a World Cup year. Headed by coach Franz Beckenbauer, Germany became World Champions for the third time in Rome. 

Germany became World Champions for a third time at the World Cup Final in Rome in 1990. Photo: DPA

FC Bayern Munich were German champions in 1990 and won the same title again this year. 

Their victory in 1900 time was their eleventh title, while their victory this year marks their 29th. 

Hansa Rostock emerged as champions in the last GDR Premier League, which ended in May 1991.

Religion

According to church data, around 50 percent of the German population currently identify as Protestant or Roman Catholic. 

Three decades ago this figure was 72 percent. In the GDR, however, around 70 percent of citizens were said to have no religious affiliation.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about Catholicism in Germany

The proportion of Muslims in the country rose from 3.7 percent in 1990 to around five percent in 2000. And a study from earlier in 2021 found that between 5.3 and 5.6 million people of the Islam faith currently live in Germany, making up a share of 6.4 to 6.7 percent of the country’s total population – which stands at around 83.2 million.

READ ALSO: A breakdown of Germany’s Muslim population

In 2019, 95,000 citizens were registered as belonging to the Jewish community, compared to less than 30,000 in 1990. 

Smoking

According to recent figures from the German Cancer Research Center, 22 percent of Germans over the age of 15 are smokers. Thirty years ago this figure lay at almost 30 percent. 

The proportion of men who smoke has decreased from 37 to 26 percent, while the proportion of women has decreased from 22 to 18 percent. 

READ ALSO: German restaurant owner gives non-smoking employees extra holiday

Meat consumption

According to the interest group ProVeg, around eight million Germans are currently vegetarian, while 1.3 million are vegan. 

Estimates suggest that only one percent of the population in 1990 were vegetarian, that is to say around 800,000 citizens. 

Sunday TV

Around four million TV viewers tuned in to the last ever episode of German soap opera Lindenstraße in March 2020, twice as many viewers as normal.

In the first three years after it first came on air in 1985, its average viewing figures reached over 10 million. In 1990 the show still had around nine million viewers every Sunday.

TV

The average German spent on average 211 minutes (or three and a half hours) watching TV every day in 2019. 

In 1990, the average (albeit only for West Germany) was around 147 minutes (or about two and a half hours).

Records for Germany as a whole only began in 1992 –  the average back then was 158 minutes.

Foreign holidays

Before the Covid pandemic hit, Germans were particularly keen travellers. 

In 2019, 74 percent of Germans headed abroad for a holiday, more than ever before according to a study by the German Research Foundation for Holidays and Travel.

Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania is particularly popular with German tourists. Photo: DPA

Of those, 8.4 percent of these travelled longer distances for their holidays, but the clear favourite amongst Germans was Spain at 12.7 percent, followed by Italy, Turkey, Austria and Greece. 

Spain also took the top spot for holiday destinations in 1990, with Italy following shortly behind. 

Domestic holidays

According to the same study, the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which borders on the Baltic sea, is the most popular holiday destination amongst German tourists. 

Runners up were Bavaria, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg.

The fall of the Wall in 1989 saw a huge surge in the amount of East Germans travelling around the country in the following year. The amount of West Germans travelling to the new German states, however, was lower than expected. 

READ ALSO: Staycations boom in Germany amid heavy losses to tourism industry

Berlin

Germany’s capital, along with London and Paris, is one of the top three travel destinations in Europe. 

In 2019, before the pandemic took hold, the city registered almost 14 million day-visitors, with around 34 million staying overnight. 

At the beginning of the nineties there were only around 3 million visitors a year, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg Office for Statistics. 

Tourism

According to the German Tourism Board, 90 million tourists came to stay in German in 2019, around three times as many as in 1990. 

Women

Merkel is Germany’s first female Chancellor. Photo: DPA

Angela Merkel, the first female Chancellor, is set to stand down soon after being head of the German government for 16 years.

In 1990 this breakthrough was still a long way away – in both East and West Germany only men had held the top position. 

The proportion of women in today’s newly-elected Bundestag is 34 percent – a small increase from the previous electoral term when there was around 30 percent. 

In the first reunited German Bundestag in 1990, only 20 percent of MPs were women.

READ ALSO: What did Germany’s first female chancellor do for women?

Gay rights

Same-sex couples have been allowed to get married in Germany since 2017. Germany in 1990, however, was still quite a homophobic country. 

Press coverage of the murder of gay actor Walter Sedlmayr was widely spread and sensationalist, and the airing of a Lindenstraße episode where two men kissed caused an uproar. 

Until 1994, the age of consent for gay people remained higher than in the West than in the East, because politicians refused to alter the discriminatory clause 175 in the German constitution for years.

 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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