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Living in Germany: Immigrant startup founders, partial public holiday and Holland near Berlin

From an upcoming holiday in some parts of Germany on Wednesday to a very useful expression, we break down some of the most interesting aspects of German life and culture this week.

Living in Germany: Immigrant startup founders, partial public holiday and Holland near Berlin
Photo: DPA

Each week the team at The Local Germany sends out a weekly members' newsletter looking at some of the quirks, perks and big issues for people living in the country. Here's the latest round-up and remember to get in touch if you spot anything that we should write about.

Tweet of the week

More and more migrants from all corners of the world have come to Germany over the past years. So it’s not surprising that 25 percent of all start-ups are founded by someone with an immigrant background.

The couple who co-founded Mainz company BioNTech, known for its partnership on a promising coronavirus vaccine, were thrust into the media spotlight this week. Both are children of Turkish guest workers (Gastarbeiter) who came to Germany in the 1960s.

Upcoming public holiday in Saxony (and partially Bavaria)

2020 is notorious for many things in Germany, one of them being the large number of public holidays which fall on a weekend.

But if you live in the eastern state of Saxony, you can look forward to a day off from work next Wednesday, November 18th. For pupils in Bavaria, it’s usually a day off from school.

The day marks Buß- und Bettag, or Repentance Day, as it’s known in English.

The holiday used to be celebrated across the German-speaking territories and beyond. In 1878, for example, it was celebrated in 28 countries.

Where is this?

No, this photo (credit: DPA) wasn’t taken somewhere in Rotterdam or Amsterdam. But it does hail from the appropriately titled Holländisches Viertel in Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg, Berlin’s neighbouring state.

Consisting of 134 Dutch red brick buildings, the neighbourhood was originally built between 1733 to 1740 by Dutch architect Jan Bouman following the order of Frederick William I of Prussia.

The area housed many Dutch workers at the time, and the King wanted to give them a place where they could feel at home away from home.

Did you know that?

An example of thumbs being pressed for luck. Photo: Wikimedia commons

While English speakers cross their fingers for luck, Germans hold their thumbs or “drücken die Daumen”.

This appears to come from the days of ancient Rome and gladiator fighting where the emperor would indicate whether the losing fighter was to be executed or not. Thumbs up would mean the swords were to be brought out and the man dies, whereas a hidden thumb meant that the sword would be sheathed and the man lives.

Have your say

Several of our readers are talented artists – whether professionally or as a hobby – and this painting only proves it. Susan Holliday, an American living in Tübigen, sent us her latest autumn work.

“I like to imagine the girl & the pumpkin she carved in her image have been good friends since Halloween. How can she tell him that now Thanksgiving is approaching and that means…pumpkin pie!” she wrote.

Whether or not you’ll also be celebrating the classic American holiday from abroad, this piece pays homage to one of Germany’s favourite foods when the weather turns cold: Kürbis (which translates directly into both squash and pumpkin).

Do you have an artistic talent you’d like to show off to us (and other Local members)? Write to us at [email protected].

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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.

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. Germany 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 being 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, come 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.