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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: English language skills, social mobility and the origins of Christmas markets

From social mobility and the German school system to the fascinating origins of Christmas markets, we round up some of the biggest talking points about life in Germany.

Living in Germany: English language skills, social mobility and the origins of Christmas markets
People visit the Christmas market in Trier on its opening day of November 19. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Harald Tittel

How well do Germans speak English?

A survey released this week found that Germans have some of the highest levels of proficiency in English around the world. According to the 2022 EF English Proficiency Index, Germans have a “very high proficiency” in English and are ranked 10th place in the world. The ranking is based on test results of more than two million adults in 111 countries and regions.

Germany scored 613 points out of a total of 700 possible points in the index. The Netherlands took the top spot with 661 points. It’s interesting to note how regions vary when it comes to English skills, according to the index. For instance, the study found the best English speakers in Germany, on average, were in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

The cities of Karlsruhe and Munich came in first and second place at the city level. The lowest scores in Germany were recorded in the states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg, while Berlin and Frankfurt – despite being very international places – scored the lowest in Germany at the city level.

In our experience, Germans often speak exceptional English and that can often make it a bit tricky when you’re trying to practise your German language skills. But there are major differences depending on geographic, demographic and social factors. Check out our Germany in Focus podcast this week where we discuss this study in the last segment. 

Tweet of the week

This tweet by James Jackson created a bit of a storm this week as he shared his opinion on social mobility and how it’s linked to the German school system. What do you think? Check out our article on schools in Germany here, and we’ll look into this topic in more detail in future coverage.

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

This is of course the city of Bremen – and the famous ‘Town Musicians of Bremen’ statue inspired by the German fairy tale published by the Brothers Grimm. The Christmas market in the centre of Bremen opens on November 21st.

Did you know?

With major world events causing uncertainty and the dark winter nights drawing in, we’re all in need of some cheering up. And that’s where German Christmas markets come in, with some of them opening up in November. But did you know that the origin of these markets date all the way back to the late Middle Ages?

Around 1250-1500 AD is when Wintermärkte – winter markets – started being held across the German speaking parts of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire, including eastern regions of France.The outdoor markets were practical – they meant villagers could stock up on supplies for winter in a central location. By the 14th century, stall holders began selling other products like roasted nuts and toys for children. The markets then started lining up with the four weeks of Advent season in the run up to Christmas, cementing them as Weihnachtsmärkte.

The market in Dresden, known as the Dresdner Striezelmarkt after the nickname of the city’s speciality Stollen cake, is considered the first documented Christmas market in Germany, with historians tracing it back as early as 1434. Glühwein, snacks and cute stalls? It’s easy to see why these markets are such a hit even in modern times. 

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For members

LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: World Cup rainbows, pumpkin slaughter and a nation of savers

From unusual traditions at a world famous pumpkin festival to Germans' spending habits (or lack there of), we take a look at some of the big talking points of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: World Cup rainbows, pumpkin slaughter and a nation of savers

Where do Germans move to?

Many of our members are foreigners who choose to call Germany home. But what do we know about the Germans who move outside the country? According to official figures from last year, around five million Germans currently live abroad. And most of the Germans who emigrate – perhaps unsurprisingly – don’t go too far. Switzerland is home to the most Germans who choose to leave their country.

About 17,000 Germans took up residence there in 2021. Next in line is Austria – another German-speaking country. Around 11,000 Germans chose to live and work there last year.

But it’s not just the German-speaking places that attract Deutschlanders. In third spot for Germans emigrating abroad in 2021 was the United States – 8,400 Germans moved there last year. Meanwhile, just over 6,000 Germans took up residence in Spain, while around 5,000 each opted for Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and Poland. 

Tweet of the week

All eyes are on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar – but it’s more than football that’s in the news. The world is watching the various protests going on against Qatar, over its treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community. German football commentator Claudia Neumann made waves for her choice of rainbow clothing. 

Where is this?

Photo: DPA/Ilkay Karakurt

The Ludwigsburg pumpkin festival (Kürbisausstellung) is slowly coming to an end after months! So what happens to the pumpkins? Well, a big “pumpkin slaughter” takes place at the Blühende Barock gardens where enthusiasts salvage what they can. Meanwhile, the seeds are usually auctioned off. 

Did you know?

With inflation at over 10 percent, it’s no wonder that many people in Germany are being more careful with their spending. A new survey released this week from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) found that 63 percent of consumers have cut back their spending. The survey also found that more Germans are making long-term changes to their lifestyle such as buying less clothes and repairing goods instead of buying new ones. However, did you know that Germany has a reputation for saving, and making items go further? In fact, Germans are known for being a nation of savers rather than investors.

The Local contributor Aaron Burnett wrote in a recent article on investing: “It’s even apparent in the language – the German word for “debt” is ‘Schuld,’ which also means ‘guilt.’ During the euro crisis, ‘austerity’ was often called ‘Sparpolitik’ in German newspapers, or “the politics of saving”. Meanwhile, many Germans keep most of their money in savings accounts and avoid maxing out credit cards. 

Germany is also known for its second-hand culture and strong recycling ethic. Second-hand shops or platforms for selling items are common. You’ll also find that people leave their old clothes or books on their doorstep in a box with ‘zu verschenken’ (to give away) written on a sign. People can look through the items and take anything they want at no cost. 

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