germanic culture

Would you believe me if i told you that it’s a German tradition on New Year’s Eve to watch a British black and white sketch from the sixties that’s entirely in English and deals with an old rich woman celebrating her 90th birthday while her butler impersonates her dead friends and gets more and more drunk throughout the sketch, with the highlight being the multiple times said butler stumbles over the head of their stuffed tiger carpet? And also that this sketch is not almost completely unknown in its home and that the writer and star of that sketch actually really hated the Germans?

i still think that the most german thing is not beer or brezeln, in my opinion its asparagus time because in which other country do you have like 80million people eating tons of aspargus nonstop, without ever taking a break for weeks on end. like we literally celebrate asparagus season with meeting up to eat our beloved Spargel and Spargel only.. and Idk but if thats not the most german thing than i dont know what it

Germany 101: German Federal Elections

On September 24th 61.5 million German voters will decide on the central decision in their democracy: who should represent them in Parliament and eventually govern the country? Elections to the German Bundestag (like our House of Representatives) are held about every four years, with the last election having been held in fall of 2013.

The Basics

In grade school, most Germans are taught about the five principles in the Basic Law which stipulate that the members of the Bundestag be elected in “general, direct, free, equal and secret elections”. “General” means that all German citizens are able to vote once they have reached the age of 18. The elections are “direct” because citizens vote for their representatives directly without the mediation of delegates to an electoral college. “Free” means that no pressure of any kind may be exerted on voters. “Equal” means that each vote cast carries the same weight with respect to the composition of the Bundestag. “Secret” means that each individual must be able to vote without others learning which party or candidate he or she has chosen to support.

Where Do You Vote?

Germans have the options of voting at polling stations for example in community centers or schools, or sending in their vote by mail.

So. Many. Parties.

Germany has a lot more political parties than the United States. This is due to the fact that the German electoral system uses a proportional system, which means that all parties get a share of the available seats that reflect their share of the popular vote. However, not to have too many political factions which would make the decision making process nearly impossible – and Parties can get pretty specific as to what they stand for – Germany implemented the “five per cent clause” which means a party needs at least five percent of the votes cast to be represented in the Bundestag.

According to the German Research Institute the following parties are likely to be represented in the next German Bundestag, as they are expected to satisfy the five per cent clause:

  • CDU/CSU (the Union parties): a political alliance of the two parties representing conservative Christian-democratic policies, political home of the current Chancellor Angela Merkel and part of the governing “grand coalition”
  • SPD: the center-left social democratic party promoting “socially just” policies, the other member of the currently governing “grand coalition”
  • Die Linke: “the left” party – a democratic socialist and left-wing populist party
  • BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN: the green party which traditionally focuses on topics such as environmental protection
  • FDP: the “free democratic” party - a (classical) liberal political party
  • AfD: a right-wing populist and Eurosceptic party newly founded in 2013

First and Second Vote

Voters actually have two decisions to make when they go to their polling booth.  This part can get tricky.

The first vote is for the representative of your district. There are 299 electoral districts in Germany and the winner of each district gets a seat in the Bundestag.

The second vote is debatably the more important vote, which is cast not for a person but for a party. The number of seats a party gets in the Bundestag is based on what proportion they get of the second votes. Since the first votes for district representatives take up 299 seats of the Bundestag, the remaining 299 seats are filled up by representatives of each party until each party is proportionally represented.

And now it’s going to get really complicated (also for Germans, believe it or not): In case a party gets more directly elected candidates by the first votes than proportional seats by the second votes, these candidates nonetheless remain part of the new Bundestag. This is called an “Überhangmandat”. The other parties then get seats added proportionally which makes the Bundestag even bigger. The last four years, because of this phenomenon there were in total 631 Members of the German Bundestag instead of the legally foreseen 598.

Coalitions

“Coalition” is not a word used in American politics. Coalitions are alliances formed by different parties in the Bundestag to end up with a group that makes up more than 50% of the seats. Traditionally the party with the most votes tries to form a coalition first. Typically coalitions have been comprised by two parties in the past, but in the future coalitions of three or more parties could be a reality. Why do this? Due to the voting system which is a proportional and not a majority one, this is in most cases the only way to create a majority in the Bundestag which is necessary to pass laws. The coalition parties tend to negotiate a coalition agreement at the start of their cooperation which lays out their policy goals for the coming legislative period. Though the majority party within the coalition typically has more sway in what stance the coalition will take on certain issues – such as who the Chancellor will be – the smaller party benefits from the coalition by typically receiving several Minister positions (think Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc.) which are filled with members of their party. They might also enforce some stances on their core political issues as long as they can get the “bigger” coalition partner to agree in the negotiations.

Wrap Up

  • German elections are general, direct, free, equal, and secret
  • Germans vote in person or via mail
  • There are a bunch of parties to choose from representing the full political spectrum from far left to far right
  • Two votes: a first vote for a specific candidate representing your district and a second vote for your party determining the number of seats per party
  • A Coalition is formed after all votes are in to create a group that holds more than 50% of the Bundestag seats

Got more questions? Shoot them to us in the comments below!

please take a moment to imagine the Federation version of Eurovision as @swordfern and I have envisioned it, in a post-DS9 peaceful future:
-Bajor does something very soothing with hand percussion and like…. background eurythmy dancing but the lyrics are utterly heart-wrenching.
-Betazed is always a fan favorite- they really get into the pop ballads and impressive choreography, and of course aim to inspire ~feelings~
-Romulans do the super intimidating acts like that one song about Moscow Germany did one year.
-Klingons just do fucking opera every time, with intense choreography, generally involving weaponry.
-Andorians do… whatever the andorian version of death metal is. imagine andorian headbanging. with those antennae. imagine.
-the new Cardassian Republic, when it finally gains admittance, is intensely earnest and a bit disco. No one really knows how to react to this.
-Vulcan sends one person with a Vulcan lute and they play an extremely logical arrangement extremely well, with no dancers or any illogical frippery… and they repeat this each year. No one ever votes for Vulcan.

Psychological Warfare of the Barbarians

Artwork by G. Rava

We often picture psychological warfare as defamatory propaganda, or we imagine sci-fi brainwave machines. Psychological warfare is much more simple than that, and it goes back to the dawn of humanity. Arguably, no one in the ancient past understood better the use of fear-inducing psychological warfare than barbarians. Multiple tactics were employed to stun and confuse their enemies. Note that the Greco-Romans were the ones to document these customs, but if anything it could be a testament to how effective these supposed tactics were at inducing awe.

The War-cry 

“They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of which (“baritus,” they call it), they rouse their courage… For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm. It is not so much an articulate sound, as a general cry of valor. They aim chiefly at a harsh note and a confused roar, putting their shields to their mouth, so that, by reverberation, it may swell into a fuller and deeper sound.” - Tacitus, Germania  

To yell in rage at your enemy is a very common mode of intimidation. Now imagine an entire force of angry warriors, rattling their shields, their combined bellows practically shaking the heavens. It would be an awesome, and demoralizing, sight, right before the whole of them charge like madmen. The Celts too were recorded as having war-cries, and one could make the fair assumption that plenty of other barbarian cultures had their own. 

Scarring

“…the cheeks of the children are deeply furrowed with the steel from their very birth, in order that the growth of hair, when it appears at the proper time, may be checked by the wrinkled scars, they grow old without beards and without any beauty…” - Ammianus Marcellinus, The Roman History

This seems like an extreme practice if its only intent was to prevent hair growth. Perhaps the beard-loss was a side affect rather than the intention. Intimidation was a tactic frequently employed by the Huns on a mass scale, much like the Mongols of Genghis Khan, in their efforts to subdue everyone around them. Scarring the faces of their warriors could be one of them, a way to project pain tolerance and a fearsome appearance.

Scalping and Headhunting

“…each man hangs [the scalp of an enemy] on the bridle of the horse which he rides, and prides himself on it, for whoever has the greatest number of these skin napkins is accounted the most valiant man.” - Herodotus, History

“When their enemies fall they cut off their heads and fasten them about the necks of their horses. .. The heads of their most distinguished enemies they embalm in cedar-oil and carefully preserve in a chest, and these they exhibit to strangers…” - Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History

The head is a person’s identity: their unique face, the source of their thoughts. Celtic belief even held the head as the home of the soul, so collecting an enemy’s head would thus be taking his existence. Herodotus claims that the Scythians scalped their enemies, then he also claims that they collected the heads of their “greatest enemies” and went so far as making drinking cups out of their gilded skulls. Little else could be more demoralizing than to see the heads of your comrade paraded around, and worse, turned into vessels for leisurely drinking.

Nudity 

“The Insubres and Boii wore their trousers and light cloaks, but the Gaesatae had discarded these garments owing to their proud confidence in themselves, and stood naked, with nothing but their arms, in front of the whole army…” - Polybius, Histories 

Several sources attest to some Celtic warriors stripping bare and fighting without armor. Celts did have armor, and it’d be foolish to think they didn’t use it. Undoubtably, the majority of vast majority of Celtic warriors kept their clothing on. If they did trip, it was probably only from the waist-up. Polybius offers the explanation that some stripped their clothing to avoid it being snagged on bramble. Plausible, but there’s room for a different explanation. Bearing your nude body to an enemy, when a physically-fit warrior, would be an intimidating sight. It says that you’re unafraid of your enemy’s weapons. Come at me! 

Divide and Conquer 

“And as they are lightly equipped for swift motion, and unexpected in action, they purposely divide suddenly into scattered bands and attack, rushing about in disorder here and there, dealing terrific slaughter…” - Ammianus Marcellinus, The Roman History 

I’d be remiss not to follow-up my previous statement of Hun intimidation tactics. The most practical application of their fear-inducing strategies was in their battle tactics. Charging expertly on horseback, the Huns came at their enemies, then swiftly wheeled around and shot at them with arrows. This sudden shift in direction was meant to shock and then disorient whoever was unlucky enough to be on the other end of their arrows. To great impact they used this strategy. 

Planning a trip to Germany soon? We are sure you have done some research on where to go and what to eat. Now that you know where you’re going and how you’re getting there– time to confront the vague subject of cultural norms. Just like in the United States, Germany has its own quarks and standards that take some time to get used to. Look like a local by following some basic cultural norms such as avoiding the bike lane or arriving on time. Bon voyage!

Quirks About Germans Americans Still Can’t Get Over

If you live in a country long enough, which many American exchange students do, you start to become desensitized to what once struck you as odd. You no longer stand in awe of the number of toilet buttons or scoff at people waiting for walking signals when no cars are coming. Some things, however, just never become familiar. We asked former American exchange students to Germany what cultural quirks still give them pause.

Wearing clothes more than once

Originally posted by funky-blue

Generally speaking, Americans grow up somewhat fussy about germs and dirt. We carry around hand sanitizer. We carefully wash all of produce. We also throw into the laundry clothes we’ve worn for only one day. In Germany, unless you worked out in them or spilled something on them, there is no shame or stigma attached to wearing clothes again–even multiple days in a row.

Greeting people with “Mahlzeit!”

Originally posted by justalittletumblweed

Can you imagine walking past someone at work in America and greeting them with, “Lunch!” But in Germany, this is a common way to greet coworkers during the mid-day hours.

How they count on their fingers

If you’ve seen the movie Inglorious Bastards, you are already on the up-and-up on German counting behaviors. Americans show numbers with their palm faced away from them and start with their pointer finger. Germans count with their palm faced towards them and start with their thumb.

Tugging of the eye

Originally posted by neondragonfly

In America, sarcasm is best served subtly. Since sarcasm is a bit of a national pastime and is brought to artistic levels in some circles, it can make it tricky to know when an American is joking. In Germany, sarcasm is presented visually, by pulling at the bottom of an eyelid to indicate that everything you say after that is meant in jest.

Fake names on social media

Originally posted by giantmonster

Met a cool German and want to connect with them on social media? Well, GOOD LUCK. Germans tend to be more concerned about their privacy and often change their names on social media to something completely unrelated to their actual name.

Buying your own birthday cake

Originally posted by floresdeceniza

Nothing knocks the wind out of an American’s sails like being expected to bring their own cake to their birthday party.

English is “german-o-fied”

When Americans travel to Germany, they often expect to be fully immersed in the German language. This is not exactly the case. The German language is speckled with English words like googeln and tweeten and American music is played on the radio or at events. Dipping in and out of one’s mother tongue can make it difficult to learn a new language.

Enthusiasm for carbonated beverages

Originally posted by disneymoviesanywhere

Bubbles! Bubbles everywhere and in everything! Oh, it doesn’t have bubbles? Well let’s mix that juice with some carbonated water.

Shoes just for the house

House shoes, or slippers, are like normal shoes but softer and comfier. They’re like something in between socks and shoes.

Frische Luft

Originally posted by benmullins

You finally escaped the whipping wind and cold outside. It’s snowing and you look out the window and express your gratitude that you aren’t out there anymore. Then, across the room, someone complains about stale air and requests some frische Luft and OPENS THE WINDOW IN WINTER. Now the air is “fresh” but you are freezing. Who is winning here?

What is going on with your beds?

Arguably the most efficient set-up for bed-making: The pillow takes up like half of the bed and there is just one thick sheet that has it’s own case.

German Culture is buying single bottles only bc youre a student living by your damn self; then standing in front of a pfandflaschenautomat with a giant sack of empty pfandbottles, putting them in, one after the other. sometimes you have to try multiple times to get the hell-o-mat to accept your damn bottle. the queue behind you is growing and growing but you still have 56 bottles left. one bottle just wont go in. just wont. you put it on top of the automat, sweating profusely. the people behind you are coughing impatiently. you apologise, laughing awkwardly. the hell machine beeps suddenly. She’s Full. the whole queue groans. a woman is so kind and gets a shop assistant to empty the automat. you say thank you. the shop assistant rolls their eyes and leaves. you continue your darstardly deed.

Favorite German Words

Der Klartext = literally “clear text”. The very, very German concept of (what others may cosider brutal) honesty and straight-forwardness being a virtue. Uncoded text, text in clear, uncensored speech, the opposite of the (very Anglo) concepts of vagueness and beating around the bush in order to be “polite”. Mit jemandem Klartext reden is when it gets serious and to the point, when things are spelled out clearly so actual solutions can be found. Culturewise, you will notice that Germans on average are solution-based. A Klartext conversation may be required in conflict, when someone has been avoidant or when things are getting urgent and a problem must be faced head-on. It may lead to a breakup, a compromise, an ending, a solution or a new beginning. If you find yourself thinking Germans are “rude”, consider that “Klartext reden” and NOT being vague and avoidant is generally considered a good thing in Germany as, sometimes, it is necessary to get things out of the way to move ahead.