As I mentioned previously, one of the benefits of marrying a German is that the German government will help you pay for an Integrationskurs. The Integrationskurs consists of language courses through the B1 level and an orientation course. Language levels are measured from A1-C3, with A being beginner and C being fluent.
After I successfully completed the language portion of the course, and passed my B1 test (!), I moved on to the most exciting portion: the orientation course! This course is 4 weeks long and covers German government and politics, Germany history from WWII to the present, and German society.
This course is so interesting – even to my husband, who I am now better informed on many German structures than. 🙂 I completed the course a few weeks back, and am anxiously awaiting my test results to see if I passed! Yes, of course there is a test at the end.
I learned so many interesting things from this course that it’s too much to share in one post, so I’m splitting it up a bit. Today I’ll talk about what I learned about Germany’s government, politics and life in Germany!
Coolest/Most Interesting/Weirdest Things I Learned
The German President
Germany’s president is technically the highest official in government, even though most people around the world haven’t heard of him. The current president is Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A special government body called the Bundesversammlung, elects the president. Their sole purpose is to elect the president. The entire Bundestag (German Parliament), as well as an equal number of representatives from all 16 German states, make up the Bundesversammlung. These representatives are typically politicians, but they can also be celebrities or athletes from the region.
Also, for those who don’t know, the German Chancellor is not directly elected by the people, but rather by the Bundestag. They typically come from the majority party, and the potential candidates are known in advance, so it’s not exactly a surprise.
The German Judicial System
The German judicial system doesn’t use juries in the way we do in the US. Instead, they have 2 “jurypeople” called Schoffen. These two people are German citizens, over the age of 24, who are called to serve in the courtroom. Different from the American system, these two people confer with the judge and express their thoughts and opinions on the case. However, the judge ultimately decides the verdict. If the case is a capital crime, then there are 3 judges rather than the Schoffen.
Also interesting about this system is that even with a sentence of life imprisonment, a person can apply for parole after 15 years. It’s actually quite rare for a person to serve a full life sentence.
Social Benefits for Families
Some may disagree with this but compared to the US, having kids in Germany is the best! The German government provides guaranteed time off for both parents, Kindergeld (money for your child until they are 18), Elterngeld (money for the parents for the first year), help with paying for childcare, a higher tax-free allowance for each child, etc.
Education is also free here, all the way through university, so you know your kids will have a good future.
Germany has a lot of public holidays – like many European countries. Something I found particularly interesting upon moving here, is that even though there is a separation of church and state here, many public holidays are religious. For example, we get a long weekend over Easter because Friday and Monday are both public holidays.
As an American, I found this to be really odd – although I definitely enjoy the extra time off. The explanation I’ve been given is that these holidays are celebrated more as tradition, rather than promoting religion.
Also, you get more or less public holidays depending on which German state you live in. Berlin, unfortunately, has less holidays than Bavaria, for example. But rumor has it that they’re actively looking for new public holidays so we can be more evened out!
That’s enough German trivia for today! I’ll post again with some more fun German facts and interesting things I learned about German history!