Cultural Overview

Although there are many aspects affecting the individual habitus as the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the three German-speaking countries, it may be acceptable to neglect those in favor of a broader and more general picture, especially since the largest country, the Federal Republic of Germany, is in many cultural aspects heterogeneous. Differences between, for example, an East Berliner, who was socialized in the Communist German Democratic Republic, and a rural Catholic Bavarian are greater than those between a Bavarian and an Austrian (although they have lived in different states for many centuries). However, all Germans share a long history and tradition of paternalism and patriarchalism, which is still prevalent today. The main differences among the different regions are first based on a difference of the main denominations (or, of course, the absence of religion): Lutheran in Northern Germany; agnosticism in East Germany; Catholicism in South Germany and Austria; Reformed Protestantism and Catholicism in Southwest Germany and German Switzerland. Also, regional differences are rooted in the historical German "tribes" (Alemanni, Bavarians, Franks, Friesians, Saxons, and Thuringians), which refer to the migration era in late antiquity.

The most important historical and political developments in Germany are the unification of a dozen of medium-sized and small states when the German Empire was founded in 1870, followed by what one might call the "militarization" and bureaucratization of German society under Prussian predominance together with rapid and successful industrialization. With regard to Austria, her long history as the heartland of the Habsburg monarchy and the transition into a small state after World War I should be mentioned, and Switzerland has a long tradition as the oldest democracy with strong federal elements.

Today, all Germans live in democratic and industrialized states; farming exists only as heavily subsidized part of the economy. Environmentalist groups are strong; one of the reasons for this is that "nature" is highly valued by Germans, which shows that Romanticism as well as German Idealism left their marks. The majority of Germans live in cities or suburbs; in Germany the urban-to-rural distribution is 85% to 15%, with a higher balance in Austria and Switzerland. The literacy rate (those aged 15 and over who can read and write) is about 99%, with up to 100% attendance in 9 or 10 years of compulsory schooling. The per capita gross domestic product (purchasing power parity) is $23,400 in Germany, and even higher in Austria and Switzerland. The unemployment rate is highest in Germany at 9.9% and lowest in Switzerland at 2.6% (in 2002).

Although birthrates are well below the substitution rate with about 9% births but 10% deaths per 1,000 population, only Switzerland has an active immigration policy. Of the 7 million people in Switzerland, 2 million are immigrants, while the net migration rate in the other states is just 2.45 migrants per 1,000 population, also due to stressing the ius sanguinis over a more pragmatic approach. Immigrants are generally supposed to integrate or to live in their own areas, which has resulted in the development of a ghetto culture, especially in the largest group of immigrants in Germany, the Islamic Turkish (2.4% of the population). However, the "visibility" of immigrants is high, since ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Croatian, Greek, Indian, Italian, Vietnamese) can be found in even the smallest towns. The Turkish "doner" is the favorite fast food, more popular than the traditional sausages. "Salsa parties" in bars are a meeting point for German women and Arabic immigrants.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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