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Germany is one of the most highly developed industrial nations in the world and the world’s third largest national economy. As a full member of the European Union (EU) and with a population of over 80 million people, it is the most important market in the European Union.
The official language is German, of course, but English is widely spoken and understood. In 2002, Germany adopted the Euro as the sole legal tender. Around 7.3 million foreigners live in Germany, up to 8.8 percent of the total population, which underlines the multicultural character of the country.
Germany is a federation and divided into 16 states. It has a variety of landscapes from lowlands in the north to the Bavarian Alps in the south. There are many cities and towns with castles, cathedrals and other famous buildings that are hundreds of years old. The modern motorway network (autobahn) extends more than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles).
In 2007, Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) totalled EUR 2.42 trillion, which translates into per-capita GDP of EUR 29,455. With an export volume of EUR 969 billion, or one third of GDP in 2007, Germany is the biggest exporter of goods worldwide, and as such is considered to be the “export world champion”.
In the international arena, German companies have an excellent reputation. They represent “Made in Germany”, recognized as a seal of quality the world over, which stands for innovation, quality and cutting-edge technology. As one of the most innovative countries, Germany is number one in patent applications in Europe. The “land of ideas” is the birthplace of famous scientists such as Albert Einstein and has a total of 17 Nobel prizes.
The prices of everyday items, such as food, household necessities, stationery, newspapers, etc. are generally low compared to other industrialized countries.
The weekly hours of work currently vary between 35 and 40 hours. The annual holiday entitlement is between four and six weeks, depending on the industry and company.
Most people are well-educated and enjoy a high standard of living. The constitution guarantees everyone the right to self-fulfilment and the right to freely choose his or her school or place of training as well as his or her occupation or profession.
German living standards are high, though living expenses are moderate. The government provides for a sound living environment: families enjoy significant support, are bolstered by an excellent education system, the social insurance is a statutory insurance system, which plays a predominant role in Germany's overall social security. Based on the solidarity of the community of the insured, it provides effective financial protection against the major life risks and their consequences, including illness, unemployment, old age, industrial accidents and the need for long-term care.