Apprenticeships in Germany

Some Americans think of apprenticeships as something of the past. Visions come to mind of medieval scenes of tanners, shoemakers, or cobblers. Instead, they may be more acquainted with the phrase “to learn a trade”. Regardless of terminology, choosing to bypass a traditional four year degree for a job-specific training is far less common in the United States than in Germany.

In Germany, half of graduates of high schools and junior high schools chose a track that combines training on the job with further education at a public vocational institution. This apprenticeship model is one reason why Germany has the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe and has been able to keep manufacturing jobs in the country.

To pull the veil from vocational education and to put a voice to the process, we interviewed an American living in Berlin who is currently in his second year as an apprentice at a German car company.

What kind of apprenticeship are you doing?

I applied at the car company to do a Mechatroniker Ausbildung (Mechanic/Electric apprenticeship). Mechatroniker is a combination of two words: Mechaniker and Elektroniker (Mechanic and Electronic technician). Since most of the vehicles in today’s market have so much technology involved, and with more and more electric vehicles on the streets, they combined both of the fields together, into the one apprenticeship.

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Word of the Week: Bescherung

The Christmas countdown continues: only a few days left until the magical day! German kids continue to open their Advent calendar doors as American children eagerly wait for Santa Claus to arrive and make their wishes come true. So what happens on Christmas Eve (in Germany) and Christmas Day (in the United States)? The Bescherung, of course!

The Bescherung is a noun that refers to the traditional custom of the festive holiday gift exchange. This word is used in the context of Christmas — not birthdays or other gift-giving holidays. Children, in particular, look forward to the Bescherung — but even adults eagerly await it. The Bescherung is more than just receiving gifts; it comes with festivities, warmth and togetherness.

This is a very old word that came from Middle High German, but some Germans continue to use it to describe the gift-giving tradition on Christmas.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Germany rapidly advances its modern automobile industry

Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrint once called self-driving cars the “greatest mobility revolution since the invention of the car.” In 2015, the minister even took a test drive in an autonomous Audi A7 on the Autobahn A9.

The German vehicle industry is rapidly changing; just a few weeks ago, German railway company Deutsche Bahn sent its first fully autonomous bus on the road to drive around passengers in Bad Birnbach, Bavaria. (Have no fear: the bus only drove at a speed of 9.3 mph and a human was able to take control of it at any time.)

© dpa / picture alliance

Now, German car manufacturer Daimler delivered its first fully electric lorries to companies across Europe. These so-called “green trucks” can carry loads as heavy as 4.5 tons. Six batteries allow the zero-emission buses to travel 100 km at a time.

Other car manufacturers have also stated their plans for fully electric trucks. And in general, most car manufacturers have big plans for the future, whether it’s related to intelligent vehicles or zero-emission vehicles. Only a few, however, have sent self-driving cars or fully electric trucks to the streets.

But one thing is clear: Germany is quickly adopting the new technologies emerging in the marketplace. Electric car sales were up 137% from July 2016 to July 2017, while Diesel car sales were down by 14%.

Will your next car be an electric vehicle? Or will you wait until the self-driving cars hit the roads?

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy Washington

Word of the Week: Vorfreude

© colourbox

It’s one of the most joyful times of the year! Do you have Vorfreude for the holidays?

The German word Vorfreude is unique and has no English equivalent. It comes from the words vor (“before”) and Freude (“joy”) and means something along the lines of “joyful anticipation.” Vorfreude is the joy you experience while you are looking forward to something.

Germans often say: “Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude” which means “anticipation is the greatest joy”.

With the holidays around the corner, many kids and adults alike may be experiencing Vorfreude as they daydream about family time, gifts from Nikolaus and Santa, vacation days and (in some cases) snow! What makes you smile during the work day? What are you looking forward to?

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Brückentag

Sometimes, a holiday will fall on a Thursday. This means that you have to go back to work on Friday before you reach the weekend. Germans have a particular word for this kind of work day: Brückentag.

The word Brückentag translates to “bridge day”, and it defines the work day that falls between a holiday and the weekend. No one wants to come back to work for just one day, so people often request to take off the Brückentag. For people who don’t have many vacation days, taking off a Brückentag makes it easier for them to have a long holiday without using many of their days.

In the United States, Black Friday is sometimes a Brückentag. Many people are off on Thanksgiving Day, but not on Black Friday. Thus, they come back to work for one day before the weekend arrives.

In Germany, Brückentage often fall between holidays like Christmas and New Year. Certain regions in Germany also have holidays related to events like carneval, creating Brückentage in between those holidays and the weekend.

Although no one wants to work on a Brückentag, at least it serves as a bridge to the weekend, allowing you to finish all of your outstanding work before kicking up your feet!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Germany: Integrating Immigrants

Germany is a country shaped by immigration. Between 1950 and 2014, 44 million migrants came to Germany. During the same period, 32 million people emigrated from Germany. Migrants make up a slightly bigger share of the population in Germany than in the United States. The recent increase in immigration is a result of both the EU’s freedom of movement and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. As a result, integration is now an important topic in Germany.

“It is very important that we perceive integration as an opportunity for people who chose to migrate to Germany, but also as an expectation that they will learn German and abide by our laws.”

– Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany

Julius Böhme represents Germany in World Brain Bee Championship

A 17-year old student from Germany is in Washington this week to compete against 24 other contestants in the World Brain Bee Championship – an annual neuroscience competition for youth. Julius Böhme, a student from Demen, Germany, is representing his country in a competition that tests students on their knowledge of the human brain, including intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations and various diseases.

A few months prior, Böhme won Germany’s Deutsche Neurowissenschaften-Olympiade (DNO e.V.), which hosts neuroscience Olympiads as part of the International Brain Bee Organization. By receiving first place, Böhme went on to represent Germany in the United States.

While in Washington, Böhme visited the German Embassy with his parents and girlfriend and spoke about his passion for neuroscience. His interest in the field was sparked about two years ago after his grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological condition that adversely affects the mind and the body, he said. Witnessing his grandfather’s suffering is what initially triggered Böhme’s quest for knowledge about the brain. As a young student, Böhme had not learned neuroscience in school, and what he knows now has been self-taught.

“The brain is so fascinating to me and many others because it is that organ that makes us who we really are and we don’t truly understand it,” Böhme said. “Everybody carries a brain. But the majority of people don’t think about the organ that we need to think. I would like for more people to think about how beautiful their organ is and that you really need it. You can live with one kidney, for example, but you can’t cut off half of your brain.”

Böhme is troubled that doctors and scientists understand so little about psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. After he graduates from secondary school next year, he hopes to attend a university and study medicine, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. His goal is to contribute new knowledge to the field, which would potentially help those who suffer from psychiatric disorders.

Winning the World Brain Bee Championship would “be amazing,” Böhme said. The $3000 scholarship prize would help him pay for university, which can be expensive, depending on where someone chooses to study. “It’s also nice to get feedback that you already know a lot about certain regions,” Böhme says.

The competition will feature six knowledge stations and tests will have various formats, including multiple choice questions and timed oral exams. But regardless of how Böhme fares, his interest in the brain will not waver – and he’s already thinking about the future of the field.

“Every brain is very unique and all the connections throughout the brain make a personality,” he said. “For me it would be great if humanity at some point in the future would be able to track all the connections in your brain and be able to store it in a computer or so, because you can really draw a personality from someone that way.”

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Arschbombe

You’re standing at the edge of the swimming pool, getting read to jump in. As you make the leap, you bring your

knees in as close as you can and wrap your arms around them. You tuck in your chin and get ready for the impact. Like a cannonball, you meet the water with a huge splash – one that grabs the attention of other kids and provokes glares from angry sunbathers trying to stay dry.

You have just created an Arschbombe.

The German word Arschbombe describes the type of jump that creates the biggest splash in the water. In English, we refer to this as a “cannonball jump”. But the German word is even more amusing; literally translated, it means “butt bomb”. There’s no need to describe why; anyone who has jumped into a pool cannonball-style knows that their rear end hits the water first – like a bomb.

Kids particularly love Arschbomben; these type of jumps have the greatest impact on the water and leave the biggest impression on bystanders. To perfect an Arschbombe, it is important to jump high (preferably from a diving board, if there is one) and to tuck your arms and legs in as much as possible. The more spherical your body is shaped, the bigger the splash.

There is truly an art to perfecting the Arschbombe. So much, in fact, that people from around the world compete in the so-called Splashdiving Championship – an annual competition that is taking place in Sindelfingen, Germany this weekend. The competition seeks to find those who create the biggest splash. Contestants are judged by the degree of difficulty of the jump and the size of the resulting splash. In many cases, the preferred jumping style is the Arschbombe.

Word of the Week: Freibad

Germany has more than 7,000 public swimming pools, half of which are Freibäder (“free pools”). Does this mean they are free? Unfortunately not. Although Freibad translates to “free pool”, this type of freedom has little to do with entrance fees. A Freibad is an outdoor swimming pool, or an open-air swimming pool.

Germans like to define things very specifically, so they have many words for “swimming pool”, depending on the type of pool they’re talking about. The general word for swimming pool is Schwimmbad. If the pool is inside, it’s called a Hallenbad (“hall pool”) or Allwetterbad (“all-weather pool”). If it’s a pool for exercise it would be called a Sportbad. As we just learned, an outdoor pool is called a Freibad.

And a Freibad can have some elements of the other pools as well; Freibäder often have a mix of attractions, including a section for exercise swimming and a section for recreation (often with water slides and other attractions). Freibäder are often accompanied by food vendors where Germans can order an ice cream or french fries. With so many things to do, it is possible to spend an entire day at a Freibad.

And those who want to work on their tan can hang out at the nearby Liegewise.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany