Have you ever strolled around your city center, only to find a street, town square, or even public transportation seemingly honoring another city? Are there regular cultural festivals based on another city’s traditions? Have there been major new business partnerships or even disaster relief efforts with a particular city? Your city may just have a Partnerstadt, translating literally to “partner city” and also known as a “sister city.”
So what does a Partnerstadt partnership mean? Based on an agreement by two city governments in different countries, sister cities can originate based on shared size, industry, heritage, or other similarities. Many city partnerships were first created after WWII, facilitated by Dwight D. Eisenhower’s founding of Sister Cities International in 1956. Sister cities foster person-to-person diplomacy and help to address global challenges on the local level. The forms of Partnerstadt collaboration can vary widely based on the cities’ needs, with examples including youth exchanges, art exhibitions, joint business ventures, exchanging strategies on climate resilience, shared historical remembrance, and more.
The first sister city partnership was between Paderborn, Germany and Le Mans, France in 836.
Did you know that the first sister city partnership was between Paderborn, Germany and Le Mans, France in 836? In the US, there are 100 US-German city partnerships fostering mutual respect and cooperation. Learn more: https://t.co/ghZNjir68L #WunderbarTogether @SisterCitiesInt pic.twitter.com/hkDY12QQUk
— German Embassy (@GermanyinUSA) November 16, 2019
A current day charming 30 year-old sister-city pairing is between Berkeley, California and Jena, Germany! See below:
A charming 30 year-old sister-city pairing is between Berkeley, California and Jena, Germany! Mayor @JesseArreguin of @cityofberkley and Mayor Thomas Nitzsche of Jena met this year to celebrate three decades of friendship!
— German Embassy (@GermanyinUSA) September 9, 2019
One of the best sister-city pairs is Houston, Texas and Leipzig, Germany! After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a student from Leipzig proposed the pairing with Houston, Leipzig’s first in the Western Hemisphere!
One of the best sister-city pairs is Houston, Texas and Leipzig, Germany! After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a student from @StadtLeipzig proposed the pairing with @HoustonTX, Leipzig's first in the Western Hemisphere!
(Video ft.@SylvesterTurner) #WunderbarTogether pic.twitter.com/VnKWJquCvt
— German Embassy (@GermanyinUSA) September 4, 2019
Currently, Germany has roughly 5,000 Partnerstädte, with more than 100 U.S.-German partnerships sustained by Sister Cities International. Some recent U.S.-German city collaborations include Maifest in St. Charles, a regional event on U.S.-German business relations, Fort Worth and Trier collaborating on a new beer, and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester visiting its sister city Houston after performing at the closing event for Wunderbar Together in Boston.
Next time you see a sign or initiative indicating you may have a Partnerstadt, we invite you to learn more about your city’s cultural ties – either through your city’s website or the website of your local Sister Cities International organization.
This blog post forms part of Sister Cities International’s partnership with Wunderbar Together, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, implemented by the Goethe-Institut, and supported by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). To learn more about this partnership, please visit Sister Cities’ Wunderbar Together webpage here. To learn more about Wunderbar Together, please visit their website here.
By Alexandra Hoenscheid, Sister Cities International