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Merkel's A-Z on what it means to be German

June 22, 2017

Amid a fierce debate on the best attributes of German culture, a popular tabloid has printed Chancellor Angela Merkel's A-Z list. But she admitted that there are probably as many answers as there are residents.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel mit Bratwurst
Image: picture alliance/dpa/M. Reichel

Ahead of the upcoming federal elections in September, Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined the nationwide discussion on German identity and what truly makes the country unique.

While many clichés including Bratwurst and Oktoberfest are mentioned in her list of almost 100 key points, the German leader also singled out less-popular pastimes including choral singing and mushroom-picking.

Giving an example of the strong sense of duty that many Germans feel, Merkel highlighted the Kirchensteuer - an 8-9 percent extra church tax that is deducted from religious followers' salaries.

Built on Basic Law

Early in her A-Z list for the tabloid Bild, Merkel paid tribute to Article 1 of Germany's Basic Law, which states that the dignity of man is absolute and that the state has an obligation to respect and protect it.

Read more: Germany's migrant issue in a nutshell - Acceptance vs. assimilation

The Bundeswehr (Germany's military) was also singled out along with federalism, while the German economic miracle and the country's position as a world leader in exports were lauded too.

BdT Angela Merkel erwartet Lee Hsien Loong
The key role played by Germany's Bundeswehr (armed forces) in preserving peace and security were highlightedImage: Reuters/F. Bensch

The chancellor said modern Germany had been built on a Christian-Jewish tradition, but the importance of Islam and Germany's Muslim communities also featured in her list. Merkel's A-Z didn't shy away from other sensitive topics either, including the country's perpetual responsibility for the Holocaust.

German food 

Among the German delicacies mentioned by Merkel were Butterbrot (buttered bread), Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) and beef roulade with red cabbage.

She also singled out German punctuality along with the term Ernst des Lebens (the serious side of life). She was also reminded of the importance of Bruckentag, the bridging day between a public holiday and the weekend that many Germans take as part of their annual leave.

Brasilien WM 2014 Fußballer Lukas Podolski und Bastian Schweinsteiger Selfie
The national football team were included in Merkel's A-Z list of what it means to be GermanImage: picture alliance/augenklick/GES/M. Gilliar

And of course, no A-Z list of Germany would be complete without a mention for the Nationalmannschaft - the national football team - who won the 2016 World Cup.

Leitkultur debate

The nationwide debate about German identity arose out of the migrant crisis in 2015/6, which saw around 1.5 million asylum seekers arrive in Germany in just 18 months, leading to a great deal of soul-searching about how to integrate so many foreigners at once.

Read more: What is German 'Leitkultur'?

In April, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere published his Top 10 list describing "German Leitkultur," or a German dominant culture, which sparked controversy among his political opponents.