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Accessibility in Germany
Germany has a positive, progressive attitude to creating a barrier-free society for all. From the built environment to technology, the country's legislation ensures public and private sector organisations design and deliver their services mindful of those with restricted mobility. In practice, these minimum standards are often exceeded, making Germany easy to navigate in a wheelchair or for anyone with impaired hearing or vision. As with any European country, historic spaces and places are less accessible as urban and regional planners balance modernisation with heritage.
Of the seven major airports in Germany, most expats arrive at either Frankfurt or Munich. Both have modern, highly efficient terminals, well linked by road and rail. Passengers with any common impairment can expect comprehensive facilities and courteous staff to help them navigate their way through the airport, to a variety of joined-up onward travel choices.
Whilst the vast majority of taxis can take a foldable wheelchair, fully accessible vehicles are not mandatory, so booking in advance is recommended. Availability varies – for example, hailing a wheelchair-adapted cab is easier in Frankfurt than in Berlin, but increasingly popular apps such as Uber now offer accessible options. In metropolitan areas, metro, bus and tram services are some of the best in the world, and are often better choices for most urban destinations.
Buses are popular, particularly at night when other services are closed, but they can be slow and less comfortable than newer tram and light rail services. Bus stops in urban centres can be identified by a green-coloured letter H on a yellow background. Most vehicles can be lowered and have ramp access and a dedicated wheelchair space.
Germany’s metro is called the U Bahn. Most lines run above ground and a few in a subway system. Stations are marked with a white U on a blue background. In several large cities, the service runs through the night and at weekends. By law, all stations and trains must be accessible to wheelchair users, and tactile signs and surfaces are provided to aid the visually impaired.
The U Bahn’s larger cousin is the S Bahn (suburban rail). These are express trains travelling from city centres deep into the suburbs. They operate flawlessly in bigger cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and others.
Every international car rental company is present in Germany. In fact, one of the market leaders, Sixt, began in Bavaria in 1912 with just three cars. The minimum driving age is 18, but the minimum age to rent a car is 21 and most agencies add a surcharge for those under 25. Documentation is required, including a credit card in the main driver’s name, a valid licence and a passport. Those holding a licence from outside Europe may also need an International Driver's Permit.
LGBTQ+ in Germany
In Germany, everyone is free to live their sexual and gender identity – and the law protects LGBTQ+ individuals. Occasionally, LGBTQ+ people still experience hostility and discrimination.
Harassment or inequality is outlawed by the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) which protects individuals from discrimination based on their skin colour, nationality, sex, religion, disability, age or sexual/gender identity. Unfair treatment while job-seeking, at work or in a restaurant, club, shopping centre, bank, or during flat-hunting is dealt with efficiently and compassionately by the Anti-discrimination Agency (Antidiskriminierungsstelle).
Gender equality in Germany
Equal rights apply to everyone, regardless of gender identity. Germany's basic law, or Grundgesetz, means women and men are equal, and the state must promote substantive gender equality. Germany is also committed to fulfilling its gender equality obligations under European law, and has committed to tackling the gender pay gap, which is some 20 percent in the country, by upgrading the value of certain roles. Structural changes to childcare provisions are also being made.
Women in leadership in Germany
The number of top women managers lags significantly behind that of men despite comparable career paths. This applies to all levels of management and is especially evident on company boards. Only 11 percent of executive board positions in Germany's 185 largest listed companies are held by women. The government aims to encourage and support educational opportunities, career choices and lifestyles that break gender role traditions and stereotypes and the gap is closing each year.
Mental health in Germany
It's not uncommon to experience problems with emotional well-being through concerns about work, family, finances or future – including neglect or abuse. It’s estimated around one in four German adults suffer from mental health issues each year, including conditions related to anxiety and addiction.
In recent years, there has been an increased understanding of mental health, which has long been an invisible illness. Those living abroad are typically more susceptible to mental health issues, and Germany is well set up to support the well-being of residents and foreign professionals.
Unconscious bias in Germany
Unconscious bias refers to the prejudices absorbed when living in unequal societies. Preconceptions around gender, age and ethnicity inhibit effective hiring, limit development and lower staff morale. Business practice in Germany is to tackle all conscious bias through workplace training and zero tolerance policies.
Diversification of the workforce in Germany
Germany does not collect demographic data on ethnicity at a state level for historic reasons. Numbers are gathered by community groups and in private sector surveys of businesses. It is clear that non-white ethnicities are underrepresented in government and on the boards of large or listed companies. Things are improving, but not at the pace of some other European countries with more accurate benchmarks to inform policy and progress.
Safety in Germany
Germany is a safe place to live and work, with good and bad areas in most cities, just like any developed Western nation. Crimes such as theft, pickpocketing and vehicle breaks-in are common in urban settings – and quite rare in rural ones. Metropolitan centres have some of the most advanced surveillance and security systems available, and the law (and police force) are respected by the vast majority of citizens.
Women’s safety in Germany
The safety of women in Germany is in line with its developed European neighbours. Gender-based or sexual harassment occurs but is unusual and treated by authorities and fellow citizens with zero tolerance. Walking alone at night does present dangers in certain city suburbs, but common sense and awareness prevail. Women can dress as they wish, without fear or judgement.
Calendar initiatives in Germany
4 February – World Cancer Day
8 March – International Women’s Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October – World Mental Health Day
November – "Movember" (Prostate Cancer Awareness and Men's Mental Health Month)
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day