Situated in the heart of Europe, Germany covers an area of 357,340 square kilometers. The German landscape varies from high mountains in the south, to flat regions with coast areas in the north, and numerous low mountain ranges in between. The German population, about 82,8 million, is predominantly German native speakers, though learning at least one foreign language is common (preferably English). Concerning its political system, Germany is a federal republic consisting of 16 federal states (Bundesländer). Within its capital, Berlin, the main German governmental institutions – Federal Parliament (Bundestag) and Federal Council (Bundesrat) – are located.
Being especially strong in terms of its exports (2016 exports: EUR 1,207 billion, imports EUR 955 billion (both goods and services accumulated)), Germany has become one of the largest exporters in the world and, due to the size of its population, Germany is the largest consumer market in Europe. Like most of the major economies, Germany has been affected by the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, but the impact was less in Germany than elsewhere. In the meantime, the gross domestic product increased materially from EUR 2,737 billion in 2013 to EUR 2,904 billion in 2014, to EUR 3,026 billion in 2015 and to EUR 3,133 billion in 2016. For 2017, a moderate onward increase is predicted.
As Germany is a part of the European Monetary Union, the Euro has been its official currency since January 1, 1999. After a period of weakness at the beginning, the Euro and the US dollar have almost achieved parity (EUR 1.00 vs USD 1.07 in April 2017). Concerning exchange controls, the Euro is freely convertible into other currencies and there are no restrictions for the money import and export, except for money laundering regulations which now require a declaration of cash of EUR 10,000 or more.
Although many legal regulations exist, specific working conditions, wages and salaries are often agreed in course of a collective bargaining process between trade unions and employers’ associations. Compared with most other countries, the influence and power of the German trade unions is extremely high.
With its 12,993 kilometers of motorways and its very extensive railway system, Germany offers good conditions for the exchange of services and goods. In addition, more than 100 international airlines fly to Germany.