Culture Writing

The Germany I Left Behind

Uta Burke, the author of Immortal Link, is a writer who is passionate about the country she was brought up in; her Germany. Today, she talks about the stereotypes, it’s history, the education system and more.
For more info on Uta and her book, please visit:

I grew up in Germany, married a U.S soldier, and moved to New Jersey with him. When they hear where I am from, Americans mention: Hitler, Beer, luxury cars, and soccer. Once I was asked at a party if we have electricity in Germany. Stunned by so much ignorance, I sarcastically answered: “No, we build the Mercedes and BMW by candlelight.” At home, I went online and found this: Germany today is the most populous and affluent democracy in Europe and one of the most significant countries on the planet. It’s a very modern, sophisticated country with a fascinating past. Tourists flock to Germany to visit the stylish cities, legendary medieval castles, and the cultural and historic wonders (

The Europe today is not the same the immigrants left three or four generations ago. While the huddled masses sailed across the ocean and cleared a path to the West, the homeland plowed on. It preserved its historic buildings to remind us where we came from, but not its medieval lifestyle. Their progress kept pace with the rest of the industrialized world and the countries of Western Europe today are modern pinnacles of technology and education, freedom and wealth.

Let me give you a few examples and comparisons:

Going to college in Germany is free, meaning the taxpayers are paying for it, but only a certain kind of student can apply to universities. The German school system is divided into three independent sectors: From the basic, easiest option (Hauptschule), students graduate after 9th grade, from the medium hardest (Realschule) after 10th grade, and from the most demanding after the 12th grade (Gymnasium), after passing a mammoth test called the Abitur. Only students with the Abitur can go on to university. The others have two choices: Add one to three years of schooling and then also graduate with the Abitur, or complete a two to three year apprenticeship, a very popular option. Apprentices earn money from the start as they learn a trade, as opposed to having to pay for the training the way they do in America (up to $20,000 for a trade like HVAC). They work in the company and go to school one day a week. They receive healthcare benefits from day one. I am presently paying for my daughter’s college and campus experience, which will cost me at least $100,000, whereas she would have done an apprenticeship in Germany, earning money instead of accumulating debt. Yes, the German system works. My cousin, Werner, a slow learner during childhood, only completed 9th grade, then did a three-year-apprenticeship as a master carpenter. Today he owns his own company, several homes, and is a millionaire.

Nobody goes bankrupt in Germany if they get sick. Michael Moore, social critic and film maker, wrote: How high is the number of Germans who couldn’t pay their medical bills last year? Zero. In the U.S., every 7.5 seconds an American loses his home because his medical bills made him bankrupt. In Germany we pay more into the social system, but other than a small co-pay, nobody sees a medical bill, no matter how ill and for how long.

Movies filmed in America hit the big screen in Germany on the same day, albeit with a different title. “The Hunger Games” are called “Die Tribute von Panem,” (Tributes of Panem) and the voiceovers are always in German. “The Help” is called “Gute Geister,” (Good Souls or Spirits).

I hope I was able to give you a better idea of what my country is like.

Oh yeah, and they sell “McBeer” at McDonalds…



14 thoughts on “The Germany I Left Behind”

  1. Uta, thank you for this article, you said it just right, Germany is a beautiful and sophisticated country ( and the McBeer at McDonalds don’t hurt either), looking forward to your new book.

  2. But to be honest, the German school system is not the best. Finnland i.e. is better. Nobody even starved, when he has no job. The German social system helps everone who looses his job or did not find one, even if it is for years. He gets money to live, which includes health care, the rent for the flat, food, even cloth will be payed vom the social system. A long time workless person gets 530 USD a month PLUS the rent for the flat. That means on the other hand, the taxes are higher. A person who earns i.e.more than 200.000 USD a year has to pay up to 42 % taxes, if he lives alone. But we do not have these kind off slums like in Detroit. The whole community (all tax-payers) has to pay and so this system works fine….

    Wolff Ehrhardt, German since birth in 1959.

    1. Wolff, there is always something better out there, in anything.
      I was actually discussing the German vs. American school system with my co-workers and I do think that the German one is better than the American. I am sure, however, that you can find people who disagree.

  3. You have spoken my heart! I am half american/half german.. but I do believe the german gov’t knows how to take care of their people and I am also stunned at the way Americans see germans & Germany!!!!

  4. Great article!!! I spent 5 years in Germany in the early to mid-nineties and LOVED it!! The people (for the most part) are so friendly, and the history, architecture, and picturesque landscapes are amazing!!!!

  5. Danke liebe Uta, alles was du beschrieben hast stimmt genau. Ich habe zwei schwerst behinderte Kinder, die der Grund waren warum wir wieder nach Deutschland zurück gekommen sind, hätte mir die Care für die beiden nie leisten können. Und auch die Vorurteile stimmen, ich wurde auch ständig gefragt, ob wir den schon einen Fernseher hätten, und Toiletten Spülung, und eine Waschmaschine, und Hitler war immer Thema Nr. 1. Do you admire Hitler are you a Nazi” waren immer die ersten Fragen..
    LG aus Stuttgart

    1. A translation:

      Thank you, Uta, for what you wrote. It is absolutely true. I have two severly handicapped children and that was the reason, why we returned to Germany. I could not have afforded their care in America. The prejudices are also true. I was constantly asked about if we had TV or flushing toilets or washing machines in Germany…and Hitler was the first thing they asked me about. Thanks for telling the truth about Germany!

  6. I was born in Germany, but we came to the US in 1956. I miss a lot of things that I wish we had here, the schooling, the health care, and some of the good food. Loved reading your article, Uta. Thanks. Sigrid Shonbom

  7. Uta,

    thank you for writing this article to let people know how Germany truly is. It’s a country with an immense cultural background. The Germans have brought a lot to the world as well, through their artists, musicians, engineers, doctors.
    I love Germany and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have lived there for so many years before having to leave it.

  8. This small article has brought about the idea for a book about our lives here in America. Together with my Facebook group “German Girls Living In America” or GGLIA, we have compiled our stories and comments in a 300 page book to be titled: Good-bye, Germany – Hallo Amerika” written mostly in German. It will be published this summer and be made available on and The proceeds will go to a good cause. It is dedicated to our FB friend, Gudrun Johnson, who together with most of her family was gunned down last August in Copley, Ohio.
    Uta Burke, author of “The Germany I left behind.”

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