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Is Germany a First World country? Explained

As a German native, I’ve always been fascinated by my country’s prosperity and cultural and technological advances. 

Great curiosity about these developments makes me research a lot, surprising me with more interesting aspects.

In this post, I will share with you everything I know about the fascinating country of Germany and its present state.

Is Germany a first world country?

Germany is a first world country that is known for its highly developed and strong economy, innovativeness, and competitiveness. Germany is an advanced economy and is one of the world leaders in sciences. 

Moreover, Germany is one of the major political powers in global politics.

Yet, Germany may also count as a second-world country if you use the cold war definition because East Germany was allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Whereas West Germany was a first world country.

Yet, the contemporary definition of “first world country” describes a highly developed and industrialized country with prosperity, democracy with political and economic stability.

In the modern sense, Germany ticks all the boxes, and by all definitions, Germany is a first world country.

What is meant by ”first world country”?

Originally, the term “first world”  was coined during the Cold War in the 1950s. First world countries referred to the US and its allies. 

The second world was used for the Soviet Union and its allies, and the third world was used for neutral countries.

However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, its meaning changed greatly.

At the present time, the expression of “first world country” is used to describe a well-developed and industrialized country with

  •  political and economic prosperity, 
  • stability, 
  • democracy, 
  • rule of law, and 
  • high standard of living.

Many experts suggest that the term “first world” is kind of outdated and prefer to use “industrialized” or “developed country”.

Click to check my other articles on Germany. I also linked them all at the end of this article.

What makes Germany a first world country? 

First world countries or developed countries like Germany have certain characteristics putting them in the lead of the world.

Germany is a global power and the largest economy in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world.

Moreover, Germany’s social market economy enables economic freedom, technological progress, and a high employment rate. 

Germany’s economic model further boosts the country’s prosperity as a developed country and lowers poverty levels to a great extent.

For example, Germans enjoy a high standard of living and one of the world’s best healthcare systems, with compulsory health insurance covering most health expenses.

Also, Germany is a splendid example of an excellent education system that comes in third place after the United States and the UK. 

Yet, unlike in the UK and the USA, education is mostly free and easily accessible to everyone regardless of their family’s financial situation.

Germany has always believed that education shouldn’t be commercialized.

Primary and Secondary Education is mandatorily paired with no education costs. University education is also accessible at around 1/10 of university fees compared to the UK and USA. 

This ensures a high literacy rate followed by a skilled labor force, good employment rates, low levels of corruption, and an innovative economy overall.

It’s quite interesting to see that Germany has the highest employment percentage in the EU and the lowest youth unemployment rate.

Furthermore, Germany is one of the world’s frontrunners in various scientific, technological, and industrial sectors. 

Another factor contributing to Germany’s industrialization, high development, and a strong economy is its high rate of tourism.

Germany is the ninth most visited country in the world, contributing more than 100 billion USD to Germany’s GDP each year.

Germany and occupation zones during the Cold War. source

Was East Germany a Second World Country?

If we look at the original term and definition of “Second World” which was used during the Cold War, the term refers to the Soviet Union and other countries in the communist bloc.

Now, applying this definition to 1945’s East Germany was indeed a second-world country.

Let me explain.

When Germany was defeated in 1945, the country was divided during the Cold War by the winners of World War II.

The Western allies consisting of the US, the UK, and France were led by the United States and occupied West Germany. 

On the other hand, the Soviet Union kept East Germany. For this reason, part of today’s Germany can be considered second in the cold war definition.

Yet, despite East Germany (in other words, German Democratic Republic) being under Soviet control, it was still one of the most advanced economies in the Soviet Bloc. 

Therefore, even at that time, Germany was a “first world country” according to modern terminology.

Suggested Reading: What do German people look like? (a German Explains)

Germany, located in the center of Europe, is often referred to as the heart of the European Union.

Some Related Facts About Germany

Germany, which is also known as the land of poets and thinkers, is the largest and most important economy in Europe and the second most populous European country, following Russia.

Official NameFederal Republic of Germany
Capital and largest CityBerlin
Official and National LanguageGerman
Type of GovernmentFederal Parliamentary Republic
Area357,022 km2 (137,847 sq mi)
Population84,243,457 million
Number of States16
Driving sideright
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy

Why is Germany Rich?

Over the past decades, Germany has made tremendous progress after huge losses from wars, occupation, and partitioning of the country. 

With the breakthrough of industrialization in the early 1800s, Germany’s road to development and modernization didn’t stop ever since.

Now, Germany is Europe’s largest and 4th largest economy in the world.

Furthermore, looking at Germany’s GDP per capita of 50,760.598 USD (as of 2021) and the nation’s high standard of living, Germany is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

On top of that, Germany is an impressively strong political and economic hub driven by continuous innovativeness, competitiveness, determination, and diligence.

Another major factor leading to Germany’s wealth is its strong focus on exports, ultimately leading to its international competitiveness and global networking.

Germany is less likely to be affected by financial deterioration because it is the largest manufacturing force in many industries.

Some of these industries are high-quality cars, machinery, electronic products, electrical equipment, chemical goods, pharmaceuticals, food products, basic metals, rubber, and plastics. 

The biggest economy and financial center of the Eurozone is also Germany.

Additionally, about two-thirds of the world’s trade fairs take place in Germany, making Germany one of the world’s top locations for trade exhibitions – another weighty factor contributing to Germany’s financial influence.

With all that being said, I would also like to mention something that might not seem essential initially, but it definitely is.

I think Germany has also become a rich and strong economy because of the Germans and their attributes.

Germans are hardworking, well-organized, and disciplined. 

Germans value time and efficiency, respect each other, stick to their commitments, and strive to achieve their goals by following deadlines.

I believe it helps a country massively if the majority of people have these qualities.

Languages Spoken in Germany

Unlike multilingual countries like Papua New Guinea, South Africa, or Pakistan, with various different languages, Germany is a country with one language but with many dialects.

The official and primarily spoken language in Germany is Standard High German (SHG) or Hochdeutsch

Standard High German is the standardized variety of the German language used as the main basis of communication between Germans from different regions, regardless of their dialect.

Over 95% of the German population speak either Standard High German or their regional dialect as their first language. 

German has many dialects spoken with plenty of variations throughout the country.

Some local dialects of Germany are not mutually intelligible with Standard German which is why it’s not always easy to understand speakers of different dialects.

However, most of the time, neighboring dialects do show mutual intelligibility.

Let’s take a look at the dialects in Germany.

German DialectsGerman has over 30 regional dialects in Germany and around 250 dialects in the world.   Source

Click to read Languages similar to German: Explained By a Local

Low German

Low German, also called Niederdeutsch or Plattdeutsch, is a dialect spoken in the Northern areas of Germany.

Since Low German is spoken by both German and Dutch people, there are recommendations to not count it as a dialect, but rather as a language itself.


English: How are you?

Standard German: Wie geht es dir?

Low German: Wo geiht die dat?

Middle German

Middle German or Mitteldeutsch is the most widely and most differently spoken dialect in Germany.

The area, where Middle German is spoken, stretches from the Rhineland in the West right across to the former Eastern territories of Germany. 

It is also a common dialect in Berlin, the capital of Germany located in the Northeast of the country.

Middle German hosts a large family of major German dialects including Kölsch,  Thüringisch, Hessisch, Sächsisch, Berlinerisch, Mainzerisch, Saarländsch, and Pfälzisch.


English: Hello

Standard German: Hallo / Guten Tag

Kölsch: Hallo / Jode Dach

Thüringisch: Hallo / Guden Tach

Berlinerisch: Hallo / Juten Tach

Upper German

Upper German or Oberdeutsch is also commonly known as Bavarian German (Bayerisch) and is spoken in the German state of Bavaria and other Southern parts of Germany.

This particular dialect, its spellings, and its pronunciation are fairly different from Standard High German.

That’s why it is quite a challenge to understand Upper German, even for German natives.


English: I’m sorry

Standard German: Es tut mir Leid

Upper German: Duad ma leid

Besides German dialects and the German language, numerous other languages are spoken in Germany.

English is the first foreign language for Germans, followed by French, Latin, and Russian, which are all widely taught at schools.

Furthermore, since Germany is a country of immigration, numerous immigrant languages are spoken by considerable communities across the country.

Germany’s most widely spoken immigrant languages include Italian, Russian, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Spanish, Dutch, French, Greek, Polish, and many more.

Besides Germany being an economic and political powerhouse, it’s interesting to see that its language does not only hold great significance in Europe alone but in the whole world as well.

This article is

written by Asma Schleicher and edited by Efe Genit. Asma is a creative writer with German and Pakistani roots. She is an analytical writer with a degree in business administration.

She mostly writes about cultural, travel, and fashion-related topics reflecting her real-life experiences. You can also check Asma’s profile on Upwork.