The initial period in Germany is not always easy. You may feel overwhelmed with a vast amount of new information. Many of the things you encounter at the start will appear strange and unusual. We would like to provide orientation and to help you understand life here in Germany.
The following writings provide an introduction to the Basic Law – the German constitution – and the importance it has for people living here in Germany, which now includes you as well. You will get to know some rights, but also obligations as well.
What is the Basic Law
The Basic Law comes to life, provided we all respect it. Not only do the values it upholds provide the basis for our state, they also lay the foundation for societal life. The peace, freedom and prosperity that Germany has enjoyed for decades now is only possible because the rights and obligations described in the following are anchored firmly in the hearts and minds of the people living here.
You can download the Basic Law free of charge from the website of the German Bundestag or order a copy from: www.btg-bestellservice.de
It is available in the languages English, French, Spanish, Polish, Turkish, Portuguese and Arabic.
Human dignity shall be inviolable
The German state is tasked with respecting and protecting the human dignity of all people living in Germany. This means it must refrain from any action that would violate our dignity. It must also offer protection from others who may seek to humiliate, persecute or injure us.
The “Alliance for Tolerance, Solidarity, Democracy and Constitutional State – against Prejudice, Hatred and Violence” (Allianz für Weltoffenheit, Solidarität, Demokratie und Rechtsstaat – gegen Intoleranz, Menschenfeindlichkeit und Gewalt) unites religious groups, associations, trades unions and employers. In its appeal “Human dignity shall be inviolable”, the initiative advocates an open society in Germany.
You will find the appeal in several languages here: www.allianz-fuer-weltoffenheit.de
Freedom always comes with responsibility. It demands that each one of us respects and tolerates other lifestyles, irrespective of whether or not they reflect our own perceptions.
On the following website, the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland, LSVB) has compiled information for asylum seekers in a number of languages: www.queer-refugees.de
Equality before the law
People without sufficient means are entitled to receive legal aid to ensure that everyone is able to assert their rights. Legal aid is used to pay legal fees and court costs. But it is only approved if the claim is considered to have merit.
Here are some useful links:
The equal rights of men and women
There is still plenty of room for improvement, even today. However, the state does what it can to ensure that women and men have equal opportunities in all areas of life, whether as private citizens, at work or in the family.
You will find publications on topics relating to equal opportunities on the homepage of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministeriums für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend): www.bmfsfj.de
Prohibition of discrimination
The state is obliged to protect minorities against discrimination. However, we are also required to respect our fellow human beings. This is one of the fundamental principles underlying societal life in Germany.
Please contact the German government’s Anti discrimination Office (Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes, ADS) if you require assistance in connection with discrimination.You will also find a list of counselling centres on the Anti discrimination Office website: www.antidiskriminierungsstelle.de – E-mail: email@example.com
Freedom of faith and conscience
Everyone is entitled to the undisturbed practice of religion, whichever one it may be. The only requirement is that the rituals and traditions are consistent with German law.
Websites of some of Germany’s religious communities:
- Protestant Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland): www.ekd.de
- Catholic Church in Germany (Katholische Kirche in Deutschland): www.katholisch.de
- Orthodox Bishops Conference in Germany (Orthodoxe Bischofskonferenz in Deutschland): www.obkd.de
- Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland): www.zentralratdjuden.de
- Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (Koordinierungsrat der Muslime): www.koordinationsrat.eu
- Islamic Community of Shiite Congregations in Germany (Islamische Gem. der schiitischen Gemeinden Deutschlands e.V.): www.igs-deutschland.org
- Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Deutschland: www.ahmadiyya.de
- Alevite Community in Germany (Alevitische Gemeinde Deutschland e.V., AABF): www.alevi.com/de
Freedom of expression and freedom of the press
Freedom of expression and press freedom are immensely important for our democracy. We can only participate in political life – for instance by joining a political party or by voting in elections – if we are entitled to share our opinions and to access information without restriction.
The consortium of public broadcasters in Germany (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, ARD) has compiled its services for refugees, including news, on a dedicated website: refugees.ard.de
Marriage and family
There are many different counselling services in Germany that cater to families facing challenges or problems. The services are also available by telephone or anonymously. Their common purpose is to help families to improve the circumstances of their lives.
You will find a list of local counselling centres for children, adolescents and parents under the following link: www.bke.de
Duties in Germany
Everyone in Germany is required to adhere to applicable laws and to fulfil their duties. The majority do so gladly, because they want societal life to keep running smoothly in the long term.