What Are the Cultural Differences Between East and West Germany?

Cultural differences between East and West Germany are present in religion, prosperity, population demographics and individual mentality. While the two initially shared a common culture and identity, Communist rule in East Germany following World War II triggered the split.

Due to less historical freedom, East Germany features a much higher percentage of atheists and agnostics than the more religious West, which is predominantly Protestant and Catholic.

East Germany is still suffering from Communist rule, evident by a gross domestic product just 66 percent of that of Western Germany, as of 2013. Unemployment rates, while declining in the East, have continued to linger around 10 percent, compared to 6 percent in the West.

Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, many younger East Germans have moved West to pursue greater job prospects. It is estimated that as many as 1.9 million, many from younger generations, emigrated to the West between 1990 and 2013, leaving the East with a lower birth rate and an aging population.

With Communist rule geared towards a collective mentality, East Germans typically share a stronger sense of group identity and belonging with an emphasis on gender equality. In contrast, West Germans tend to be more individualistic, with less focus on obeying authority.

The differences are largely a product of the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 by Communist East authorities. Designed to keep East Germans from fleeing, it solidified the division between the Communist East and democratic West. Though the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 to unify Germany into a single state, cultural differences persist.