"Schaffe, schaffe, Häusle baue" is a saying in the old Swabian dialect that means "Work hard, work hard, and build a wee house." Germans are known for their industriousness, and tend to take their work very seriously. In the 1950s, laws were introduced to restrict working hours and counter the tendency of many Germans to overwork.

Germans have begun to question the punishing work-weeks of the last few decades. More and more they are choosing more leisure time instead of more work, even if it means less money. Although this is true of most Western nations, it comes as a startling change in Germany.

Today's German worker averages a 38-hour workweek, and there is a proposal at present to limit working hours to 35 hours a week. Germans have more holidays than Canadians, with at least 12 paid statutory holidays and a minimum of four weeks' paid vacation each year. More than half of all employees are entitled to at least five weeks' vacation. Traditional hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but flexible hours are becoming more popular. People do not work on the weekends and keep private life separate from work life.

 Did you know?

Chimney sweeps can still be seen in Germany, dressed in the traditional black suit and black top hat.

Germany produces coal, iron, cement and steel. Its major industries include engineering, chemicals and motor vehicles. There are many famous German brand names: Braun appliances, BMW, Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz cars, Adidas sportswear, Hoechst chemicals, Bayer pharmaceuticals and Siemens electronics. However, these large firms make up a small part of the German business world. Most German firms are small or medium-sized businesses.

Businesses and factories are located in large towns and cities and people commute to work. Many use Germany's extensive and efficient system of public transportation. Recently, some companies have relocated to rural areas to save on operating costs. There are trade unions in Germany, but strikes are not very common. Germany also has a small agricultural sector.

Germany has many foreign workers, called Auslaendische Arbeitenhemer. Many work as unskilled labourers. Although only 8% of Germany's population is non-German, in some cities up to 20% of the population consists of foreign workers and their families. More than half of the foreign workers have lived in Germany for ten or more years.

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Germans have played an important role in the world of fashion and design, not only because of designers such as Hugo Boss, Karl Lagerfeld, Wolfgang Joop and Jil Sander, but also in the work of photographer Helmut Newton and model Claudia Schiffer.