Nearly one-quarter of all Americans trace their ancestry to Germany. Many traditions and institutions have become so accepted as parts of the American way of life – Christmas trees, Broadway musicals, kindergarten and graduate degrees – that many people do not realize their German origins. Germany today is at the forefront of the Euro-Atlantic relationship, and organizations such as the Atlantic Council, the Atlantik-Bruecke, the German Marshall Fund, the American Council on Germany, and the American Academy in Berlin energize frequent and productive exchanges on shared values, responsibilities and policies.
Cultural connections between the United States and the Federal Republic are dynamic. The immensely popular Amerika Haus public diplomacy program brought America to Germany with speakers, exhibits and concerts. Many Amerika Haus centers are now German-American Institutes, supported by German local, state and federal governments, as well as by the U.S. Embassy and corporate sponsors. The Berlinale Film Festival, established in 1950 with Marshall Plan funding, helped revive the German film industry. Today, the Berlinale is a major event on Germany’s cultural calendar and a prominent part of the international film circuit. For its part, Germany has seven Goethe Institutes across the U.S., augmenting the cultural diplomacy work of its Embassy and eight consulates.
The United States is the top-ranked destination for German high school students studying abroad with a 47% share; and Germany is the top-ranked host country for American high school students studying abroad with a 19% share. Germany is the second-ranked European country of origin of all international college-level students in the United States.
The U.S. and German governments support many bilateral exchange programs. The German-American Fulbright Program is one of the largest bi-national educational exchange programs in the world. Over 40,000 Americans and Germans – students, teachers, researchers and professors – have been awarded Fulbright grants, supplemented by a new short-term Fulbright program that highlights cultural diversity. The German American Partnership Program, an exchange of high school students, is the largest government-supported program of its kind. The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program annually selects 700 German and American young people to represent their nation in reciprocal visits.
Private programs through institutions and sister cities, German-American clubs, sports and cultural groups far exceed government-sponsored exchanges. Over 1300 American and German institutions of higher education have partnerships; 170 German and American cities have partnerships, with 31 in eastern German states since unification. Cultural and educational institutions regularly produce cooperative exhibits, performance series, research projects, sport events and other initiatives. German and American institutions that are focused on music and dance, art, sports and environmental issues connect young audiences, especially through YouTube, Facebook and other social media portals.
The U.S. and German private sectors also are significant promoters of educational and cultural exchange. A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany shows that over 40% of U.S businesses in Germany support educational, environmental and other community-based activities. The U.S. Embassy and the private sector have together extended exchange opportunities for students from diverse audiences. The private sector contributes to short-term U.S.-based training programs for teachers from the former East Germany. A new pilot project that focuses on volunteerism and community service has just been initiated. In the United States, German businesses regularly sponsor the public diplomacy efforts of the Embassy, the Consulates, and the Goethe Institutes.