German Language Blog

What is the German Deutsche Bahn? Posted by on Aug 12, 2021 in Language, News, Travel & Geography

This week, Germany’s Öffentliche Verkehrsmittel (m, public transit) are defined by a Streik (m, strike) of Lokführer (m, train drivers) of the Gewerkschaft (f, labor union) GDL. Announced suddenly, the Streik put the Deutsche Bahn in a lot of trouble. But what is the Deutsche Bahn, and how does it work? And what’s with this Streik?

What is the Deutsche Bahn?

Deutsche Bahn, Streik, GDL, Leipzig, Bahnhof, ICE, Train, German train

Image by author (Sten Ritterfeld), used with permission of Sten Ritterfeld.

The Deutsche Bahn, often also abbreviated to Die Bahn (“the train”) is an Aktiengesellschaft (public company) whose shares are wholly owned by the German Bundesrepublik (Federal Republic). This means that it is technically a private company, it is in public hands. The DB not only manages and runs the Schienennetz (n, rail network), but also the Eisenbahnen (f, trains) that run on them. At least, most of them. In recent years, more and more other private companies have gained access to the German Schienennetz for improved competition. For example, with the current Streik, alternatives such as Flixtrain could gain some customers and keep Bahnreisende (m, train travelers) happy.

At 33,600 km (20,878 miles), the German Schienennetz is the longest in Europe. Over 5 million Passagiere (m, passengers) reach their destinations in 26,000 Personenzügen (passenger trains) every day! With more than 336,000 Mitarbeiter (m, employees) all around the world, Die Bahn is also one of the largest mobility companies globally.

In Germany, die Bahn is often used for regional or intercity trips. A train from Berlin to Leipzig? There’s a fast ICE train that will get you there. Berlin to Frankfurt? Same. Arriving at the airport in Köln, and want to arrive at the Hauptbahnhof (m, central station) to gawk at the city’s massive, record-breaking cathedral? A regional train from DB is at your service.

Besides die Bahn, there are hundreds of local Verkehrsverbünde (transportation systems) that run local trains, buses and trams. When you’re in a city, you most likely travel with them, but the moment you step outside of that city or specific city system, die Bahn is probably what you’ll use (if you go by train, that is).

Die Bahn is often known for being verspätet (delayed), even though 94,6 percent of its trains were pünktlich (punctual, on time) last year, according to the company’s own numbers. Also now, with the StreikVerspätungen (f, delays) are a huge concern. Many media outlets explain what the Rechte (n, rights) are of Bahnreisende, what they can do if their train doesn’t come.

Anyway, now that we’re on the topic, what is this Streik about?

“Völlig überzogen”

The current Streik is by the Lokführer, meaning that many trains simply aren’t being driven, and so many are cancelled. Three-quarters of the Fernverkehr (long-distance travel) are cancelled. And that in the middle of the Urlaubszeit (f, holiday season). The Streik was barely announced ahead of time, leaving many Bahnreisende with too little time to  adjust to the situation. Many Touristen (m, tourists) didn’t even know about it at all, missing their Anschlüsse (m, connections).

The Gewerkschaft der Lokführer (GDL), which organises this Streik, claims that Die Bahn hasn’t responded enough to their demands for better pay, and so this Streik came as a protest to force Die Bahn to act. Their reaction? This Streik, and its magnitude, is völlig überzogen (completely overblown). Let’s hope the situation gets resolved soon, so that Bahnreisende can continue their journeys without problems!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Erik Lang:

    Hi Sten! I am interested in learning more about Hornussen on my upcoming trip to Switzerland.

    We produce a travel show called Adventures In Golf – -and think this would make a perfect subject for our show.

    If you are interested in helping, let me know!

    Thank you!