The Rhineland has been a centre of international trade since ancient times. Roughly 2,000 years ago Cologne was already the capital of the Roman province of Germania Inferior and the seat of the Roman Governors, for some years even the seat of the Emperor. Despite the migration of population the City managed in the subsequent centuries to grow as a commercial and finance metropolis to become one of the largest and most prosperous European (Hansa) Cities of the Middle Ages..
This historical experience probably accounts a little for the Rhineland’s proverbial curiosity, tolerance and openness towards everything foreign. Alongside the well known location advantages – excellent transport infrastructure, qualified workforce, proximity to sales markets – the Rhinelanders’ mentality is an additional asset. It makes it particularly easy for international companies to settle in the Region; their employees forge social contacts more quickly than elsewhere and find access to the remarkable range of cultural and leisure activities available in the Rhineland.
Top address: According to a study by IHK-Initiative Rheinland, no location in North Rhine-Wesphalia is so much in demand by foreign investors as the region between Bonn and the Lower Rhine. Every eleventh one of the 420,000 member companies of the five Chambers of Industry and Commerce in the Rhineland is in foreign (capital) ownership. Of these 8,558 are in the Companies Register (HR), and the remaining 30,231 are single companies or so-called small commercial businesses (KGT). The companies or corporate capital come from a total of 163 countries – covering the whole gamut from A to Z. 34 per cent of the foreign Companies Register companies based in the Rhineland are engaged in trading operations. Then come freelance, scientific and technical services (25 %), and in third place the processing industry (10 %). Around 800 foreign companies produce cars, car parts, machines, textiles, foodstuffs and much more in the Rhineland.
When more than 1 million visitors collect on the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf, it’s neither Carnival nor the Eurovision Song Contest, but the Japan Day, a one-day German-Japanese festival, the biggest of its kind in the world. In Düsseldorf and the neighbouring communities there live more than 8,000 Japanese, mainly well paid specialists and management personnel with their families. Young Japanese study regularly at the Music College or the Art Academy. The Japanese business community in Düsseldorf boosts the region’s economic power, and also enhances its cultural life. This is also illustrative of what many other nationalities also experience who have settled in the Rhineland over the past few decades – many on a limited period of assignment for their companies, as foreign students or as guest lecturers at the institutes of higher education.
A new service segment – relocation services – has developed its own business model for the needs of the »expats« and takes care of registration formalities, removals or accommodating the young in multilingual nursery schools or an international school. Alongside the Lions and Rotarians, business clubs aid regional networking; the Sparkasse savings bank in Bonn has established its own foundation for international dialogue and operates an expat service on the internet. In Cologne the »International House Cologne« (IHC), founded by the IHK Cologne and the Rotonda Business Club in 2010, brings together international clubs, organisations and institutions.