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INTERNATIONAL BEER DAY

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Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer

We all know Germans love their beer - but did you realize just how much? Here's a look back at some of the times they proved that nothing could come between them and their favourite beverage.

Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Photo: DPA

1. When they elected a Beer Queen

Actually, this one has taken place every year since 2009 in Bavaria: would-be Queens are quizzed on their knowledge of beer and must also take part in a taste test. Prost!

Dirndl's on show: the seven finalists. Photo: DPA
Photo: DPA

2. When Merkel went for a beer instead of watching the fall of the Berlin Wall

What do you do when history is being made? If you're future Chancellor Angela Merkel, the answer's obvious: have a pint.

The Chancellor has said that, aged 35, when she heard the announcement of the fall on television, she did wonder about going along to watch.

“But it was Thursday, and Thursday was my sauna day so that's where I went,” she told foreign reporters, adding that she then went for a beer with a friend before getting swept up in the crowds pouring through from the West – and joining them for yet more beers.

3. When a 94-year-old broke out of hospital for a birthday beer

The pensioner still had the IV drip in his hand, so determined was he to celebrate his birthday at a local beer hall.


Photo: DPA

4. When Munich celebrated Lent by cracking open the extra strong beer

For most, Lent is a time for abstinence, but almost nothing can convince Germans to give up their beers.

In fact, in Munich it has become tradition to instead brew extra strong Starkbier, with the more potent varieties hitting supermarket shelves. Read more on the tradition here.

5. When they declared their beer purity law worthy of Unesco World Heritage status

The law guaranteeing high quality of beer is over 500 years old, and has been submitted for Unesco World Heritage status not once, but twice.

6. When students worked out a way to get their caffeine fix through beer

A group of students came up with the perfect solution for those times when you need the caffeine hit from coffee, but also the sheer pleasure that only comes from beer.

“We are not trying to save the world,” one of them modestly said.


Photo: DPA

7. When they declared beer to be just as good as therapy

No, this statement didn't come from the advertising department of a brewery or one of the Germans propping up the bar of their local beer hall, but from one of the country's top healthcare officials. He said that many people's problems could be best solved with a bottle of beer.

8. When firefighters were brought in to rescue someone's stash of beer

When two friends stepped off a train for a smoke break, they were distraught to see the train pull away without them.

But they weren't bothered about being delayed in reaching their destination – they'd left a bag of beers on board. In their distress, they set off the emergency alarm, calling firefighters to the scene.

9. When German firefighters built a fire truck out of beer crates

This was definitely an earnest attempt to win a Guinness World Record, and not an excuse to drink a lot of beer.

Proof that in Germany beer is not just something you drink in order to get drunk, but an important part of many people's social lives: parents were not pleased when children were barred from a local beer garden.

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GERMANY EXPLAINED

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays – and will it ever change?

Germany's strict ban on shops opening on Sundays can be a shock to foreigners. We looked at the culture around it, and spoke to one of the country's largest trade unions to find out if things are ever likely to change.

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays - and will it ever change?

It’s Sunday. You’ve invited people for dinner, but you’ve forgotten the most important ingredient. Tough luck – you’ll either have to do without or wait until Monday because your local shops are shut. 

Most of us are familiar with this inconvenience, and perhaps you’ve even found yourself screaming: “Why?” in frustration in front of a locked-up supermarket. 

But it’s something us adopted Germans have had to get used to. We decided to take a look at the reasons behind Germany’s ban on Sunday shopping – and to find out if it might change in future. 

Where does the rule come from?

The Sonntagsruhe or ‘Sunday rest’ principle is an integral part of German culture, so much so that it is enshrined in the German constitution (Grundgesetz).

Article 140 of the law, which has remained unchanged since 1919, says: “Sundays and state-recognised public holidays remain protected by law as days of rest from work and spiritual upliftment.” 

But the practice of not working on Sunday has been around for much longer. The idea that the seventh day of the week is a day of rest dates back to the old testament and was declared a general day of rest across the Roman Empire as early as 321, by Roman Emperor Constantine.

In the centuries since, however, most of Europe has gradually relaxed the strict ban on commercial activities on Sundays. 

But in Germany, the rules remain restrictive. It’s unlikely to change anytime soon partly because of religious reasons, and also in relation to the interests of workers.

Germany’s biggest trade union Verdi spelled out their view. “It’s not ‘modern’ to work seven days a week,” they told The Local. “That’s the Middle Ages.” 

What exactly does the law mean?

On the face of it, the German law forbids all forms of work on Sundays and public holidays, though numerous exceptions are laid out in the Working Time Act. 

As well as emergency and rescue services, hospitals, nursing and care facilities, exceptions include cultural and sporting activities, and the hospitality sector. 

Another notable exemption to the rule is bakeries, which are allowed to open for three hours on Sundays – which is why you may often find a long queue at your local baker if you want to get your freshly baked Brötchen on Sunday morning. 

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery.

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Illustrating how seriously the rule can be taken in Germany, there have even been cases of bakeries being sued for selling bread for too long on Sundays.

Shops, however, aren’t exempt from the rule and, the only way they can legally open on a Sunday is on a so-called verkaufsoffener Sonntag – Sunday trading day.

In most federal states, shops are allowed to open on between four and eight Sundays per year, and the States can decide when these should be. The chosen days must, however, be linked to a relevant occasion – such as a local festival, a market, a trade fair, or a similar event. 

Sunday openings also have to be recognisable as an exception to the general rule and Sunday openings that have already been approved can often be later overturned by the courts.

How strictly is the rule enforced?

Retailers who break the rules and open for business on Sunday can face fines ranging between €500 and €2,500.

The strictness of enforcement can vary widely between different regions.

In Berlin, for example, you can still find lots of Spätis (late night shops) open on Sundays. Although this is technically illegal, the authorities in the capital seem to take more of a relaxed approach to enforcement than in other states. 

A "Späti" late-night shop in Berlin.

A “Späti” late-night shop in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Florian Schuh

In the traditionally Catholic state of Bavaria, for example, the law is much more strictly guarded and enforced.

READ ALSO: Why Germany has strict shop opening hours

Is the law likely to change?

A survey by Spiegel in 2017 showed that 61 percent of Germans wanted to be able to shop on a Sunday, and this desire is shared by the trade industry.

The German Trade Association, for example, which represents around 400,000 independent companies, has strongly criticised Germany’s refusal to budge on the issue of Sunday openings on several occasions and argued that Sunday opening is also popular with staff, with many shop assistants appreciating the work in a more relaxed atmosphere.

In its latest statement on the issue, the association stated that, especially after following the economic impact of the pandemic, many retailers would benefit greatly from being able to open on Sundays. 

READ ALSO:

“It is remarkable that in no other EU country Sunday opening is as restricted as in Germany,” the association said. “Even in strongly Catholic EU countries such as Italy and Poland, shoppers can generally shop on Sundays. The same applies to France, although they place great value on culture and socialising.”

However, even if there is a widespread desire in some quarters to allow Sunday trading, an amendment to the constitution would require the consent of two-thirds of the German parliament. Also, there remains strong opposition to changing the rule from many workers’ groups and trade unions.

Trade union Verdi, which regularly files complaints against states and organisations which seek to deviate from Sunday trading restrictions, said that Sunday rest is still very important for workers.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb | Arne Dedert

A spokesperson said: “We have just one day a week when employers can’t stop us from going to football together, meeting friends, attending cultural events, or spending free time with the whole family.

“And we want to keep it that way. There are six days a week when we can go shopping, take the car to the garage, do our banking, or get the package delivered from the online retailer. On Sunday, there has to be peace and quiet.”

The Verdi spokesperson added that it’s important to think about “work-life balance, and not about being available 24/7 for a company”.

We also asked the union if the law looks set to change in the near future.

The spokesperson said: “Sunday, which is a non-working day for most people, has so far been protected by the majority of political parties in Germany.

“Verdi, with its almost two million members, continues to work to ensure that working on Sunday does not become an everyday occurrence.”

So it appears that the culture shock for many non-Germans of shops being closed on Sundays won’t change anytime soon. 

READ ALSO: From nudity to sandwiches – the biggest culture shocks for foreigners in Germany

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