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This is what has changed in Germany since January 1st

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This is what has changed in Germany since January 1st
Now all ICE trains have free WiFi for first- and second-class compartments. Photo: DPA-tmn.
17:17 CET+01:00
From more expensive public transit to more money for parents, here's how 2017 has already changed things up in Germany.

1. Public transit prices went up

Bus, U-Bahn and S-Bahn passengers can expect to see steeper prices in 2017 across the country, with some transit companies already hiking their price tags in December, according to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. The newspaper reports that tickets will cost on average between 2 and 2.5 percent more.

In Berlin, for example, the price for a single trip ticket increased from €2.70 to €2.80.

2. Increase in minimum wage

For the first time since Germany implemented its new minimum wage in January 2015, the amount paid to workers has increased. Now the minimum is set to €8.84 per hour, up from €8.50 before.

3. WiFi on ICE trains

Germany is slowly but surely catching up to the rest of the more digitized Western world, and one of its steps forward is now providing free WiFi on high speed ICE trains in both first and second class seating.

After trialing free WiFi on some lines in 2016, Deutsche Bahn has now rolled it out nationwide.

But there is still a class divide: second-class passengers have a limited data volume, unlike first class travellers.

4. Electricity bills go up

Hundreds of German electricity providers started raising their prices by an average of 3.5 percent, partially due to increased subsidies for renewable energy.

The price hike is also due to higher costs of upkeep of things like power lines.

Those seeking further advice on providers and how to save electricity at home can call up the Federation of German Consumer Organizations at 0800 809 802 400. This can be done in English or German.

5. Parents receive more money to spend on children

The increase is small, but when raising children, every bit can help.

The German government provides money to parents called Kindergeld, which is paid monthly per child. Before January 1st, parents received €190 per child for the first two children, €196 for the third child and €221 for every subsequent child. These amounts have now increased by €2.

Kindergeld is paid until the child reaches age 18, or until age 25 if the offspring goes to university or vocational training.

Low-income households that qualify for a separate supplementary child benefit can also expect more money - up to €170 monthly from a maximum of €160 previously.

6. Relief for taxpayers

This year also means some relief for taxpayers, explains Focus magazine. The basic personal allowance (Grundfreibetrag) is a part of one's income not subject to tax. This is meant to ensure that the minimum amount of income needed to survive is not brought down by taxes.

On January 1st, this amount was raised to €8,820 for singles and €17,640 for married couples, up from €8,652 and €17,304 respectively.

7. New changes for cyclists

The year 2017 means regular bike riders will have to make some adjustments to their behaviour. For starters, new legislation allows parents to accompany children on their bikes on the pavement, up to the age of nine. Pedestrians will still have the right of way.

Previously, parents had to ride on the street while their children could ride on the pavement.

And another change: cyclists living in places without their own designated traffic lights had to defer to the directions for pedestrian traffic. Now they may look to signals for car traffic to decide when to cross the street.

8. Berlin - finally - implements smoke detector requirement

You may have been a bit disturbed - like the editors of The Local - to find upon moving to Germany that smoke detectors were not required in all residences.

But that is finally changing this year as Berlin became the last state to require all new buildings to be fitted with smoke detectors. Already existing buildings have until the the end of 2020 to do so.

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