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Eight signs summer has arrived in Germany

How do we know summer has arrived in Germany? Well, we're seeing more naked people and getting soaked in thunderstorms. Here's a few more signs.

Eight signs summer has arrived in Germany
Germans hitting the Schlachtensee lake in Berlin on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Shops sell out of fans

Photo: DPA

When temperatures rise to the late 20s and 30s, Germany gets sticky. That's because of the heat, but it's also exasperated by the lack of air conditioning in many public places. Apart from the odd shop or modern office, it’s quite difficult to get a blast of cool air as the mercury rises.

READ ALSO: Heatwave in Germany – temperatures of 40C forecast

And don't even mention public transport, especially the U-Bahn, which has already transformed into a sea of body odour and it's only June. 

Those who've had enough of waking up drenched in their own sweat every morning will probably head to a shop with the aim of buying a cooling fan, only to find that it's impossible to find one. 

Last year in the heatwave, fans of all shapes and sizes sold out in stores across Germany. Our advice: purchase one on the next cooler day so you can be smug when the heat creeps up again.

Failing that, write a reminder in your diary to pick one up in winter when there's sure to be a large supply, and hold onto it for dear life for all future German heatwaves. 

Germans head to the lakes

The Helenesee in Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

The Germans are generally big fans of the outdoors all year round and now that sunnier days are here they will flock in huge numbers to the many lakes or outdoor pools in the country. 

The best way to do it is figure out your route in advance – as some lakes require careful public transport planning, pack a picnic and lots of liquid (no, beer doesn't really count. We mean water!)

Plus, don't forget your sunscreen and take care when swimming in water. 

It's also worth nothing that beaches can be very busy at this time of year. Still, we would thoroughly recommend making the most of the awesome water spots across the country, from Bavaria to Brandenburg.

People get naked

An FKK sign at a beach in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Oh Germany, we really know it’s summer when you get your kit off.

Don't be surprised when you get to the lake to find that some people are wearing absolutely nothing. 

Germany has a tolerance of and, in some cases, a fondness for being “textile free.” Whether it's one of the country's hundreds of spas and wellness resorts, parks or lakes, many residents here are known for having no qualms about taking their clothes off.

This is the country of FKK – Freikörperkultur – an informal movement that translates to free body culture.

The movement comes to life in summer when you'll find designated FKK spots at beaches and even parks, such as the Englischer Garten in Munich. 

Try not to stare, just go with it and if you're intrigued then think about joining in. What's the worst that could happen? 

SEE ALSO: The dos and don'ts of public nudity in Germany

You get caught in torrential rain

Unfortunately, summer in the Bundesrepublik includes dramatic thunder and lightning storms which bring with them torrential rain. The rain is good for the crops, but it's a little inconvenient for going about your day. 

If you're Scottish like me, you will be used to carrying an umbrella/raincoat around with you at all times. But if you're not in tune with unpredictable weather, then perhaps consider investing in some light waterproof wear. Failing that, it's so warm that you'll dry pretty quickly. 

Some of the lightning storms are quite the spectacle, but watch them from a safe position. 

Strawberries are everywhere

If spring was the season for Spargel (asparagus) then summer is the humble strawberry’s time to shine. Yes, Erdbeeren are available pretty much all year round due to industrial farming but this is when they are at their best. 

Little huts pop up at the side of roads, in train stations and on streets selling tubs of strawbs, making them great for picking up on the way to your picnic.

Heatwave tip: another seasonal fruit that is great for helping you cool down on a summer's day and available everywhere – watermelon.

Festival season gets underway

Would it even be summer in Germany without an array of festivals? From street parties to parades and big music extravaganzas, this country really does try to make the most of the social side of summer. 

There was even a strawberry festival held in Hamburg at the weekend!

As well as the bigger events, such as Fusion, a music festival near Berlin, find out if your neighbourhood or town is hosting a fest as often it's a great way to meet the people who live in your area and make connections. 

The parties are reminiscent of cosy street gatherings, guaranteeing a real local feel. 

Shops shut for a holiday

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

#urlaub#urlaub#erholen#entspannen#weilburg#luftballons#öffnungszeiten#geschlossen#

A post shared by Ballon Oase (@ballon_oase_) on Jun 16, 2019 at 7:26am PDT

Get ready for stores, cafes and restaurants to shut their doors – sometimes for weeks on end – as owners go on their summer holidays. This usually happens in the second part of summer; in fact, some businesses shut for the entire month of August.

But don't be surprised if independent stores or cafes have a sign on their door alerting you to the fact they are closed for a weeks, anytime from now. 

More bikes get stolen

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Einen wunderschönen ☕️ guten Morgen euch. Die Sonne lacht und ein herrlicher Sonntag ☀️ steht bevor. Ob eine kleine ? Ausfahrt, eine ? Radtour, ein ?‍♂️ Spaziergang oder gehts ins Freibad? Für was entscheidet ihr euch? Euch auf jeden Fall einen tollen Tag ?. . #hannover #hannover_fotografie #maschsee #maschseeliebe #maschseehannover #bike #fahrräder #segelboot #sport #hannoverliebe #instanature #hannoverliebt #instahannover #meinniedersachsen #meinhannover #hannoverlove #ilovehannover #lovehannover #lowersaxony #niedersachsen #hannoververliebt #hannoverliebe #natur #nature #chillen #love #liebe #fahrradtour #fahrradfahren

A post shared by Matthias – Photography (@hannover_fotografie) on Jun 16, 2019 at 1:27am PDT

This is a depressing but a true fact of life in Germany: as soon as the good weather is back in force, the risk of your bike getting nicked increases dramatically. Of course, thieves are on the hunt for Fahrräder all year round, but as demand goes up in the hot weather, more bicycles are swiped from the street – or even the Hinterhof (courtyard).

It's important to have a good lock or two for your bike to keep it secure. But short of keeping it locked away in your room and never using it, there's not much you can do.

The silver lining is that buying a fairly decent bike in Germany is usually not very expensive due to there being so many around. However, we wish the police did a bit more to crack down on these thefts, which are often organized by gangs in urban areas. 

Have we missed anything out? Let us know your ideas by emailing [email protected] 

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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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