Daily dilemmas: Is it ever acceptable to cross the road at a red light in Germany?

It's an issue that's debated often in Germany. Should you ever cross the road when it's a red light (if it's safe)? Or do you risk getting a telling off? Here's your verdict.

Daily dilemmas: Is it ever acceptable to cross the road at a red light in Germany?
The green Ampelmann (traffic light man) in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Germans love rules – and they're not afraid to give people a stern telling off if they flout them (as one of our members Peter Mahaffey pointed out).

READ ALSO: 13 things foreigners do that make Germans really uncomfortable

Take crossing the road: if you stroll out when it's not a green pedestrian light – even if you feel it's safe to do so because there are no cars – you could quickly face some deathly stares or even some harsh words.

It's even worse if there are children nearby. If you're in a rush and leg it across the road just after the red light appears, you may be greeted with: “Es ist rot! Hier sind Kinder!' (It's red, there are kids here).

Crossing the road when it's a red light – jaywalking – is illegal in Germany and you can face a fine of between €5 and €10 if you're caught. 

However, in some countries across the world it's the norm to pay a bit less attention to traffic lights and, instead, cross the road when you think it's safe (whether it's green or not).

We asked The Local readers to decide if it's ever okay to do it – and here's the result.

On Facebook, 55 percent of respondents to our survey said NO, it's not okay to cross the road when the light is red. A total of 45 percent said YES, it's fine to do it if it's safe.

And over on Twitter there was a similar result, although it was a little tighter: 52 percent of readers said NO it's not okay and 48 percent said YES, it's okay if it's safe. 

Readers also shared their views on the issue – and their own experiences of the road crossing culture in Germany. 

On Facebook, Chad Michael Hanawalt was faced with this dilemma early on during his first trip to the Bundesrepublik. He said: “I crossed on red once in front of the train station in Bonn. I could tell people were not happy with me. Although in my defence, it was my first time in Germany and I had no idea this was a thing. But I know better now!”

Chris Walmsley has also felt the wrath of the German public. He said he'd been “shouted at in Mönchengladbach (western Germany) on a completely empty road by a lady taking her dog for a walk”. He's never cross the road when it's a red light again, well at least when there's other people around anyway. 

For Sid Young the outcome was even worse: he was fined €5 for it.

Alex Perry is not a fan of this law. “If I waited at all the red lights in Leipzig I wouldn't get anything done,” he said. The Ampeln (traffic lights) phases here are absurd.”

Debby Boon agrees. “This law frustrates me so much,” she said. “Drivers are allowed to decide if it’s safe to go but not pedestrians.”

Richard Bailey said everyone should cross the light on red if it's safe to do so.

“Obedience to ridiculous rules is shameful,” he said. 

'Wait for the light to change!'

However, others said citizens should stick to the rules. 

“It's an unnecessary risk, just wait for the damn light to change,” said Federico Leon. 

Many of our readers said it made a difference if children are around. 

'I guess you can get away with it occasionally when it is not busy – but never if there are children waiting at the traffic light. You'll get shouted or stared at for 'setting a bad example',” said one reader. 

Another respondent to our survey, Nabeel Ijaz Bhatti, said: “Normally it's not good to cross in red if there is traffic coming or a child or children are waiting to cross.

“They learn what you do. If not, they will ask their accompanying person questions about this strange behaviour.”

However Bhatti added that if there's no one around and the road is clear, it should be okay to cross the road. 

Rachael Dobšovičová said she has been influenced by German culture. “It’s so ingrained in me now after living here for long enough, I won’t even do it back home in NY,” she said. 

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Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door.