Six signs autumn has arrived in Germany

The weather is unpredictable, you’re seeing lots of kites and you’re eating pumpkin soup. Yes, Herbst is here.

Six signs autumn has arrived in Germany
A pumpkin figure in the Botanic Garden in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: DPA

Those long sweaty hot days full of ice cream and half (or fully) naked people in parks may feel like a distant memory.

But don’t despair, because autumn, or fall as it’s known in American English, is still a captivating time in Germany. Here are a few signs that autumn is underway. 

Get your scarves out

Germans really like to embrace the in-between seasons and will make the most of the light during autumn days by getting out and about and taking long walks. But they will only do so on one condition: if they are warm and protected from all forms of weather.

Yes, at this point of the year, you will begin to see Germans bundled up in large scarves. Germans will do everything they can to protect themselves against the weather as if a blast of wind guarantees illness. That's why you'll also find them wearing hats and big coats even if it doesn't actually seem that cold.

Stay cosy. Photo: Depositphotos/Kirill_grekov

Another trick that Germans love is layering. On milder days, you can peel off the layers like an onion but you're still significantly covered when the temperature suddenly drops come 6pm. 

To be fair, that is very practical and we should probably all follow these tips. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Die Übergangsjacke

Blankets galore

Cafes and restaurants are still trying to make the most of their outdoor seating areas. To lure Germans to come and eat Kuchen or drink Bier outside, they will provide generous blankets so guests can wrap their legs or upper body in to make sitting outside more pleasant. 

Similarly, Germans will flock to the bars and cafes which have Heizpilzen (literally heat mushrooms, meaning heaters) so they can be in the outdoors but still enjoy an atmosphere of Gemütlichkeit (cosiness).

The heating in your building goes on

Hooray, you don’t have to freeze in your apartment anymore. 

That’s because the Heizperiode (heating period) has arrived in Germany. This time usually runs from October 1st to April 30th. It means the heating in your whole building is turned on so you can turn your radiator on.

The landlord must set the heating so that the minimum temperature in the flat reaches between 20-22C during the day and around 18C at night (11pm to 6am), according to the Deutsche Mieterbund (DMB).

Photo: DPA

Note that if it is cold in the summer months for several days in a row then the landlord must go against the general rules and turn on the heating. That’s why your heating could be turned on in September or even earlier if it’s a particularly nippy time. 

Look up. There are kites everywhere!

Germans love flying kites and the months where there's a good bit of wind is the best time to do it.

Families will flock to hills or wide open spaces to launch their Drachen (kite, or literally dragon) in the air. It's also a time for kite festivals so look out for events happening across the country by checking these listings.

In Berlin, one of the best places to fly your kite is the Drachenberg am Teufelsberg (kite mountain or dragon mountain).

The Drachenberg, like the neighbouring US listening station Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), was built from the ruins of World War II. It's an amazing spot to watch your kite come alive in the wind.

It can take a bit of an effort to get there and then climb the 99 metre hill but it has breathtaking views of the city and almost always guarantees the breeze needed to fly your kite. 

You’re eating onions and pumpkins

One of the loveliest things about living in Germany is the defined seasons. We can really feel – and taste – the changes during the year. In autumn, onions, pumpkins and chestnuts really come into their own. 

This month the Weimar Onion Festival is happening from October 11th-13th and guarantees delicious food, including Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake), a savoury snack that might not be the best option if you're on a date but will certainly keep your tummy and tastebuds happy. 

You've probably also noticed a lot of pumpkin on the menu, most likely in the form of Kürbissuppe.

There's also a whole festival dedicated to the pumpkin – Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival,( Kürbisausstellung) which is ongoing and runs until November 3rd.

It's the largest festival of its kind in the whole world and shows just how much Germany loves pumpkins. It also includes the German Pumpkin Championships.

Photo: DPA

This year Michael Asam from Bavaria won with a pumpkin weighing in at 687.5kg, (see the above picture for proof of the giant in all its glory).

So why does Germany love this traditional North American food so much? We think they just love the fact that it can be turned into a warm comfort food, which Germans crave at this time of year. 

READ ALSO: The rise and rise of the pumpkin in Germany

Storm season hits 

We're not talking about the torrential rain that's followed by blazing sunshine. No. We're talking about gale force winds, flying trees and rain that makes you want to hibernate until spring. 

A recent storm in Hanover. Photo: DPA

Autumn in Germany is unforgiving when it comes to the weather. The good news is that these kinds of storms don't happen every day; in fact sometimes there's pleasant sunshine.

However, we'd advise making like the Germans and buying appropriate waterproof clothes, ponchos and footwear especially if you're planning on cycling in bad weather. 

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Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!