Should Germany ensure workers get a day off for every public holiday?

With German Reunification Day falling on a Saturday this year, we asked The Local readers if they think Germany should allow for a replacement day off on a weekday. Here's the verdict.

Should Germany ensure workers get a day off for every public holiday?
We love our Feiertage, Germany! Photo: DPA

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We all love Germany's public holidays (gesetzliche Feiertage), whether it's Tag der Arbeit (Labour Day), Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) or Erster und Zweiter Weihnachtstag (Christmas Day and Boxing Day).

But one major difference I noticed about living in Germany compared to my home country of Scotland, is that when a public holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday it is not transferred to a week day.

This weekend we can see this in action: October 3rd is Tag der Deutschen Einheit or German Unity Day. It's a huge event marking the date when East and West Germany came together to form the modern-day Bundesrepublik.

Unlike some other holidays that are regionally celebrated (for example only Berlin has Frauentag or Women's Day), German Unity Day is a nationwide public holiday, meaning shops and offices are closed.

But this year since it's on a Saturday, most people don't actually get the holiday… because it's on the weekend anyway.

In my opinion, days off for public holidays should be given on weekdays so that the majority of workers can benefit. That's surely the point in them. I don't think it's really fair that in 2019 I had more days off than in 2020. It should remain consistent.

Of course people who work in shops will get the day off on Saturday because everything will be closed. But to make up for being shut on Saturday, many retailers in Germany are opening on Sunday October 4th (when usually they would be shut). So it doesn't really equal a public holiday for the likes of supermarket employees and other retail workers.

READ ALSO: What and when are Germany's 2020 public holidays?

Understandably, emergency workers and those in some other sectors do not get public holidays off but they should get them included in their annual leave so they benefit from the holiday another time.

I tweeted my thoughts on this earlier this week and lots of people had strong opinions. So at The Local Germany we did a poll. Here are the results:

So the vast majority – more than 70 percent – of people who took part in our online poll said Germany should change this system and move public holidays to weekdays to avoid 'losing' days off. Around 26 percent said things should remain the same.

'The day off should be transferred to Monday'

Lots of people shared my opinion on changing the system for a variety of reasons:

Meanwhile, independent shops have pointed they lose an important day of trade if the shop has to be closed on Saturday.

Some people, however, believe the system is fine.

And for freelancers it's not so bad.

Newspaper Berliner Zeitung joked about how long the queues are at the few shops open on public holidays. 

Some people pointed out that Germany has a generous number of public holidays (compared to the UK and some other countries).

More 'lost' holidays

Some people noted that residents in some parts of Germany also “lose out” on Reformationstag (Reformation Day) on October 31st this year because it falls on a Saturday (it's celebrated in nine states). And Allerheiligen (All Saints Day) on November 1st which falls on Sunday (it's celebrated in five states).

Plus the second Christmas Day or Boxing Day on December 26th falls on a Saturday this year so that one is out the window too.

And let's not get started on next year and the one after…

Meanwhile, the Berliner Zeitung pointed out that for those of us who haven't stocked up on food before the shops shut on Saturday, we could queue for a very long time at the few shops that remain open on holidays… and maybe we'll meet the love of our life.

What's the solution?

Of course employers can choose to give their employees a day off when a public holiday falls on the weekend, for example it could be transferred to the nearest Monday. This would be especially welcome at times like the festive period when respite from work is especially appreciated.

But as workers we can't rely on all employers doing that, or giving public holiday days that don't fall on weekends as part of annual leave.

Perhaps it's because I grew up in a different and country and culture that I feel strongly about it. But I seriously think politicians in Germany should consider changing this system.

Do you agree or do you have a different opinion? We'd be really interested in your thoughts. Let us know by emailing [email protected]

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.