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Ruhezeit: What you need to know about ‘quiet time’ in Germany

When it comes to living in Germany, the 'rest period' or 'Ruhezeit' is very important. We broke down what it means and what's allowed so you don't break the rules.

Ruhezeit: What you need to know about 'quiet time' in Germany
Rest periods are sacred times in Germany... so read a book rather than have party. Photo: DPA

What is Ruhezeit?

We all want to be able to relax at home. But sometimes it's impossible to avoid noise such as building work and the neighbour's lawn mower.

So to ensure that nobody has to put up with continuous noise at all hours of the day, statutory 'rest periods' or Ruhezeiten exist in Germany.

But when are these quiet times in place, and what do they actually mean? Here's our guide to explain when you can play musical instruments or turn on the washing machine, and when you have to keep it down (or risk a complaint)

When are the quiet times?

A widespread misconception is that there are general rest periods which apply nationwide.

In fact each state and municipality can set its own rest periods. Your landlord can also write in their own rules on Ruhezeit in the house rules or Hausordnung. You can find out which ones specifically apply to your area by contacting your local authority, relevant public order office or will you have seen them in your rental contract.

Usually the quiet spells start at 10pm and end at 6am or 7am. Sundays and public holidays are also deemed quiet days.

There are no special rest periods on Saturday, as this is generally considered a working day – unless, of course, it is a public holiday.

READ ALSO: 10 weird taboos you should never break in Germany

Are there any rest periods in the middle of working days?

Quiet periods at lunchtime are not regulated nationwide either. They used to be more common but several federal states no longer have a fixed rule on this.

For example the German state of Hesse used to have a legally mandated quiet time from 1 to 3pm but scrapped it in the early 2000s.

It's usually up to municipalities to determine rest periods during the day. In German health resort towns (Kurorts – an area or place specialising in natural health remedies such as spas, mud and salt water) for example, there is generally a midday rest period from 12 or 1pm to 3pm.

But be cautious: even if your federal state or local authority doesn't have a law, lunchtime rest periods may be laid down in your house rules.

What are you allowed to do during the quiet times?

During these quite periods, you are not allowed to make excessive noise. That doesn't mean you're not allowed to make a single sound, but you won't be able to do things that you can hear outside of your home.

Here's some activities to avoid as they could land you with an annoyed neighbour or even a complaint being filed to your landlord, or a visit from the Ordungsamt (public order office).

– Turning on the washing machine

Don't do this on Sunday or at night! Photo: DPA

– Vacuum cleaning

– Playing music loudly

– Singing/playing musical instruments

– Recycling glass bottles

– Mowing the grass

– Drilling, hammering or other loud DIY work

– Shouting or talking loudly

Note that it extends outside too so you can't be too loud in your garden or on your balcony. If you do have an urge for gardening during rest periods, you should limit yourself to quiet activities such as watering plants, raking or planting.

What happens if I want to have a party?

If you live in an apartment building and want to have a party, the best thing to do is to stick a sign up on the landing with plenty of notice to let your neighbours know when it's happening. 

You should say that they can come to you and let you know if it does get too loud – and you could even invite them round for a beer.

However, keep in mind that your neighbours reserve the right to come and tell you to keep it down if you are being too loud during the quiet time. They can also complain about it to the Ordungsamt or landlord. But hopefully by telling them about it beforehand (and if it doesn't happen all the time) they'll let it pass for one night.

What happens if I am too loud?

If you don't stick to the quiet times, you could face an annoyed neighbour, a visit from the police or Ordungsamt, a fine, a letter from your landlord and even eviction from your home.

If it is a one-off disturbance, such as a late-night party, the police could show up at your door and ask you to stop the noise. If you do not comply, the police can confiscate your music equipment or tell your guests to leave. In either case, you will be fined for disturbing the peace. In theory, you could face a fine of up to several thousand euros but usually it's in the triple-digit figures for a single offence.

If you regularly disturb the rest periods by, for example, playing music loudly on Sundays, your dog barking for nights on end or loud arguments in your flat, your neighbours might contact the landlord.

The landlord can give you a warning for disturbing the peace and can even terminate your tenancy agreement if you continue to make noise during the rest periods.

READ ALSO: 8 strange superstitions that the Germans hold

What if I'm new to Germany and not familiar with the rules?

That's no excuse: you have to stick to these rules.

Germans are known for being direct and that's the best thing to do in this case. Be open and honest with your neighbours and try and keep up the good communication. If you have a good neighbourly relationship, you can approach them if there are noise problems, and they can do the same with you.

That way you can try and work something out without involving outside agencies (which surely everyone would prefer).

What else should I know?

Keep in mind that some parts of Germany might take it more seriously than others. For example reader Peter Mahaffey previously told us that in south western Germany where he lives “the very fact of appearing to work on a Sunday can cause offence.”

“Not long after settling in, I was minding my own business quietly clipping my hedge.. not even on a street but adjacent to a small country footpath bordering our property. An old fellow with a stick walked past and growled at me 'Das ist ARBEIT!.' I wasn't quick thinking enough to tell him 'Doch, es ist mein Hobby.'”

So depending on where you live, the rules could be stricter.

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For members


Living in Germany: Bad train travel, turning the lights off and sick note rules

In our weekly roundup about life in Germany we ask if German train travel is as good as its reputation abroad, measures in cities to save energy and the rules around getting sick.

Living in Germany: Bad train travel, turning the lights off and sick note rules

Is train travel in Germany all it’s cracked up to be?

If you’ve had to deal with disruption while travelling on German trains, you’re not alone, as our columnist Brian Melican wrote about. In fact, his piece seems to have struck a nerve. It’s a well-known stereotype that Germany runs like clockwork, but that’s not the case when it comes to the rail system. Far from it, actually. Foreigners who arrive in Germany are often surprised to constantly be faced with a Zugverspätung (train delay).

Brian also highlighted problems due to what he described as “decades-long network underinvestment” in infrastructure. With the climate crisis worsening, Germany sees trains as a key component to the future of travel. The Greens, who are in the coalition government, have even previously spoken out about making trains in Germany more reliable and cheaper to cut down on domestic air travel. But a lot of work will have to be carried out if this is the aim. Let us know your experience of travelling on German trains by emailing [email protected]

Tweet of the week

Germany’s bread selection is the gift that just keeps giving. But if you’re French, perhaps now is the time to look away…

Where is this? 

The Berliner Dom

Photo: Photo: DPA/ Paul Zinken

This is the Berliner Dom (cathedral) in all its glory, with the TV tower behind. But one thing that’s different to usual is that it’s not properly lit up. That’s because Berlin is putting many of its monuments in the dark to save energy as Germany heads into a difficult winter with Russia throttling the gas supply. As well as saving energy, the aim is to set an example  to households and businesses as part of the German national effort to cut down on gas and electricity. 

Did you know?

Since there are lots of bugs going around at the moment, whether it’s Covid-19 or another infection, it’s worth getting familiar with German work rules around sickness. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day. However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day – unless your contract says you have to hand it in earlier. 

It may sound harsh but you also risk losing your job or being disciplined if you don’t hand in your doctor’s sick note to your employer fast enough. A few years back, a teacher in Rostock lost her job after getting a doctor to retroactively write her off work five days after she should have handed in her Krankschreibung. The state court in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania agreed with the firing, ruling that a sick note can be written only up to two days too late, and then only if there are mitigating circumstances. So make sure that you contact your doctor to get the admin sorted as soon as you can. 

Thanks for reading,

Rachel, Imogen and Sarah @ The Local Germany 

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