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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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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.