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Today in Germany: A round-up of what’s happening on Wednesday

From 'Coronaspeck' to the Rundfunkbeitrag and the Querdenker movement being watched by authorities, here's the latest news in Germany.

Today in Germany: A round-up of what's happening on Wednesday
A row has broken out over the Rundfunkbeitrag. Photo: DPA

'Querdenker' put under state observation

The domestic intelligence service in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg has become the first state in Germany to officially place the Querdenker or “lateral thinking” movement under observation.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) put the group known in the state as “Querdenken 711” under observation due to fears over extremist links in the organisation, DPA said.

The group, founded by Stuttgart entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, has been taking to the streets for months against the state-imposed coronavirus restrictions.

Baden-Württemberg's interior minister Thomas Strobl had recently warned of the increasing influence of extremists in parts of the movement.

Security authorities are reportedly alarmed about calls by protesters for a large rally in Berlin on New Year's Eve, which is being promoted in the far-right Reichsbürger movement. This movement does not recognise modern-day Germany as a legitimate state, and instead believes that entities like the German Reich or even Prussia ought to still exist.

Querdenker founder Ballweg has repeatedly pushed back against accusations. At the end of last week, the entrepreneur told DPA: “We are a peaceful movement and not a political party.” He said extremism, violence and anti-Semitism did not have any part in the movement.

READ ALSO: How Germany's anti-mask movement is creating strange bedfellows

Picture of the day

This Christmas tree seller in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria, got full-on festive weather on Wednesday, as this photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand for DPA shows. 

Public broadcasters threaten court over Rundfunkbeitrag row

Public broadcasters, which include TV channels ARD and ZDF, intend to file a complaint with the Federal Constitutional Court if the so-called Rundfunkbeitrag or broadcasting contribution does not go up.

That's according to ARD chairman Tom Buhrow who spoke out during an interview with DPA.

It comes after Saxony-Anhalt became the only state to block a 86 cent increase of the broadcasting fee, that every household in Germany is required to pay. It is currently €17.50 but it is due to rise to €18.36 per month if states give it the green light.

The broadcasting contribution is the main source of income for cash-strapped public broadcasters.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pay Germany's TV tax, or (legally) avoid it

Germans gained weight during first lockdown

You may be familiar with “Coronaspeck” (or corona bacon/fat), the word for weight gained during lockdown as a result of eating more than usual because of working from home.

Turns out it's true: the body weight and body mass index (BMI) of Germans has increased by quite a lot since the introduction of coronavirus measures in spring.

That's the results of a health study carried out by the Robert Koch Institute. Just over 23,000 people over the age of 15 were interviewed between April 2019 and September 2020 for the project.


The average body weight for both men and women was 77.1 kg between April and August 2019 and 78.2 kg between April and August 2020. The increase of about one kilogram is statistically significant, researchers say.

BMIs have also risen: in the period from April to August 2020 the average was 26.4, which is higher than the value of 25.9 in the previous year. To what extent the increase in body weight and BMI will continue in the coming months should be further observed, the study recommends.

The health study also looked at other factors such as depression symptoms and smoking.

The number of smokers declined, although in this case a connection to the pandemic situation is unclear.

There were no differences in the population in terms of depressive symptoms and the support received and provided in the household. Overall, changes in the health situation (not including the virus), need to be analysed more closely, the study concluded.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

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.

Oktoberfest
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. German 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 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, comes 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.

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