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BREXIT

How to send Christmas gifts between Germany and the UK after Brexit

Christmas may seem like a long way off, but if you're planning to send parcels between the UK and Germany, it's a good idea to plan ahead. Here's how to navigate the rules of international post in the first Christmas after Brexit.

A man dressed as Santa delivers post
The Deutsche Post's own 'Father Christmas' delivers some post-Brexit goodies. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Settnik

According to a recent survey, the majority of Germans get annoyed at the sight of a “premature” Christmas biscuit. While most people are only just getting around to packing away their summer clothes, it’s tough to be confronted by a row of gingerbread snowmen suddenly smiling up at you in Aldi.

While we can definitely relate to that, the realities of Brexit mean that it could pay to think about Christmas a few months earlier this year. (Maybe the owners of these supermarkets had British gift-givers in mind when they stocked the shelves with festive marzipan treats way back in August?)

In the before times, Brits in Germany often enjoyed little parcels from family containing a taste of home – from homemade treats to products not easily available in Europe – but Brexit has made this type of thing a lot more complicated.

All types of parcel – whether commercial or private – are affected by changes to rules that came into force when the UK left the EU. In many cases, costs have gone up because of customs charges and VAT requirements. In a few cases, products may no longer be sent at all.

Since Brexit, it now costs more to send gifts from the EU to the UK, and vice versa, it takes longer, and certain items are unfortunately banned.

Here’s what you need to know when sending gifts between the UK and Germany this Christmas. 

UK to EU

As well as having the appropriate postage, gift parcels sent from the UK to the EU need an extra customs declaration form attached.

This form asks for the sender and recipient’s details, whether the item is a gift or an item sent for sale (which can affect the level of duty to be paid) and a detailed description of what’s inside – so, sadly, Christmas parcels lose their element of surprise. 

It’s worth noting that new VAT rules on parcels coming from outside of the EU have meant that some people receiving packages from the UK have had to pay a €6 handling fee and 19 percent VAT in Germany. 

Though gifts under €45 are supposed to be exempt, The Local has heard from some readers that they have been asked to pay the charges regardless – so it’s a good idea to make sure that the present is clearly marked as a gift on the customs form. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why people in Germany are being charged to receive small parcels from outside the EU

The form is available to download here. And the basic prices are on the Royal Mail website here

Because of the Northern Ireland protocol, these new rules do not apply to people sending parcels to Europe from Northern Ireland.

Food products

Additional issues come into play if you plan to send food products from the UK to the EU – you may remember the uproar over lorry drivers’ ham and cheese sandwiches back in January. 

Importing products derived from an animal into the EU from a Third Country (which is what the UK now is) is a complicated process and the rules apply to both businesses and individuals – and prompted the closure of Marks & Spencer stores in France.

The EU’s strict phyto-sanitary rules mean that all imports of animal derived products technically come under these rules, so sending a box of chocolates by post to France is now not allowed (because of the milk). 

Parcels that contain banned animal products can be seized and destroyed at the border.

If you’re unsure, you can find an extensive – and slightly overwhelming – list of the items you can and can’t send from the UK to Germany on the Post Office website here.

EU to UK

New rules also affect sending parcels from EU countries like Germany to the UK. 

As with sending parcels the other way, customs declaration must be completed before sending. You can either do this at the post office or fill out the form online on the Deutsche Post / DHL or another carrier’s website if you frank your parcel in advance. 

A man posts a letter in the snow in Magdeburg
A man posts a letter in the snow in Magdeburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Wolf

If you haven’t posted anything to the UK in a while, be warned: the post-Brexit prices may dampen some of your festive cheer. Since Britain left the EU, it’s been shoved into a new geographically category along with Switzerland – and you should expect Swiss prices to match. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about sending post between Germany and the UK after Brexit

For example, the smallest possible parcel will now cost you €9 rather than €5, while a large parcel weighing up to 20kg will now cost you around €50 to send, rather than €32. (A full list of the new postage prices can be found here.)

Unlike parcels sent to Switzerland, however, there’s no option to pay extra to extradite postage to the UK, so be sure to post any Christmas gifts way in advance of the day itself. 

Food products

Here, at least there’s good news. UK rules are currently less restrictive than EU ones – which means sending food parcels from France to the UK is slightly easier.

The British government website currently states the UK has imposed no restrictions on dairy food or meat for ‘personal’ imports of food – though the usual rules on customs and duty still apply, and there are limits on amounts that can be claimed as ‘personal’.

This means that yummy Stollen you picked up at Netto should be accepted by UK customs officials – as long as it’s properly packaged and not joined by a industrial container full of other marzipan-filled treats. 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

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!

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