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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Care insurance, baby bureaucracy and road rules

In our weekend roundup for Germany we look at a court ruling on care insurance contributions, started German bureaucracy young and the road rules foreigners might not know, but Germans definitely do.

A father holds the hand of a baby boy. Babies get into bureaucracy quickly in Germany.
A father holds the hand of a baby boy. Babies get into bureaucracy quickly in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Landmark ruling on Germany’s long-term care insurance 

If you work in Germany, you only have to glance at your payslip to see just how much of it disappears (hopefully for good reasons) before it hits your bank account. And a court ruling we reported on this week brought up the topic of contributions to society once more. The constitutional court said on Wednesday that parents with more than one child should pay a reduced rate of care insurance – Pflegeversicherung – than those with fewer children, or childless people. 

The case was brought to court by hundreds of families who argued that the amount of contributions they pay – like health, pension and long-term care insurance – should be linked to the number of children they have. The argument is that by having children, families are providing people to pay back into the pot later in life. Plus children are more likely to have a role in care for their parents, whereas the state might have to step in earlier for those without children. But critics argue that there’s no guarantee that these things will happen. For instance, children may grow up and move away from Germany, and so then wouldn’t pay into the system. 

Wherever you stand on this argument, it’s a hot topic in our ageing society – since the start of this year, childless people in Germany have had to pay 3.4 percent of their income towards social care, while parents pay 3.05 percent of their income. What do you think about it? Let us know by emailing [email protected]. Thank you so much for your emails last week on what you think about the culture of FKK in Germany! 

Tweet of the week

Those of you familiar with German bureaucracy won’t be surprised by this tweet! They start them young. 

READ ALSO: From Elternzeit to midwives – an American’s view on having a baby in Germany 

Where is this? 

Photo: DPA/Thomas Banneyer

We applaud these sporty folk who led a special event on Ascension Day on Thursday. Members of the German Underwater Club Cologne (DUC Köln) e.V. are pictured here getting ready for their annual Rhine swim from the Poller Rheinwiesen and under four bridges to the Rheinpark at the Zoobrücke in Cologne. Bravo! 

Did you know?

Some people who come to Germany may not be aware of some of the rules of the road. One of our readers, Phil, got in touch to say one of the most common examples is the rules at zebra crossings. “In Germany, it is the law to stop, but in other countries, it is not always a legal requirement,” Phil told us. “What I find amusing but scary is the older generation takes it as their right and will step out onto the crossing even if you are approaching at some speed. They know the law and you must stop. Not everyone knows the law, and telling St Peter at the gates you were right and they were wrong is a bit late.”

Phil also shared an amusing anecdote highlighting the German love of rules. “When we built our house, we used a drone to capture the progress,” he told us. “One day whilst flying, a neighbour appeared at the door who was fully compliant with drone rules and explained to my wife the specific regulations before politely asking us to stop before he called the police.”

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

This article is also sent out as a weekly newsletter just to members every Saturday. To sign up and get it straight into your inbox just go to your newsletter preferences.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at what the government is doing to ease the air travel staffing crisis, very German greeting cards, lightning storms and the Schornsteinfeger - chimney sweep - lucky tradition.

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

Germany looks for help abroad to ease aviation staffing crisis

Last week the German government made the exceptional move of stepping in to help private firms in the aviation sector restore their staffing levels. Ministers announced they will cut red tape to allow private companies to employ workers from abroad on a temporary basis, due to the chaos that we’re seeing in German airports and airlines. From long queues at security or when claiming baggage, to flights being cancelled, it can be a real nightmare to travel in Europe at the moment. One reader even contacted us to say he had to wait two and half hours on a plane in Düsseldorf because there apparently wasn’t enough baggage staff to load cases onto the flight. That’s why the German government says it will allow companies to employ staff from abroad at short notice. However, at the same time, ministers came down hard on the private sector for not preparing for the rising demand for travel. German’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil Heil criticised many companies in the aviation industry for laying off staff in the pandemic – or not topping up reduced hours (Kurzarbeit) pay despite government support. 

Even if the sector manages to fill many positions, it will still take time to clear hurdles so it looks like we’re in for at least a few more weeks of stress if travelling by plane. And with more states about to go on their school holidays, it’s just going to get busier. Keep us posted on how it’s going in German airports if you’re on the move this summer – we’re always eager to hear your experiences. 

Tweet of the week

The dedication to cars and driving in Germany is quite something, as the tweet below shows. 

Where is this? 

Lightning over Frankfurt
Photo: DPA/Jan Eifert

There’s been a lot of mixed weather in Germany this week, with extreme heat, thunderstorms and hailstones depending on which part of the country you live in. This picture shows a spectacular storm on Thursday in the Frankfurt area. It was taken from the Großer Feldberg in the Taunus mountains.

Did you know?

I (Rachel) received my first visit in Germany from a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) on Friday. Although I don’t have an open fire in my flat, chimney sweeps in Germany are still needed once a year to check your heating system, check for gas leaks and carry out any other maintenance in that area. Did you know Germans also believe seeing a Schornsteinfeger brings good luck? Some say it comes from the olden days when sweeps cleared your chimney meaning you’d be able to cook again and reduced the risk of fires. It’s also meant to be especially lucky to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day or New Year’s Day. This is thought to be partly because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year. Along with miniature pigs (which Germans also find lucky), horseshoes, ladybirds and four-leaf clovers, little chimney sweeps made out of marzipan or plastic are also given as a New Year’s gift to loved ones.

READ ALSO: Eight things German believe bring good luck 

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt.

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Some chimney sweeps (although not all!) wear a traditional uniform complete with top hat and silver buttons. Giving one of the buttons a twirl is said to bring good luck, but you’d have to politely ask them before doing it!  

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

This article is also sent out as a weekly newsletter just to members every Saturday. To sign up and get it straight into your inbox just go to your newsletter preferences.

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