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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Catastrophic floods, prison breaks and life after the €9 ticket

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at what comes after the €9 ticket, the anniversary of last years deadly flood and off-the-beaten-track beer festivals.

Living in Germany: Catastrophic floods, prison breaks and life after the €9 ticket
A tent at the Kiliani Volksfest in Würzburg. Photo: dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Germany remembers flood victims as climate change fears grow

On July 14th, 2021, parts of western Germany were struck by catastrophic floods in which almost 200 people lost their lives. On Thursday last week, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid a visit to the Ahr valley, where the worst of the flooding took place, to remember the victims and send a message of solidarity to survivors.

A year on, many of the people whose homes were destroyed in the floods are still living in temporary accommodation and just a fraction of the billions of euros earmarked for regional aid has been paid out. But the tragedy has also raised questions about how prepared Germany is to deal with the worsening consequences of climate change.

In the run-up to the anniversary of the floods, we spoke to an expert who told us that Germany’s climate has warmed up by 1.6C since pre-industrial times. In these hotter temperatures, he said, extreme weather events like flash floods are far more likely to happen. At the same time, meteorologists were warning of an impending drought disaster as the mercury hit 35C in some parts of the country this week. As last July so painfully taught us, the effects of climate change are now impossible to ignore. 

Tweet of the week

Ever wondered how you can combine your love of German bureaucracy with your passion for word games? Well, now you can. Let us know if you manage to work out this German administrative compound noun. There are no prizes, but we’ll be mightily impressed. 

Where is this? 

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

No, this isn’t a predatory shark lurking in the chilly waters of the Ostsee, it’s a rather terrifying resident of the Kiliani summer folk festival in Würzburg, Bavaria, which has been running throughout the first weeks of July.

Though Munich’s Oktoberfest is undoubtedly the most famous of these festivals in Germany, there are plenty of smaller events that pop up around the country in summer. Just like the Kiliani Volksfest in Würzburg, they tend to combine copious amounts of beer with exhilarating fairground rides. What could possibly go wrong? 

Did you know?

It’s hopefully not something that any of us will come into contact with anytime soon, but the legal system in Germany can seem a little strange to foreigners. Unlike in the UK and USA, Germany doesn’t have jury trials. Instead, cases are heard by either a single judge or a panel of professional and lay judges.

If you do end up behind bars, you may be interested to know that there’s no law against trying to bust yourself out again. Apparently, trying to escape from prison is legal in Germany, since the desire for freedom is a basic human instinct. 

What comes after the €9 ticket? 

So far it seems like Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket has been a huge success – and now politicians and transport companies are debating what should come next.

We’d love to know your view on potential successors to the ticket. Should it be a €365 annual travel card, or an Austrian-style Klimaticket that lets you travel around the whole of Germany? Or should they call the whole thing off? 

If you have a spare five minutes, let us know your thoughts by filling out our latest survey.

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

10 life hacks to make you feel like a local in Germany

It can be difficult to settle into life in Germany, so here are 10 ‘life hacks’ that will make you feel more at home.

10 life hacks to make you feel like a local in Germany

1. Don’t be late

In the German-speaking world, punctuality is highly rated and lateness is considered rude.

To really fit in, follow the golden rule: be on time. Whether it’s for meetings, appointments or just casual dates with German friends if you want to fit in in Germany, leave home a bit earlier and plan to be on time.

But if you are going to be late – make sure to call or text the person to let them know in advance.

2. Understand how Germans tell the time

Crucial to being on time is understanding how to express time in the German language.

When taking your first steps in German, you probably already learned the slightly confusing way that Germans express the half hour: where the “half” refers to the hour that is approaching rather than the hour that has begun.

14:30, for example, is expressed as halb drei (half three) instead of halb zwei (half two) as in English.

But things can get even more complicated when it comes to speaking about quarter hours.

While many Germans will express the quarter hours as in English – with 14:15 as viertel nach zwei (quarter past two) and 14:45 as viertel vor drei (quarter to three) many Germans – particularly in the east of the country – refer to the approaching hour instead of the hour that has already begun.

So 14:15 would be viertel drei (quarter three) and 14:45 would be drei viertel drei (three quarters three).

If you can’t quite get your head around that, just be sure to double-check the time meant when making appointments.

3. Don’t cross the road at a red light

In many European countries, it’s acceptable to cross the road when the pedestrian light is red if the road is clear.

But in Germany, people wait until the pedestrian light has turned green – even if it means waiting on the side of the road without any cars going past.

This is partly because there are jaywalking is illegal in Germany and also because people just generally follow the rules.

If you do decide to cross the road on a red light and there are children around, you may well find yourself being reprimanded by other pedestrians for setting a bad example.

READ ALSO: Is it ever acceptable to cross the road at red light in Germany?

4. “Prost” properly

Numerous people celebrate at the Spring Festival in a beer tent in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

“Prost” is the German version of “cheers”. 

If you have a drink with a group of friends or colleagues you should expect to toast with “prost”, to clink your glass with everyone else’s and make eye contact with each person.

Not only is it considered polite, but failure to lock eyes could result in bad luck. At least according to some locals.

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

5. Be ready at the check-out

Being at the check-out in a German supermarket can sometimes feel like an Olympic sport. Most shop assistants won’t assist you with your bags and are more likely to check through your items at lighting speed and expect you to keep up.

So, be ready for the challenge. While you’re waiting in the queue, put your groceries in a strategic order, i.e. heavy items like bottles and potatoes first and lighter items such as eggs near the end.

Also, have your bags out, open and ready to load.

6. Get a filing system

The digital revolution hasn’t quite conquered all areas of German life yet, and government authorities and health insurance companies still love to send out paperwork.

While many of the documents you get through the post in Germany can go straight in the bin, there are certain documents that you are obliged to keep hold of for a certain number of years.  

If you’re self-employed, for example, you are obliged to keep your tax documents for ten years.

The best way to keep track of your paperwork is to get yourself a filing system. This can be as simple as a couple of ring binders but can make your life in Germany a lot easier.

READ ALSO: 13 things foreigners do that make Germans really uncomfortable

7. Join or start a Verein

Germans love to organise themselves, which is probably why there are around 600,000 Vereine (associations) in the country, covering all manner of hobbies and interests, including artistic associations, garden allotments, citizens’ initiatives, self-help groups, remembrance committees, carnival clubs – you name it, there’s probably a Verein for it. 

Members of the Meerdeerns e.V. (Sea Girls) club swim in the water in mermaid outfits in Neumünster. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

An official Verein can be recognised by the two letters added to its name: e.V. which stands for eingetragener Verein (registered association).

Starting your own Verein can be very beneficial, as it enables access to public tax funds, is less bureaucracy than other legal entities and there is no personal liability of members.

8. Get letter notifications

A well-kept secret that can help your life in Germany is to get a free post notification service.

If you sign up for a GMX or web.de email account or get the Post and DHL App, you can get a free notification telling you which post has been sent to you, including a photo of the envelope. 

The service, called Briefankündigung (letter notification), notifies users in advance of incoming letters, postcards and magazines by e-mail.

9. Get insurance

While not compulsory, private liability insurance is widely seen as essential protection against the risk of harming another person or their material things.

A man spills tea over his mobile phone. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

Under German Law, there is no ceiling on the level of damages an individual could have awarded against them for an act they committed, even innocently, or for the misdeeds of their pets.

Almost nine in ten Germans have Haftpflichtversicherung (personal liability insurance) and if you want to fit in, its probably best to get it too. 

10. Always carry cash

Germans love cash and in many bars and restaurants throughout the country,  you won’t be able to pay with a card.

Even though card payments and digital banking are gaining in popularity in Germany, there are many places that will still only accept cash. Or the staff will grudgingly dust off the card reader so someone can pay by card.

So, to avoid feeling like a tourist that is inconveniencing someone, always carry cash.

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