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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: VAT cuts, German tenses and the leaning tower of Bremerhaven

In our weekly roundup for Germany, we look at the gas levy and VAT cut plans, a common phrase, a damaged tower in Bremerhaven and the German love of quiet.

Living in Germany: VAT cuts, German tenses and the leaning tower of Bremerhaven
People look at the the leaning Mole Tower in Bremerhaven after it was damaged. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Hibbeler

Germany sets gas levy and pledges to slash VAT

Households in Germany got a little bit of much-needed clarity this week as the rate of the upcoming gas levy was announced. According to Trading Hub Europe, the surcharge will be set at 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour of energy, which should cover up to 90 percent of the additional costs gas companies have had to bear since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We took a look at how much this could cost different types of households in Germany, from single-person flats to big family homes. The latter is likely to pay upwards of €500 for the levy alone, as well as potential price hikes from suppliers. But there is some good news on the horizon: on Thursday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) revealed that the government plans to slash VAT on gas bills to just seven percent, rather than the usual 19 percent. The VAT cut will run for the duration of the levy and according to Scholz, the relief it offers will be “significantly larger than the extra burden imposed by the surcharges”. In addition, he reiterated promises for new relief measures in autumn. With energy prices continuing to soar, they can’t come soon enough.

Tweet of the week

If you’re learning German, you may be familiar with the phrases “Ich mache” (I do) and “Ich werde machen” (I will do) – but did you know that there’s an even more important phrase to learn if you want to get by? In fact, “Aber wir haben das immer so gemacht” (But we’ve always done it that way!) is the one you’re likely to hear most often in Germany.

Where is this? 

Bremerhaven

Photo: DPA/Sina Schuldt

No, this isn’t the leaning tower of Pisa, but rather the leaning Mole Tower of Bremerhaven in northern Germany. The little lighthouse ended up tilted towards the sea last Thursday night when part of the north pier caved in. On Friday, coastal workers used special sonar equipment to check whether the tower, which was built way back in 1914, was stable enough to approach.

Did you know?

Anyone who’s ever raised their voice a little too loudly on their Balkon at night will be familiar with the German attitude to noise, but you may not be aware that this particular aversion has led to some interesting innovations over the years.

In fact, way back in 1907, as industrialisation was creating ever more noise in urban areas, a plucky pharmacist by the name of Max Negwer decided to create a special device that would allow people to experience blissful silence even in the busiest of areas. His Ohrpax – named after the German word for ‘ear’ and the Latin word for ‘peace’ – were the first modern earplugs to be invented and Newger quickly started flogging them to factory workers around the country. When the First World War broke out, Ohrpax came into their own even more, helping soldiers to avoid going deaf through their proximity to explosions on the front line. 

READ ALSO: Ruhezeit – what you need to know about ‘quiet time’ in Germany

Years later, in 2012, a revamp of Berlin’s Nauener Platz – a bustling spot in the district of Wedding – saw new devices installed to drown out the traffic noise with the sound of birds and running water.

Though it’s not always fun to have to keep the noise down, part of settling into German life is definitely learning to relish some peace and quiet once in a while. Especially on Sunday, the day of Sonntagsruhe (Sunday quiet), we’re learning to embrace the sound of silence.  

Thanks for reading,

The Local Germany team

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Long-distance train boost, confusing kitchens and Hanover highlights

In our weekly roundup about life in Germany we look at plans to invest in the train network, the perplexing lack of kitchens in German flats, the arrival of Herbst and some cool things about Hanover.

Living in Germany: Long-distance train boost, confusing kitchens and Hanover highlights

German long-distance travel set for modernisation programme

There are some really positive things about train travel in Germany, but there is definitely lots of room for improvement. So we were glad to report this week that Deutsche Bahn is planning a €19 billion modernisation programme. The operator says that an extra 450 high speed – or ICE – trains will be added to the country’s network in the coming years. CEO Richard Lutz said the aim is to invest in “the trains of the future”, and even unveiled new double-decker models that will include special office cabins and family areas. The aim is to encourage people to leave their car at home and take the train. Let’s hope that punctuality gets better along with the style of trains. And there is good news when it comes to local public transport: German transport ministers plan to thrash out a plan next month for a €9 ticket successor. Although details are thin on the ground at the moment, it is likely to cost €49 and will be valid on buses, trains and trams throughout local transport networks. 

READ ALSO: How did train travel in Germany get so bad?

Tweet of the week

We relate to English footballer Georgia Stanway, who plays for Bayern Munich, and her confusion about German flats being rented out without a kitchen.

Where is this?

Pumpkins being taken by boat.

Photo: DPA/ Patrick Pleul

You know it’s Herbst (autumn) in Germany when the pumpkins are out in force. This photo shows Harald Wenske steering a Spreewald barge fully loaded with pumpkins across the water. The 72-year-old also grows potatoes, horseradish and beets in addition to pumpkins on his farmland, which is surrounded by waterways. Now is the time when you’ll start to see Kürbis (pumpkin) on the menu everywhere. 

READ ALSO: 10 ways to enjoy autumn like a true German

Did you know?

Situated on the River Leine, Hanover is the capital of Lower Saxony, which has a state election coming up on October 9th. But did you know it is also home to the World of Kitchens museum (or das Küchen-Museum), the first of its kind in Europe? The museum houses a cafe and cooking school, and features dozens of real kitchen exhibits from different cultures and eras starting from the Middle Ages. Visits to the museum are only possible with pre-booked guided tours, but are well worth it for food and history lovers.  Either at the end of your tour or before, make sure to indulge in traditional German cake and coffee at the Museum’s Schloss Cafe. While in Hanover, you should also check out the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, the New Town Hall and Eilenriede Forest. 

Thanks for reading,

The Local Germany team

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

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