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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Legalising cannabis, German calamari and Reformation Day in the GDR

From the history behind a public holiday which several German states are enjoying on Monday, to an 'only in Germany' cuisine, we break down the latest on life in the Bundesrepublik.

Living in Germany: Legalising cannabis, German calamari and Reformation Day in the GDR
A statue in Eisenach, Thuringia pays tribute to Martin Luther. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

Legalised cannabis is on its way… 

Unless you’ve been hitting the ganja (or Bubatz) pretty hard lately, it won’t have escaped your attention that Germany is planning to legalise weed in the near future. 

This week, the cabinet set out some key points for the legal cannabis market – so we now have a better idea of what that might look like. In short, people could soon be able to purchase and carry somewhere between 20g and 30g of cannabis from special licensed shops and pharmacies.

These will have to be a certain distance away from schools and youth clubs, and vendors won’t be allowed to advertise their products. And for those who are more green-fingered, it will also be legal to grow up to three of your own Bubatz plants at home. 

One slight surprise is that proposals for a maximum limit on THC appear to have been shelved. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (which is, ironically enough, a word that is impossible to say while stoned) is the main psychoactive ingredient in weed products – otherwise known as the stuff that creates the ‘high’. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach had initially floated a 15 percent maximum THC content, but the cabinet now says capping it could give an edge to the black market. Instead, only products sold to 18-21 year olds will have restricted THC.

The next step in the process is to try and get the all-clear from the European Union – which may not be as easy as it sounds. But if all goes well, we could see legal weed in Germany as soon as 2024. What do you think of the decision to legalise cannabis – is it a good idea? Drop us an email and let us know your thoughts. 

Tweet of the week

Fans of Mediterranean food will no doubt be horrified by this German take on calamari, but we say it takes creativity to fashion a squid dish out of pork. Now we just need to settle the matter of whether this could technically be described as “surf and turf”…

Photo of the Week

Ein Waschbär und eine Krähe begutachten im Gehege im Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover einige Tage vor Halloween zwei ausgeschnitzte Kürbisse. +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

We love this adorable snap of a raccoon and a crow hanging out at Hannover Zoo a few days before Halloween – and we’re also impressed with their pumpkin-carving skills. But you don’t have to go to a zoo to see Waschbären (raccoons) in Deutschland.

These cute critters are native to North America, but were brought over “for the enrichment of the local animal population” in 1934. These days, you can spot them almost everywhere in Germany – especially in the former East.

Did you know?

Halloween is just around the corner, but as you may know, a far more traditional celebration takes place in Germany on the same day.

Reformation Day marks the date that the German theologian Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. His objections to contemporary corruption in the church rapidly spread around Germany and ultimately kickstarted the Reformation. To commemorate this pivotal moment in history, celebrations have been held on October 31st in Germany since the 17th century. 

Surprisingly enough, Reformation Day was one of the few religious holidays that was kept in place in the GDR. The public holiday was enshrined in law in the Soviet Occupation Zone in 1946, and continued in many parts of the GDR until it was eventually ditched in 1967 following the introduction of the five-day working week.

In 1990, the final government in East Germany reintroduced the public holiday, and these days it’s still celebrated in many of the eastern states, including Brandenburg, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. In the West, meanwhile, people in Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein will also be treated to a three-day weekend.

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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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