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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Highs and lows of language learning, migrating birds and German love affair with cars

From the struggles (and triumphs) foreigners face in mastering the German language, to if Germans truly live up to their car loving reputation, The Local has an overview of the latest on life in the Bundesrepublik.

A German dictionary stands on a shelf.
A German dictionary stands on a shelf. How do you feel about learning the language? Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Oliver Berg

The many ups and downs of learning German 

When foreigners arrive fresh-faced in Germany, they are often filled with dreams of speaking German fluently within a matter of months. But then the reality kicks in: there’s no denying that German is a tricky language to pick up. It takes a lot of work to learn the grammar and to feel confident when chatting in Deutsch with the locals.

It’s no surprise that one of our most-read stories this week was Sarah Magill’s article on the seven stages of learning German that foreigners go through.

Our readers related to the ups and downs involved in trying to get to grips with long words that German presents us with like Haftpflichtversicherung (liability insurance) and even Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (insurance companies). Yet through all the frustration, there is always a breakthrough moment when something seems to click.

It may take years but don’t give up – keep immersing yourself in the language and keep speaking German even if someone replies in English. And the last stage – acceptance – is an important one. It doesn’t matter if your articles are wrong or if you get mixed up with the word order. Keep going and accept that learning a language is a life-long project. 

Tweet of the week

Many of our readers will be familiar with the hurdles and hoops you often have to jump through to get into the German labour market. And that’s not to mention the bureaucracy…

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

This breathtaking picture of migrating geese was snapped at a lake in the Drömling nature reserve in Saxony-Anhalt. Birds tend to spend the autumn resting in Drömling before flying south for the winter, and this year their long migration has just begun. 

Did you know?

From major manufacturers like BMW and Volkswagen to the world-famous Autobahn, it’s clear that Germany is a country that loves its cars. But it may surprise you to know that the Bundesrepublik is by no means at the top of the ranks in Europe when it comes to car ownership.

In a ranking of motor vehicles per capita in the EU, Germany actually ends up somewhere in the lower-middle, with a total of 14 member states – including France, Portugal, Italy and Finland – boasting more cars, vans and freight vehicles per person. (In case you’re interested, the Italian micro-state of San Marino topped this particular chart.) 

Of course, that’s not to say that the German love affair with driving is entirely a myth. A recent study found that the average German spends a whopping €233 per month on their Auto, which adds up to almost €2,800 per year, compared to just €33 per month on buses and trains. And when you look at the number of motor vehicles in total, rather than just per capita, there are a good 52 million of them in Germany.

The seemingly unshakeable bond between Germans and their cars has become the subject of heated debate recently as the government tries to encourage people to switch to more climate-friendly options. Some argue that people have become far too attached to convenience and need to make lifestyle changes, while others say the transport network in Germany just isn’t good enough to support this.

We look at some of the most recent controversies and debates around transport in Germany – including the battle to pedestrianise one of Berlin’s busiest streets – in our most recent episode of Germany in Focus. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, be sure to check it out.

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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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