Living in Germany For Members

Living in Germany: Debt brake drama, Ampelfrau and dancing bans

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Living in Germany: Debt brake drama, Ampelfrau and dancing bans
Germans tend to be debt averse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

In this weeks' roundup we get into Germany's relationship with debt, traffic light figures, snowy mountains and 'silent holidays'.


Living in Germany is our weekly look at some of the news and talking points in Germany that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox on Saturday.

Debt brake breaks the German budget

No one is fond of debt. But Germans are perhaps some of the most well known for being debt averse. So much so, in fact, that there is a so-called ‘debt brake’ written into the Grundgesetz (constitution). That’s right, the Schuldenbremse came into force several years ago under former Chancellor Angela Merkel. The rule caps new borrowing in Germany to 0.35 percent of gross domestic product. The brake was suspended from 2020 to 2022 during the pandemic and energy crisis, but was set to come back into force for this year.

However, Germany's top court last week threw a spanner in the works by ruling that Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government had broken the debt rule by transferring money meant for the pandemic to a fund for climate protection. It resulted in a €60 billion hole in the budget. Rows have been going on all week among politicians, and it’s been getting heated within the coalition. Many thought that Germany would not consider taking on more debt this year, but it looks like that is the solution. On Thursday, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said he would prepare a supplementary budget in order to secure the cash being spent this year. Meanwhile, 2024 budget decisions have been put on hold while this is sorted. It’s likely a bitter pill to swallow: the German word for debt - Schuld - also means guilt, and this ‘guilt’ seems to be felt especially keenly by Lindner’s party, the centre-right FDP.  


Tweet of the week

The Ampelmännchen, or Ampelmann, is the symbol shown on many pedestrian signals in Germany. But we would love to see more women on our traffic lights!

Where is this?


Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Swen Pförtner

Today we’re heading east to the Harz region where it’s a winter wonderland right now. Pictured here is a snow covered signpost for the Oderteich reservoir. The Harz National Park stretches from a low mountain range near Herzberg in the southern part of the mountains, across the Harz massif to its northern slopes near Bad Harzburg and Ilsenburg.

Did you know?

Many people in Germany on Sunday marked Totensonntag, (Sunday of the Dead) sometimes called Ewigkeitssonntag (Eternity Sunday). It is a Protestant holiday held to remember lost loved ones, and dates back to the 1800s. Many people choose to visit cemeteries on that day and light a candle for those who have passed.


But did you know that this day also means there is a ban on things like dancing and loud music in many states? It is what is called a ‘stiller Feiertag’ or silent holiday and certain things are simply not allowed. In Bavaria, for example, there is a strict ban on dancing from 2am until midnight. Several other states have similar rules, although the timing can vary. It also affects the opening of Christmas markets, with many closing or choosing to open only after this day. In fact, it’s not unusual for dance bans to happen in Germany, especially in very religious areas. In Bavaria, similar rules apply on holidays such as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. How strictly are these bans enforced? We have no idea but our advice would be: dance at your own risk.


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