Keeping it clean


Don’t ignore this sign – Photo Alie C

As a Brit I was brought up with many cultural stereotypes about Germany and its people. Germans are ‘lederhosen wearing, straight talking, rule following, tidy people’ and since I initially landed in Bavaria, I can definitely agree that stereotypes are born out of truths. As with any country though there are also internal stereotypes, what do the Germans think of each other?

Stuttgart is located Swabia, which is a historic territory which now falls within the states of Bavaria and Baden Wurttemberg, its people, the Swabians, are considered to be the most frugal and fastidious about cleaning of all the Germans. I’ve always been impressed with streets magically cleared of snow and leaves before I’ve even dragged myself out of bed in the morning, windows and steps that are polished and shining constantly. In Swabia cleaning is a serious business. Historically this cleanliness came in the form of a law passed in 1492 to try and keep Stuttgart and its streets clean. In a time before indoor plumbing, this was no mean feat. Continue reading

From Smoke Detectors to Electric Cars: New and Revised Laws in Germany for 2016

Sometimes it’s surprising how a modern nation like Germany can lag behind in certain areas. A good example from the past is smoking. While the US and many other countries long ago banned smoking in restaurants, the workplace, and other public areas, Germany was slow to do the same. After an initial period of voluntary restrictions by some businesses, Germany began to regulate smoking in public places. (Austria, on the other hand, still has a lot of work to do on public acceptance of smoking bans. Cough! Cough!) While non-smoking areas in Germany were once a rarity, today German anti-smoking laws are similar to those in the US in most cases.


As of 2016, some German states require the installation of smoke detectors (Rauchmelder) in existing homes. PHOTO: Feuerwehr e.V.

Another area where Germany was lagging behind was smoke detectors. As with many things in Germany, this is an area left to each of the 16 Bundesländer (states). There is no nationwide law. After a slow start beginning around 2004/2005, almost all of the German states now require smoke detectors in new houses and apartments. As of 2016, only Berlin and Brandenburg still lack any smoke-detector requirements (Rauchmelderpflicht). Some Länder now also require smoke detectors in older, existing living quarters. Continue reading

January 2015 in Germany: New Year, New Laws, New Rules

2015 ushered in new laws and regulations in Germany. Our overview of new things that expats and travelers need to know also reveals a lot about daily life and customs in Germany.

If you drive a car, use public transportation, rent a place, watch TV, take out the trash, get paid in euros, or use the post office in Germany, there are changes that can affect all expats and travelers. We’ll start with one of the more bizarre things that the new year introduced to German law and life (and it’s not the precipitous fall of the euro). Continue reading

Winning the Recycling Game

You’ll have to accept my apology for the delay in this post, but I have been busy sorting my rubbish. As those of you know, thanks to previous posts by Hyde and Ruth, this is serious business here in Germany.  I am reacquainting myself with what goes in the Gelber Sack (yellow bag), Biomuell (not to be confused with Compost), and Restmuell (anything else).

You can purchase and sort with strategy in order to reduce your consumption, eliminate some of your clutter and save some money. First off, I would recommend to any Americans preparing to move to Germany to take the time to sort through your things there. Take advantage of the convenience of your rubbish being collected frequently and of the tax benefit for donating things. You will avoid the cost and hassle of having to do so in Germany. It is likely that you will be moving into a smaller place anyway so downsizing your things will pay off in the end. The hassle in waiting for the next paper pick up, now that your container is bulging with all of your back issues of untouched In Style magazines will be eliminated. And don’t forget the tax advantage of getting a receipt for your donation to your local American library, where you could have unloaded those back issues.  Continue reading

Moving Back to Germany

I have an announcement to make. We are moving back to Germany next month. The timing of the move was a bit of a surprise, but it was always in the realm of possibility. We were away for two years, and as I’ve started the arduous process of organizing another overseas move now with three small kids, these are my passing Germany Way thoughts on the move: Continue reading

What to do with all that junk?

The trash separation schemes in Germany are legendary, and have been covered in this blog previously: Garbage in, garbage out. But what do you do when your stuff doesn’t fit in any of those little bins anymore? Take it to the dump! In Germany, they don’t actually have a dump where you can just go deliver your trash – at least, not that I have seen. But they do have a few different types of places for offloading all that junk that piles up in your garage.

1. Paper: In a household with small children, it happens on occasion (after birthdays and holidays, for instance) that we find ourselves overwhelmed with cardboard boxes. The pickup for our paper bin is every 3 weeks – and they will only accept what is in the bin. Rather than cut up all the cardboard to fit in the bin and then hope we don’t drown in newspapers before the next pickup, I often take cardboard boxes to the Wertstoffhof or recycling center. I can drop off as much paper as I want, for free. Continue reading

Canadian Wedding with a German/Swiss Twist

Four months before my July wedding I was inundated with the same comment from almost every female I encountered: “Oh you must be so busy!” Further into the conversation always came the question, “Is it difficult planning a wedding from overseas?” I was living with my fiancé in Switzerland, for the hockey season (August- April) and was getting married in Montreal, Canada, on July 9th.  For a while my answers remained the same: “No, not really”.  I didn’t understand what was so hard about planning a wedding, even from another country.  We picked the venue the last time we were in Canada, I ordered my dress from a shop near my house in Switzerland (planning to haul it home on the plane), I googled photographers, cake makers, bridesmaid dresses, floral ideas- and felt totally confident that the internet was the only tool I needed.  Until it came time to order invitations . . .

Continue reading

Garbage in, garbage out: Mülltrennung and Eurotrash

March 2009 news item:

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, has released the latest figures regarding the waste generation and recycling of household waste among the 27 member countries (EU27). In the EU27 in 2007, 42% of treated municipal waste was landfilled, 20% incinerated, 22% recycled and 17% composted. – The Member States with the highest recycling rates for municipal waste were Germany (46%), Belgium (39%), Sweden (37%), Estonia and Ireland (both 34%). Composting of municipal waste was most common in Austria (38%), Italy (33%), Luxembourg and the Netherlands (both 28%), and not done at all in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. – Composting and recycling accounted for over 50% of municipal waste treated in Germany (64%), Belgium (62%), the Netherlands (60%) and Austria (59%).
– from eurostat (PDF)

red blue yellow green
Even public trash disposal in Germany
(here at a train station in 3 languages)
asks you to separate before you toss!

Photo © Hyde Flippo

Germany is extremely proud of its claim of being the world champion in recycling and trash separation (Mülltrennung). Germany leads the EU in the percentage of household waste it recycles or composts (64% versus 46% in the USA in 2007). Germans have been practicing and refining the fine art of trash separation ever since the introduction of the “Green Dot” Duales System in 1990. Besides their ABC’s, German children grow up learning about blue (paper, cardboard), yellow (packaging, plastic), green (glass), brown (biodegradable), and red/black/gray (all other waste) trash containers. (The colors may vary by locality, but are usually similar.) Batteries are never just tossed into the household trash, but Continue reading