The ability of Germans to roll out beauties on wheels is second to none. The German automotive industry is unanimously considered to be the most successful and innovative and among the biggest employers in the world. The greatest names in automobiles – Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche – have their origins in Germany and have brought home innumerable awards at global levels.
While attending kindergarten is voluntary, all children between 6 and 15 years of age residing in Germany are legally obliged to go to school (homeschooling is illegal). The government is responsible for providing every student over 6 years of age with a school place. Public schools almost everywhere in the country are free, though private schools charge a tuition fee. Amazingly enough, university education in Germany is also free, even for foreign students, which is a major reason students from all over the world come to Germany for higher studies.
Germany bakes a whopping 300 types of bread, plus regional variations, and over 1,200 kinds of baked stuff – they are all yummy. From tiny, crusty Brötchen to buttery croissants, irresistible pretzels to healthy pumpernickel, sampling Germany’s breads is nothing short of an adventure.
Germans take their rest and peace very, very seriously. Sunday is officially Peace Day (Ruhetag) across the country. Sunday is considered to be a day to unwind, rest without interruption and spend time with the family, not the time to catch up on chores. Almost all shops and supermarkets remain closed throughout the country, and many tourist attractions either remain closed or have shorter hours, though restaurants, cafes and pubs stay open. Plus, it is illegal to do anything on a Sunday that makes a din, including lawn-mowing, vacuuming, drilling and recycling bottles.
From the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle to the creepy Frankenstein Castle, the surreal Burg Eltz to the majestic ruins of Heidelberg Castle, the longest castle in the world (Burghausen Castle) to the beautiful castle on the lake (Schwerin Castle), Germany has almost 25,000 castles! Many of these castles date back centuries, and welcome visitors to explore their interiors. What’s more, you can even fulfill your childhood dream of spending the night in a castle.
There are different bins for biowaste, waste that cannot be recycled, plastics and packaging, batteries, paper and cardboard, glass (different bins for different-colored glass – usually clear, green and brown), used clothes and used shoes. The rules vary across the country, but in general, if you wish to get rid of furniture, gadgets, electronic items, vehicles, etc., you need to call and book an appointment with the respective trash department. Though a constant source of frustration among expats and travelers, the truth is it works! Studies have shown that Germany leads Europe in recycling and waste reduction, making it a strong contender in the global fight against waste.
If you are sick of late nights and working weekends, Germany is the perfect country to move to as its labor laws are among the most flexible in the world. Employees are legally permitted to work a maximum of eight hours per day (48 hours per week) for a six-day week and 40 hours per week for a five-day week. Usually, only factories and retail businesses are open on Saturdays. Overtime, which is a rare phenomenon, entitles extra time off or a bonus. Employees working five days a week are entitled to a minimum of 20 paid vacation days a year, while those working six days a week get 24 days off. The number of public holidays granted in Germany is more than many other countries.
For a race that has a reputation of being rather ‘proper’, the Germans are amazingly comfortable with getting naked, a fact that regularly makes foreign jaws hit the ground. Thanks to German Freikörperkultur (Free Body Culture), it’s perfectly normal to find people toasting their bare bottoms at beaches without a care in the world. There are many saunas and pools in Germany, even mixed-sex ones, that are strict about a ‘no-dress’ code (look out for the icon of a stuck-through swimming trunk or similar). The Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (‘German Society for Nudists/Naturists’) organizes outings for people who like to experience life au naturale. There are an estimated 300 private nudist clubs in Germany, with almost 600,000 members(!).
Germans not only love making rules, they are stringent sticklers and appreciate law and order in everyday life, a trait that is often the butt of jokes among foreigners. Remember the endless rules about trash-sorting? While vacuuming on a Sunday might earn you a visit from the police, you will be forgiven for trying to break out of a prison. You might be slapped with a fine for taking your kids out of school for a holiday or running out of fuel on the highway.
This one will make all new working parents across the world want to move to Germany right away. Employees in Germany have the right to request up to 24 months of paid parental leave. Also, the government pays a substantial amount to new parents for up to 12 months after delivery to help look after a baby and to compensate for the loss of pay if a parent needs to quit working to rear a child.
Oktoberfest and Carnival are two words that perfectly sum up the love Germans have for boisterous, over-the-top, completely crazy and super-fun public parties. Oktoberfest is replicated in many countries around the world, but it’s Munich which shows the world how it’s done – 16 days, parades, 7 million people, 8 million liters of beer, rides and endless food. Likewise, carnival across Germany is marked by crazy costumes, hilarious rituals, amazing parades and a riot of fun and colors.
In Germany, kids are king. While many countries across the world believe in starting mainstream education at the tender age of three or four, children in Germany spend the first five years of their life busy being, well, children. Attending a kindergarten is heavily encouraged, though not compulsory. A kindergarten is a place to make friends, sing, dance, draw and play without a care in the world. In Germany, children are eased into mainstream education only in elementary school, at the age of six (sometimes close to seven), though there is still plenty of time for extracurricular activities and free play in school. Additionally, there are endless childcare options, parent-and-child courses, classes and entertainment options for children. What’s more, in Germany, you are never too far from an immaculately maintained playground.