It’s no secret that Germans love laws. Almost everything in Germany has a law attached to it, aimed at bringing about order and organisation in a world of chaos. While most laws and rules are rather progressive, some regularly leave foreigners scratching their heads. Here is a list of the most unusual, often bordering on amusing, laws and rules in Germany.
Drunk cycling is illegal
Drunk cycling is considered almost as bad as drunk driving in Germany. To curb the alarmingly high percentage of road accidents caused by drunk cyclists, Germany has made it illegal to cycle under the influence of alcohol (blood alcohol level of 1.6 percent or more). If caught, your licence is confiscated at the very least. On top of that, you might be subjected to a medical-psychological assessment, failing which, your licence might be revoked.
Nothing gets done on Sundays
Sunday is Ruhetag (rest day or quiet day). The entire country practically shuts down on Sundays, which means all shops and supermarkets are closed, though most tourist attractions and restaurants are open (some for shorter hours). It’s illegal for schools, colleges or workplaces to remain open on Sundays. That’s not all. Drilling, mowing, vacuuming, recycling bottles or doing just about anything that creates a din might lead to a fine (or an arrest, in rare occasions). Most Germans even refrain from doing laundry on Sundays.
Wearing a mask at a demonstration can get you arrested
If you wish to take part in a demonstration or street protest, make sure your face is visible. These events invariably see heavy police presence, and covering your face with a mask can get you instantly arrested. This law is in place to ensure that protesters cannot hide their identity.
A pillow is considered a weapon
Pillow fights might be cute in other parts of the world, but hitting someone in Germany hard with a pillow might land you in jail with charges of assault. Also, the pillow is categorised as a passive weapon, much like a bullet-proof vest or helmet, used to protect oneself from other weapons.
Running out of fuel on the autobahn is illegal
Driving on Germany’s iconic no-speed-limit autobahns is a dreamy experience for those who love speed. But remember, running out of fuel on a autobahn is illegal, so is walking or stopping on an autobahn (unless your vehicle breaks down). This law aims to prevent accidents on the autobahns. So make sure you fuel up before you tear away.
Prostitution is legal
Prostitution, including sex tourism, is not only legal in Germany, but strict laws are in place to protect the interests of sex workers. Prostitutes are entitled to health, unemployment and pension programs, and can sue if minimum wage is denied. They are also at liberty to decide the place, time and other details of their work, barring certain areas (for example, near schools) deemed out of bounds by the government. The prostitution scene in Germany is, however, heavily regulated and monitored to combat sexual exploitation and human trafficking, factors that are often argued to be higher in countries where prostitution is legal.
The German government can reject baby names
In order to spare people a lifetime of mockery and teasing, the German government has allowed local registrars the power to reject baby names considered to be utterly ridiculous or offensive. The baby names binned in the last couple of years include Stompie, Woodstock, Grammophon, Kohl and Matti. A Turkish couple residing in Germany was also prohibited from naming their newborn Osama bin Laden.
Public colleges are free
Public schools and colleges in Germany charge zero tuition fees, a concept made even more amazing by the fact that they are free even for foreign students. That, combined with the high standard of education in Germany, has given rise to a high influx of students from all over the world, especially USA.
Every office must offer a view of the sky
As per the German employment law, it is illegal to construct an office that doesn’t offer views of the sky or a good ventilation system. This law aims to protect the health of the employees, ensure enough light exposure and prevent drudgery.
Prison break is not a crime
In Germany, an attempted prison break doesn’t add to the punishment or sentence of the prisoner. If caught, prisoners are simply returned to their cell to continue their existing sentence. However, causing damage to prison properties in a jailbreak attempt and providing assistance to others in escaping are legally punishable.
Skipping school is strictly forbidden
It is compulsory for every child in Germany to attend school, and the country is unusually strict about kids coming to school everyday. It is common for parents of children missing school to be heftily fined, unless they can produce a medical certificate or justify their kids’ absence to the satisfaction of the school authorities. Going on vacation outside the designated school holidays is illegal, unless explicitly permitted by the school.
No piano tuning at night
Germans take peace and quiet very seriously, further proven by the law that it is illegal to tune your piano at night. If you are hit by insomnia, find something to do that doesn’t make any sound.
The first verse of the German national anthem is avoided
The first verse of the German national anthem Deutschland über alles (Germany above everything else) was briefly banned after the Second World War, as it used to be sung in the Third Reich and associated with Nazi ideology. Though not illegal, the verse is still best left unsung, as it often leads to strong negative reactions from the public.