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GERMAN CULTURE, LAWS AND RULES

Germany has a lot of laws and rules that are sometimes difficult for us to understand, but if you know the reason why it is that way perhaps it will be easier to live with. Germany is about the size of Oregon with a population of about 80 million people (1/3 the population of the US). They must have laws in order to live so close together peacefully.

Quiet Time
Monday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. there is a lunchtime quiet. In the evening you are not permitted to mow the lawn after 8 p.m. General evening quiet time begins at 10 p.m. SUNDAY ALL DAY (includes lawn mowing, car washing, loud children, stereo or radio (loud)--if it can be heard outside your dwelling or vehicle it is too loud.)

Barbeques
If you live in an apartment building, you cannot grill on the balcony, you must be at least 8 feet away from the building; depending on the direction of the wind, maybe further.

Windows and Stairwells
You must keep your stairwells and windows clean. If you don't have time to clean all your windows, at least clean the ones facing the street.

Garbage and Recycling
Germans are concerned about the environment, so you'll notice a significant difference between trash collection here and back in the States. For one thing, your trash and recycling are collected much less frequently--because you're expected to generate less of it.

In most communities, your refuse is collected once a week--and different materials are collected each time. Your city will provide the refuse containers. For example, your paper may be collected once a month at the beginning of the month, your biodegradables may be collected once in the middle of the month, and your trash may be collected the alternate weeks. The housing office or your landlord can give you specific information about your town's collection schedule and how to sort waste.

You must take glass to special collection centers or back to the store where you bought it. Many communities have receptacles set out for you to sort your glass--clear, brown and green glass go into different containers.

You can take hazardous materials, electronic scrap and appliances to the military recycling center on Spangdahlem.

Contact information for the recycling center:
Spangdahlem: DSN: 314-452-7460
                            Comm: 011-49-6565-61-7460

Shopping Hours
Hours of shopping are difficult to get used to at first. During the week, the shops stay open until 8 p.m. On Saturdays, they normally close about 4 p.m. Most shops do not open on Sundays. In January and July, the shops normally have an end-of-season sale.

Other Shopping
Flea markets are great fun as are the antique markets. The markets are quite festive and have lots of good food and drink as well as lots of "stuff" to see. They are usually held on the weekends and usually go until 4 p.m.

Junking
There is also a unique custom in Germany called Sperrmull--to Americans it means "junking." In most villages, there are two days a year that are dedicated to this custom. Everything that is no longer of use or not wanted and won't fit in the regular trash is put out on the street for pickup (furniture items, etc). However, if someone else wants it, they are free to pick it up and take it with them. This is fun to participate in and as much fun to watch. Many communities have adopted a policy where you call and get told a specific date for when your Sperrmüll will be picked up.

Building relationships
As a guest in another country, you are expected to be on your best behavior. Service members are unofficial "ambassadors in uniform." Understanding the German laws, customs and courtesies is the first step towards getting along with your German neighbors and NATO partners. You are here to fulfill an important mission, but you can also enjoy yourself and the cultural experiences of Germany and Europe.

Germany has a lot of laws and rules that are sometimes difficult for us to understand, but knowing the reason why makes all the difference. Germany is about the size of Oregon with a population of about 80 million people (1/3 the population of the US). They must have laws in order to live so close together peacefully.

Stop by the airman and family readiness center to find out about several programs geared toward learning more about the local culture. Everything from language classes, to shopping downtown ... they're ready to answer all your questions about living in Germany.

Check out the links below to find information on:
 
General Rules and Laws

Traditions and Festivals

As a guest in another country, you are expected to be on your best behavior. Service members are unofficial "ambassadors in uniform." Understanding customs and courtesies is the first step towards getting along with your German neighbors and NATO partners. You are here to fulfill an important mission, but you can also enjoy yourself and the cultural experiences of Germany and Europe.

Greetings
The German people are probably the world's greatest hand shakers. When you are introduced to a German person, you will be expected to shake hands. It is also customary and polite to first introduce and shake the lady's hand. Germans also generally shake hands when they part. A nod of the head and a friendly "Guten Tag" (good day), "Guten Abend" (good evening) or "Auf Wiedersehen" (good bye) usually accompanies the handshake.

Language
Germans will appreciate your efforts to learn their language. There are several sources to learn the German language. And there are many "friendship clubs," universities, and German Volkshochschule (Adult Education Centers) willing to teach you. You can also go to your local library and check out the language tapes, or take a course at the Education Center. When you do try out your German, always use the polite form (Sie) and never the informal (du); children, though, will expect to be addressed with "du."

Germans may seem formal because they do not use first names as readily as Americans. The best practice is to use a German's last name until there is a mutual agreement to use the first name; however, this may never occur. If a German has a title, like a doctor or professor, he will probably use it and should be addressed as "Herr Doctor" (Mr. Doctor) or "Herr Professor" (Mr. Professor).

Titles
While older traditions permitted women to use the title of her husband, presently this is now only acceptable if the woman has the title herself, i.e. if the woman is a doctor she may be called "Frau Doctor" (Mrs. Doctor), but if not, she is to be addressed as "Frau" and last name. Women should be addressed as Frau (Mrs), whether she is married or not. In present-day Germany, the word "Fraeulein" is banned as it may be perceived diminutive and derogatory by a woman. You will almost never be asked by a woman to address her as "Fraeulein."

Timeliness
There are some areas of sensitivity not always understood or appreciated by Americans. German are very punctual and may be displeased if you do not arrive in time for an appointment or a social gathering. Arriving 15 minutes late is an American habit that Germans find rude.

Personal Property
Perhaps the most frequent cause of accidental friction is German sensitivity about personal property - cars, homes, gardens, and so on. Leaning against a car or letting children run their hands along the sides of cars may bring an irate German to your side with a firm protest. A good general rule is: if it isn't your property, don't touch it. Be prepared to pay for damages - no matter how minor they seem to you.

Damage to rental housing is another example of German concern for property. The concept of "normal wear and tear" exists in Germany, but is interpreted much more strictly. You are expected to return property in approximately the same condition as you rented it.