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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Facing up to racism, Erdbeersaison and Schleswig-Holstein votes

In our weekend roundup for Germany we explore a study on racism, strawberry season and take a look at the state election in Schleswig-Holstein.

Schleswig-Holstein's state premier Daniel Günther on the campaign trail ahead of the state elections.
Schleswig-Holstein's state premier Daniel Günther on the campaign trail ahead of the state elections. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Can Germany face up to its racism problem?

Many of you have told of us about the discrimination and racism you’ve faced in Germany, particulary when it comes to trying to find a place to rent and in working life. So we were interested to report on a study on how people in Germany perceive the issue of racism.

According to the survey by the newly set up Racism Monitor more than a fifth of the population (22 percent) – said they had been affected by racism, and 45 percent said they had seen racist incidents. And nearly all respondents to the survey – 90 percent – said they believed that racism existed in the country.

Tareq Alaows, a Syrian refugee who hoped to run for German parliament last year but changed his mind due to racism and threats, tweeted that the study was a “wake-up call to our society to finally look and recognise racism as the danger it is”. He said the study also showed the “anti-racist potential in society”.“This must open the debate and move us all to action,” Alaows said. 

Tweet of the week

Sometimes you just have to take a break from the big problems of the world and tweet about Star Wars. We see you, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. 

Where is this? 

Photo: DPA/Daniel Bockwoldt

We hear a lot about Spargelzeit (asparagus season) in spring, but what about Erdbeersaison? Yes, strawberry season is underway as this photo from Grömitz in Schleswig-Holstein shows. Starting from now and throughout summer, you can expect to see strawberry ‘pop-up’ shops around the country on the side of roads and on streets.

And it’s not just strawberries they sell. You will also come across boxes of fresh blueberries and, later in the season, Pfifferlinge (chanterelle) mushrooms. We thoroughly recommend that you get out into the countryside and pick up some fresh produce in the coming weeks and months. 

Did you know?

The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein will elect a new parliament on Sunday, May 8th so we thought we’d look at what makes this northern state tick politically. With 2.9 million residents, the state, between the North Sea and Baltic Sea, is the second smallest German state after Saarland.

Christian Democrat Daniel Günther has led the state since the last election in 2017. He governs with the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) and is standing for re-election. Recent polls put the CDU in the lead, so this constellation could return. But other coalitions are possible. Important topics for this state include green energy – the state has been racing ahead with its wind energy production and, according to experts, it wants to show how it is key to Germany getting away from relying on Russian energy.

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

This article is also sent out as a weekly newsletter just to members every Saturday. To sign up and get it straight into your inbox just go to your newsletter preferences.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at what the government is doing to ease the air travel staffing crisis, very German greeting cards, lightning storms and the Schornsteinfeger - chimney sweep - lucky tradition.

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

Germany looks for help abroad to ease aviation staffing crisis

Last week the German government made the exceptional move of stepping in to help private firms in the aviation sector restore their staffing levels. Ministers announced they will cut red tape to allow private companies to employ workers from abroad on a temporary basis, due to the chaos that we’re seeing in German airports and airlines. From long queues at security or when claiming baggage, to flights being cancelled, it can be a real nightmare to travel in Europe at the moment. One reader even contacted us to say he had to wait two and half hours on a plane in Düsseldorf because there apparently wasn’t enough baggage staff to load cases onto the flight. That’s why the German government says it will allow companies to employ staff from abroad at short notice. However, at the same time, ministers came down hard on the private sector for not preparing for the rising demand for travel. German’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil Heil criticised many companies in the aviation industry for laying off staff in the pandemic – or not topping up reduced hours (Kurzarbeit) pay despite government support. 

Even if the sector manages to fill many positions, it will still take time to clear hurdles so it looks like we’re in for at least a few more weeks of stress if travelling by plane. And with more states about to go on their school holidays, it’s just going to get busier. Keep us posted on how it’s going in German airports if you’re on the move this summer – we’re always eager to hear your experiences. 

Tweet of the week

The dedication to cars and driving in Germany is quite something, as the tweet below shows. 

Where is this? 

Lightning over Frankfurt
Photo: DPA/Jan Eifert

There’s been a lot of mixed weather in Germany this week, with extreme heat, thunderstorms and hailstones depending on which part of the country you live in. This picture shows a spectacular storm on Thursday in the Frankfurt area. It was taken from the Großer Feldberg in the Taunus mountains.

Did you know?

I (Rachel) received my first visit in Germany from a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) on Friday. Although I don’t have an open fire in my flat, chimney sweeps in Germany are still needed once a year to check your heating system, check for gas leaks and carry out any other maintenance in that area. Did you know Germans also believe seeing a Schornsteinfeger brings good luck? Some say it comes from the olden days when sweeps cleared your chimney meaning you’d be able to cook again and reduced the risk of fires. It’s also meant to be especially lucky to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day or New Year’s Day. This is thought to be partly because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year. Along with miniature pigs (which Germans also find lucky), horseshoes, ladybirds and four-leaf clovers, little chimney sweeps made out of marzipan or plastic are also given as a New Year’s gift to loved ones.

READ ALSO: Eight things German believe bring good luck 

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt.

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Some chimney sweeps (although not all!) wear a traditional uniform complete with top hat and silver buttons. Giving one of the buttons a twirl is said to bring good luck, but you’d have to politely ask them before doing it!  

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

This article is also sent out as a weekly newsletter just to members every Saturday. To sign up and get it straight into your inbox just go to your newsletter preferences.

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