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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

In our weekend roundup for Germany we look at exploring the country this summer, the country's obsession with cash and some facts about North Rhine-Westphalia, which goes to the polls on Sunday.

Thomas Kutschaty, the Social Democrat's top candidate and leader of the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD, in Solingen for a TV event earlier this month.
Thomas Kutschaty, the Social Democrat's top candidate and leader of the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD, in Solingen for a TV event earlier this month. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

A chance to explore Germany 

Although we’re still in the pandemic, it feels like life in Germany is beginning to feel a bit more like it did before Covid hit us. With many restrictions easing, people have been really enjoying spring and looking forward to summer.  So it’s no surprise that many of you have been reading our stories about travel. Our articles on the €9 monthly ticket as well as train travel in Germany and beyond have been particularly popular. The public transport offer will also give many people the chance to explore closer to home. I know I am really looking forward to seeing more of Germany, whether it’s around the Brandenburg area near where I live, or going further afield (Heidelberg, I’m looking at you). I’d love to know if you want to use the €9 ticket or if you have any plans to explore Germany this summer. Please fill in this survey on the €9 ticket (it’s open until Monday) and get in touch with your opinions or other travel plans by emailing [email protected]. Thanks so much to those of you who’ve already been in touch.

Tweet of the week

The German love of cash or Bargeld in 2022 while the rest of the world goes contactless is indeed one of life’s greatest mysteries, as this tweet highlights. We’ll definitely be using our ‘ask a German’ series to try and find out more about this habit… 

Where is this? 

Pankstrasse U-Bahn
Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Berliners or those who’ve visited the capital may recognise this U-Bahn station which is situated in the north. The station is actually part of the Pankstrasse nuclear fallout shelter. Built in 1977 during the Cold War, this “multi-purpose” facility was intended to protect the citizens of West Berlin in case of a nuclear conflict. The bunker serves not only as an U-Bahn stop for commuters but also, in an emergency, could have sheltered 3,339 people for up to two weeks. For those interested, we’d recommend checking out a tour like those run by Berliner Untervelten E.V. Due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to massive tension between Europe and Russia, the tours have become even more topical.

Did you know?

Since people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) or Nordrhein Westfalen are going to the polls this Sunday, we thought we’d look at some facts about this western state. This is Germany’s most populated state with about 17.9 million people. It’s also home to the most foreigners – around 2.5 million non-Germans live in NRW. With cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen, the state is a culturally rich and diverse part of Germany. Many people don’t know that Bonn was the capital of the former West Germany all the way up to reunification, before Berlin took the title. Many federal buildings and institutions still have their base there. 

The state is led by Christian Democrat Hendrik Wüst who took over last year after Armin Laschet resigned as state premier following his unsuccessful federal election bid. The CDU is currently in a coalition with the Free Democrats. But it looks like change is on the horizon. The CDU and the Social Democrats are both polling at around 30 percent, with the CDU having a slight lead of two to four percentage points. Meanwhile, the FDP appears to have lost support. It’s going to be a tight race – and the Greens party – polling at around 17 percent – will likely be the kingmakers. Important topics for voters include the future of German industry, and how to secure jobs in the move to renewable energy. Many people see this election as a test for the federal government which is led by the SPD’s Olaf Scholz. 

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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