For members


Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo
"Bürgergeld is coming" reads Germany's Labour Ministry website. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!

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For members


Living in Germany: A day of transport disruption, regional differences and blossoming trees

In this week's roundup, we look at Monday's 'mega strike', German regional differences and cherry blossom trees.

Living in Germany: A day of transport disruption, regional differences and blossoming trees

If you’ve spent any time in Germany over the past couple of months you’ll be aware that strikes are happening a lot. But up until this point they’ve remained regional for the most part, even when several cities across the country have been affected.

But on Monday March 27th, unions are stepping up their action with a targeted nationwide strike aimed at paralysing transport. Staff at German airports, ports, the railways, buses and subways will walk out during the 24-hour strike, which will last all day Monday, the Verdi and EVG unions announced.

Strikes are not unusual – but the scale of the industrial action at the moment is huge, and is only heating up as employers and union bosses lock horns.

As in many other countries, people in Germany are struggling with soaring consumer prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent food and energy costs spiking. Unions are trying to negotiate wage increases for their employees to match rising inflation.

“Workers in Germany are confronted with historically high rates of inflation and losses in real wages,” Professor Dr. Thorsten Schulten, head of the Collective Agreement Archive at the Economic and Social Research Institute (WSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation told The Local recently. “This is why the current collective bargaining round is focused on substantial pay increases and safeguarding purchasing power.”

Tweet of the week

Germany is one country, but this tweet highlights the differences between the 16 federal states (and there are many regional differences within the states too!)

Where is this?

Throughout Germany, blossoms are beginning to bloom, signalling the start of spring. Our photo highlights almond blossom trees in the city of Gimmeldingen, Rhineland Palatinate. The popular Gimmeldingen Almond Blossom Festival takes place this year from March 24th to 26th, and from March 31st to April 2nd.

Did you know?

As we mentioned, Frühling is coming. And nothing screams springtime in Germany like bursts of pink everywhere. Streets and parks come alive with rows of Japanese Kirschblütenbäume (cherry blossom trees), decorated with pretty pink blossoms.

For around two to three weeks in April and May, rows of these beautiful cherry blossoms brighten up the country, banishing the cold winter blues.

These trees have an interesting history. An exported Japanese tradition, the Sakura Campaign brought the blossoming trees to Germany after reunification. Japanese channel TV Asahi collected over 140 million yen (about €1 million) to gift the trees to Germany as well as to other locations in the world.

The ornamental cherry trees are very popular in Japan and are said to bring people inner peace and serenity. The first trees in Berlin were planted in November 1990 at Glienicker Brücke (Glienicke Bridge), a site that had symbolised the division of Germany.

Nowadays, the heavenly pink petals are in lots of locations around Germany and provide great photo opportunities, making them a social media favourite.