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LIVING IN GERMANY

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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EVENTS

Nine unmissable events in Germany in February 2023

From carnival in Cologne to Berlinale in Berlin, there are some incredible events happening in Germany this February. So while the weather's still gloomy, why not check out our top picks and pencil in some fun things to do in the coming weeks?

Nine unmissable events in Germany in February 2023

February 2nd – 3rd: Feel Jazz Festival in Hamburg

Whether you’re a jazz music convert or a curious newcomer, it’s worth heading down to Hamburg’s Hafenklang nightclub at the start of February to enjoy two full evenings of innovative jazz-inspired music.

The motto is “Discover Jazz”, which means festival goers will be treated to a diverse array of artists from across the jazz scene – and there’s likely to be something for everyone. From classical smooth jazz to electronic pulses and funky beats, this is set to be a whirlwind tour of jazz in all its guises, and what better setting than Hamburg’s atmospheric harbour to enjoy it in?

For more information on the line-up or to book tickets, head to the Feel Jazz website here.

February 3rd onwards: Flower Power Festival in Munich

You don’t have to be a hippie to enjoy this one – but it certainly helps! On Friday, February 3rd, the Flower Power Festival will kick off in Munich under the theme of “Celebrating Nature in the City”. 

One of the highlights in February is set to be a stunning installation by artist Juli Gudehus. Noticing the sheer scale of waste produced in society, Gudehus decided to cut down her own waste and rework it into blossom sculptures, which will be on display at the Nymphenburg Botanical Gardens. Art fans can also catch an exhibition on the history of flowers in art and culture at the Kunsthalle that starts on February 3rd. 

Don’t worry if you haven’t got time to catch an event in February, though. The festival is set to run all the way until October 7th, with numerous family-friendly exhibitions and events run by the Botanical Garden, the BIOTOPIA Natural History Museum and Munich’s Kunsthalle all throughout the year. You can find out more about the Flower Power Festival here.

February 16th – 22nd: Cologne Carnival

Traditionally held just before Lent, carnival in Cologne involves around 1.5 million people visiting the city to dress up, party, sing, and drink. Costumes people pick out can range in everything from mostly festive, historical wear to clear political satire – much resembling a drunken Halloween in February. 

February 20th Rosenmontag – or “Rose Monday” parade often involves parade floats with on-the-nose political humour.

This Carnival float comments on the current traffic light government’s plan to legalise cannabis. Many floats are satirical. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

February 16th – 22nd: Düsseldorf Carnival

Given the rivalry between the two cities, you may want to be careful about telling Cologne revellers if you’re headed to Düsseldorf’s Carnival about a half-hour train ride from Cologne. While Cologne’s Carnival is definitely larger, Düsseldorf’s has a reputation for being a little bit less rowdy and a bit cleaner, but with a more full-bodied Altbier instead of Kölsch.

February 16th – 26th: Berlinale Film Festival

One of the world’s “Big Three” film festivals, along with Venice and Cannes, tens of thousands of people visit the Berlinale every year. Running for ten days in mid-February, Berlinale takes over many of the city’s cinemas. The final 2023 schedule won’t be publicised until February 7th, but to give you an idea of just how huge the festival is – in 2014, 441 films were shown at Berlinale in over 900 different screenings.

Berlinale 2023 will feature many world premieres and a few star appearances, as films from around the globe enter into its competition for the Golden Bear trophy, awarded by an international jury to the year’s best film.

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack during a Berlinale photo call.

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack during a Berlinale photo call. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Gerald Matzka

February 16th – 22nd: F.r.e.e Trade Fair in Munich

Are you a travel enthusiast looking to keep up with everything from your camping gear to bikes and water toys?

F.r.e.e is Bavaria’s largest fair for leisure and travel, with a trade exhibition and presentations on everything from travel destinations to fitness and outdoor gear.

February 17th – Schall & Rausch Music Theatre Festival in Berlin

Berlin’s Komische Oper starts up its new annual festival for new musical theatre this month. With seven separate events going on at the city’s Vollgutlager, Centre for Contemporary Art, and SchwuZ queer club, this festival promises a bit of glitz and glamour, along with experimental music that explores contemporary culture issues.

Komische Oper performances also venture out into these Berlin venues, with its normal home currently under renovation.

February 18th: Valentine’s Day Zoo Tour in Nuremberg 

How do animals love? Are there gay penguins? What species mate for life?

You can find out the answers to these questions and more during the Nuremberg Zoo’s Valentine’s tour. Although not technically on Valentine’s Day, it obviously follows the theme. 

Two special tours set off at the Zoo on the 18th, starting at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

February 21st: Dance of the Market Women in Munich

Once a year, on Munich Carnival’s Shrove Tuesday, women who spend most of the year selling everything from fresh vegetables to spices hang up their aprons and don colourful costumes. As the Carnival season ends, they show off the typical “Line 8” dance followed by newly rehearsed and choreographed numbers.

The Dance of the Market Women ends Munich’s Carnival season. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

With reporting by Aaron Burnett

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