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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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INSIDE GERMANY

Inside Germany: Becoming German, European election vote and the Scottish ‘Mannschaft’

From what we can expect from voters at the European elections to what citizenship means to foreign residents and the Scottish take on the German word 'Mannschaft', here are a few things we're talking about this week.

Inside Germany: Becoming German, European election vote and the Scottish 'Mannschaft'

Inside Germany is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in Germany that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

What can we expect as Germany goes to the polls for Europe?

On Sunday, EU citizens living in Germany will cast their vote to elect a new European parliament. 

A lot has changed since the last elections were held back in 2019 – the UK has since left the EU (meaning no Brits in Europe can vote unless they have an EU citizenship), we’ve experienced a worldwide pandemic and war has broken out in Europe. 

The big story of 2019 from Germany was the Green surge. 

Although the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) received the largest share of votes (28.7 percent), the Greens won more than 20 percent of the vote in Germany, increasing by about 10 percent from 2014.

Support for the conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) dropped considerably. 

So what can we expect from voters in Germany this time? 

According to recent polls, the conservatives are likely to secure a victory on the German side of things. The CDU and CSU will scoop up around 30 percent of the vote, according to surveys.

poster urging people to vote

A giant poster announcing the upcoming European elections, on the facade of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, eastern France. Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD, on the other hand, is only polling between 14 and 16 percent. 

The poll figures for the Greens have fluctuated. The INSA institute reported in April that the Greens could receive 11.5 percent of the vote. But recent polls show the party receiving between 13 and 15 percent – a significant drop from 2019. 

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has also lost support. While pollsters INSA predicted the party would take 22 percent of the vote back in February, recent polls put them on 14 to 17 percent.

Meanwhile, the Free Democrats (FDP), currently in government with the SPD and Greens, have been hovering between just three and five percent in polls since the beginning of the year.

Aside from these well-known parties, there are also a number of smaller ones.

If you’re eligible to vote, who will you be choosing? Good luck at the ballot box and make sure to check The Local’s coverage as the results come in. 

READ ALSO:

Germany in Focus podcast

After devastating floods in Germany that have claimed lives and cause huge destruction, we talk about how communities are coping and the areas most at risk of flooding on this week’s podcast. We also get into predictions for the European parliamentary elections and answer a reader question on how much you need to earn to qualify for German citizenship, 

With the UEFA Euro 2024 tournament coming up on June 14th, we share some interesting facts about the stadiums involved and talk about the importance of football culture in Germany with guest Kit Holden. 

What does German citizenship mean to foreign residents in Germany?

With the new citizenship law coming into force later this month, we asked The Local readers to share their feelings about citizenship and the process in a questionnaire. More than 100 people filled out our survey in just a few days and were delighted to hear about the different experiences. 

In the first of our articles, we looked at what securing a German passport means to residents. 

Of 121 readers who took our survey, 81 percent intend to apply for citizenship, while 12 percent are still unsure. 

About six percent said they will not apply, and a few respondents had already naturalised. 

A German citizenship certificate and passport.

A German citizenship certificate and passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

For many people, a huge benefit of citizenship is about gaining freedom of movement. 

“Free movement with the world’s strongest passport is the main goal here,” Khandakar Rahman from Bangladesh, told us. 

Others mentioned that they would feel more integrated – and have course receive full rights to voting. 

Kristian from Norway said the would “finally be an EU citizen, to be able to vote, and also to actually be German”.

READ MORE: What would German citizenship mean to foreign residents?

The Scottish ‘Mannschaft’ set to take on Germany 

As Germany is about to take on Scotland in the opener for UEFA Euro 2024, ad executives for the Scottish soft drink Irn Bru have outdone themselves. 

They’ve launched an advert playing around with the nickname for Germany’s national football – ‘Die Mannschaft’ 

READ MORE: German word of the day – Mannschaft 

I was keen to know what Germans felt about this advert featuring a guy in a kilt talking about how Scotland’s ‘Mannschaft’ may even reach the semis. 

While many Germans thought it was funny, a few pointed out that the advert technically doesn’t use the word correctly. 

One thing for sure is that the Scottish love it. 

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