For members


Everything that changes in Germany in February 2023

From the end of Covid masks on trains to hiked up prices on beer, here's what's changing in Germany this February.

A clock at a train station in Schleswig-Holstein.
A clock at a train station in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Carsten Rehder

No more Covid masks on trains

It’s one of the few remaining Covid rules that still affects day-to-day life in Germany for most people – and it’s due to end on February 2nd. In January, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said he’d be ending the mask-wearing rule on long-distance trains and buses a couple of months sooner than planned.

The move follows announcements from numerous federal states that they would be dropping compulsory masks on local transport around the same time. From early February, people in Berlin, Brandenburg, Thuringia, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Saxony will no longer be obliged to bring an FFP2 mask with them when they take public transport.

Several other states – including Bavaria, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein – had already taken the same step in December and January.  

In Thuringia (February 3rd), Bremen, Lower Saxony (February 2nd) and Hamburg (February 1st), the obligation to isolate during a Covid infection will also be dropped.


End of pandemic worker safety measures

Alongside Covid masks on public transport, one of the Covid regulations still in place is the so-called Arbeitsschutzverordnung, or Work Protection Regulation. This obliges employers to implement a hygiene concept in the workplace – so things like hand sanitiser and adequate ventilation – as well as supporting workers who want to get vaccinated. 

That’s now due to end a couple of months early on February 2nd. In its place, there’ll be recommendations from the government on how best to protect workers from Covid.

The good news for employees is that they’ll still be able to get a doctors’ sick note over the phone if they need to take time off due to a respiratory infection. The special regulation permitting up to seven days’ ‘Krankschrieben’ over the phone has been extended until March 31st.

Short-term working will also continue if at least ten percent of the workforce is affected by the loss of work. This rule will stay in place until June 30th. 

Test requirement for Chinese visitors

At the start of January, the EU came to an agreement on travel restrictions for visitors from China, which is now being implemented in Germany. 

Any visitors arriving in Germany from China will require a negative Covid test to enter the country. There will also be randomised checks at the border for potential virus variants.

A Covid testing centre at Frankfurt am Main airport.

A Covid testing centre at Frankfurt am Main airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Though Germany eased its pandemic rules last year, there are fears that the current Covid wave in China could lead to new dangerous variants that could then become prevalent in Europe. In addition, China eased its own travel restrictions on January 8th, meaning tourists are likely to be visiting again and residents of China will also be travelling abroad. 

READ ALSO: Germany discourages non-essential travel to Covid-hit China

Major beer brand to hike up prices

The rise in prices has many of us reaching for a beer – but there’s a bit bad news on that front. Yes, the price of some popular beer brands is also set to go up.

To put it more accurately, most of the major breweries have already raised their wholesale prices to combat increased energy and logistics costs in the last few months. But one of the few still standing – NRW’S Warsteiner Group – has now announced a series of price hikes that will come into force in February.

Crates of Warsteiner beer

Crates of Warsteiner beer. Photo: pa/obs Warsteiner Brauerei | Hubertus Struchholz Fotografie

As reported by trade newspaper Getränke News, the price of bottled beer is set to rise by €6.80 per hectolitre, while the price of a barrel of draught beer will go up by €20. 

If costs are passed onto consumers (which seems likely), the following brands could be affected:

  • Warsteiner
  • Herford
  • Frankenheim
  • King Ludwig
  • Kaltenberg
  • Paderborn
  • Isenbeck

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much will grocery prices in Germany go up in 2023?

Over-16s allowed to vote in EU elections

In the next round of European elections, the voting age will be reduced from 18 to 16. The legislation for this will come into force in February.

Unfortunately for youngsters, they won’t be able to exercise their democratic rights straight away: the next round of EU parliamentary elections is scheduled in spring 2024, so it’ll be around a year before 16 and 17 year-olds can head to the polls. 

Hardship fund for pensioners

In what could come as a huge help to people struggling on low pensions, select groups of retirees will soon be able to apply for a special hardship fund. 

From February until September 30th, people affected by the cost of living crisis can apply for a special one-time grant of €2,500 from the Härtefallfonds – or Hardship Fund – Foundation. The fund is primarily aimed at Jewish refugees and late repatriates or people who lost a large part of their pension when East and West Germany were reunited, but others can also access it under certain conditions. For example:

  • Employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the Deutsche Post or in the health and social services sector
  • Carers of family members who have had to give up work 
  • Ethnic German immigrants (Spätaussiedler) 

States can also opt to join the Foundation and match the hardship fund provided, meaning pensioners in some states could receive up to €5,000 to assist them with their living costs. Eligible retirees can also submit an application via the Ministry for Work and Social Affairs

READ ALSO: How long do you have to work to receive a German pension?

Woman with wallet

A woman looks in her wallet while grocery shopping. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

Energy-saving lightbulbs with quicksilver discontinued

For around 15 years, quicksilver (or mercury) has been banned in pretty much all forms of electronic and electrical equipment – but there have been carve-outs for certain types of lightbulbs. That’s now due to change.

From February, companies in the EU will no longer be allowed to produce energy-saving lightbulbs using mercury. But don’t be surprised if you see one or two still being sold in the shops – apparently, existing stock can still be sold and purchased even though no new quicksilver lamps can be made.

New cars to come with new first aid kits

If you’re thinking of purchasing a brand new car from February, you should be aware that there are new rules on the types of first aid kit that have to be included.

From this month, the triangular first aid kit will be discontinued and sets included for drivers will have to include at least two face masks. In return, car companies can dispense with one of the first aid cloths that are normally included. 

This won’t affect older cars on the market, however, so there’ll be no retrofitting required. The legislation will only affect new cars that come on sale in February. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in 2023

More public drinking water fountains

It’s not quite the weather for dunking your face in an ice-cold water fountain, but this could certainly be welcome come spring and summer.

Under new EU Drinking Water Directive, member states are required to offer more drinking fountains in parks, shopping centres and other public spaces – so don’t be surprised if you see a few more of these springing up from February.

A public water fountain in a park in Hannover.

A public water fountain in a park in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

House crickets allowed in food 

We may all be consuming a few more insects this year. That’s because certain types of insects are being added to list of acceptable ingredients used in food in the European Union.

Back in 2021, the dried yellow mealworm became a regulated food product, and this has more recently been followed by the grain-mould beetle larvae and the domestic house cricket. The EU points out that many cultures around the world regularly consume insects and that they can be a sustainable and nutritious source of protein.

But if you’re keen to avoid them, never fear: the rules state that food companies have to state any use of insects clearly on their list of ingredients and also include allergen information for people who are allergic to crustaceans, molluscs, and house dust mites. 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included a section on electronic sick notes coming into force in February. These were in fact introduced in January so we’ve removed this section and we’ll write a separate explainer on this topic. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Member comments

  1. You’ve got two sort of important typos in this phrase: Ethic German immigrants (Spätausiedler)
    Should be: Eth(n)ic German immigrants (Spätau(s)siedler)

  2. Hi there, we changed those typos and have removed that comment.
    Thank you for your feedback.

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For members


Everything that changes in Germany in April 2023

From the €49 ticket pre-sale to higher tax allowances for employees and single parents, here's everything that's set to change in Germany in the coming month.

Everything that changes in Germany in April 2023

End of the (last few) Covid rules

“Rules – what rules?” is likely to be the question on everybody’s lips when the Infection Protection Act quietly expires on April 7th – and it’s true that, unless you work in a clinic or care home, the end of this bill probably won’t change much in your day-to-day life. With the end of masks on public transport in large swathes of Germany back in February, Germany toppled one of the last few Covid rules it had – and since then people have generally only needed an FFP2 mask for the odd doctor visit.

That said, the end of the bill is pretty significant in another way. It signals the end of a three-year pandemic that shook the world and the official recognition that a virus that was once so deadly has now become endemic. Just like the winter flu and common cold, Covid is here to stay, but nobody will be feeling too sentimental about leaving the days of lockdowns, tests, and vaccine passes behind us. 

Higher tax allowances

In the days of grim financial news, there’s a bit of light on the horizon for taxpayers as higher tax-free allowances for both employees and single parents will apply from April. 

Starting next month, the so-called Arbeitnehmerpauschale (employee lump sum) will be hiked up to €1,230 per year. This is the amount of expenses the tax office assumes you’ll have in relation to your work and deducts from your taxable salary (without needing proof) each year.

The tax-free allowance for single parents will also be increased to at least €4,260 (plus €240 for additional children), meaning single mums and dads get to keep a little bit more of their salaries. 

If you’re feeling a slight sense of deja vu, it may be because both of these tax-free amounts actually went up at the start of this year, but April marks the first month they will be factored into your payslips. So if you see a little bit extra in your bank account next month, that could be why. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Which German benefits are increasing in 2023 – and how do I claim them?

Deutschlandticket goes on sale

It was meant to be hitting the ticket offices back in January, but as the saying goes: better late than never. 

From April 3rd, the official pre-sale of the €49 ticket will kick off, allowing early birds to set up their Abo via Deutsche Bahn ahead of the launch of the ticket in May.

Of course, some states have been much quicker off the mark than Germany’s rail operator, so if you live in Frankfurt or Berlin, for instance, you may have already got your subscription sorted. 

It’s worth noting that some states are working on further concessions for students or pensioners, while some people may be able to get the ticket cheaper via their work, so be sure to check with your employer first to see if you’re entitled to a ‘Jobticket’. 

READ ALSO: State by state: Who will get a discount on Germany’s €49 transport ticket?

?An S-Bahn train in Cologne.

An S-Bahn train in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

Microsoft hikes its prices

First it was gas, then it was groceries, then it was beer – and now even software products are going up in price. 

Starting in April, tech giant Microsoft has announced price rises across its cloud products, which include Microsoft 365, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 as well as Microsoft Defender and Teams. The price hikes will depend on the product, but some customers could see their subscription go up by as much as 20 percent.

To justify the move, the company pointed to changes in the value of global currencies and said it wanted to make its pricing more consistent for customers around the world. This is also something they’ll look at twice a year going forward – so brace yourself for even more price hikes six months down the line. 

Gay men are allowed to give blood

A rule that banned homosexual men from donating blood will be scrapped in April. From then on, anyone will be allowed to give blood regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, or whether they are cis or trans.

What will continue to remain the case is that people who regularly change their sexual partner – or have multiple sexual partners – will not be permitted to give blood. This is determined via a questionnaire that potential donors fill out beforehand. 

Painters, builders and agency workers get a pay rise 

Life is getting more expensive in Germany, but some workers are also set to get a healthy boost to their wage packets from April.

Under a collective agreement that was signed back in January, painters and varnishers got their basic hourly wage hiked to €18.39 in the western states and Berlin and €17.86 in the eastern states. 

Workers a little lower down the pecking order are now due a pay rise as well, as the industry-specific minimum wage for helpers will rise to €12.50 per hour and the second minimum wage will increase to €14.50.

Painter and decorator

A painter and decorator at work. Low-paid workers in this sector are set to get a pay rise in April. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Kirsten Neumann

As well as painters and varnishers, construction workers can also look forward to more money from April 1st. Wages in western Germany will be increased by two percent and in eastern Germany by 2.7 percent, and workers will be given a bonus of €1,000 to compensate for inflation.

The collective agreement also stipulates that workers will receive compensation for travelling to construction sites. These are paid as lump sums and are based on the number of kilometres.

Temp or agency workers will also be taking home a little bit extra next month as the minimum wage in their sector increases to €13 per hour. 

New questions on driving tests

Thinking of biting the bullet and getting a German driving licence? Then make sure you have an up-to-date practice test, as 44 new questions are set to be added to the theory test from April. 

Of these new questions, 23 will only apply to Class B licences – the type that most drivers need in order to get behind the wheel. 

If you’re using one of the popular apps to prepare for your test, you’ll need to ensure this is fully up to date by the time you sit down for the exam. 

READ ALSO: How to get a German driver’s licence as a third-country national

Lights go back on in towns and cities

The clocks are going forward this week, and the evenings are set to get lighter in more ways than one. As well as a precious extra hour of sunshine late in the day, towns and cities will once again be permitted to illuminate their statues, fountains, building sites and public buildings at night. 

Cyclist in Saarbrücken

A cyclist rides past the fountain on St. Johanner Markt in Saarbrücken. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Dietze

That’s because the emergency energy saving measures introduced last September are due to expire on April 15th – provided they’re not extended. This legislation was initially brought in following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a time when Germany was struggling to reduce its energy usage and its dependence on Russian gas. But with winter behind us and the gas storage facilities still relatively full, this summer will likely see a much more relaxed approach to energy usage.

READ ALSO: What to know about Germany’s energy saving rules

Nuclear power plants to close

Just as Germany looks set to loosen up its energy-saving rules, the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants –  will be powered down for (potentially) the last time. 

As part of the government’s transition away from nuclear power and coal, these three plants – Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland – were originally set to be shut down at the end of 2022. However, due the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, the government kept them in operation – but the Federal Office for Nuclear Waste has announced that these will close in the middle of April.