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Germany: 10 suprising laws foreigners should know when in Germany

Germany: 10 suprising laws foreigners should know when in Germany

There are high expectations when it comes to following the law in Germany, but not all foreigners are aware of them. Breaking some of these laws could land you in big problems, or cost you a lot of money.

Here are 10 laws you need to know about:

1. Killing wasps

Killing wasps is something you should avoid in Germany as much as you don’t like them.

Wasps are protected under the Federal Nature Conservation Act, which in section 39 states that it is forbidden to “intentionally disturb them or capture, injure or kill them without reasonable cause”.

Persons found in violation of this law will face heavy fines, even for one of the most common species of wasp.

2. Raising your right arm

The Nazi salute – known as der Hitlergruß in German – is illegal in Germany.

The gesture, consists of extending the right arm diagonally upwards with the hand flat at eye level. This action is an offense punishable by three months to five years in prison.

Some exceptions to this law include demonstrating the salute for the purpose of an artistic performance or for educational reasons.

3. Sonntagsruhe (Sunday rest) is part of the Constitution

The principle of Sonntagsruhe (Sunday rest) is so important in Germany that it is even enshrined in the Constitution.

Generally, the rule here is that the so-called room noise level cannot be exceeded in closed rooms and 50 decibels outdoors. This means no drilling, mowing the lawn, vacuuming or glass recycling.

Disturbing the peace will lead to fines of up to three figures.

In instances of repeated cases of disturbing the peace, you may end up evicted from your home by the landlord or local authority.

4. Covering face at a demonstration

This is an important law to be aware of, if you are a politically active person who likes to participate in demonstrations.

German law Das Vermummungsverbotb bans face coverings at demonstrations. This law is aimed to ensure that authorities can identify individuals in the event of violent behaviour during a protest.

Exception is for masks worn to prevent the spread of Covid, but main thing is for the wearer to be identifiable.

5. Insulting a police officer by the way you address yourself

If you don’t know the difference between “Sie” and “du” in German, now is the time to find out.

Although using the form “du” with a German police officer is not directly prohibited, it can (and often will) be considered an insult that constitutes an offense under Article 185 of the penal code.

6. Insulting in traffic

Insulting someone during a road interaction is an offense and fines can reach up to 4000 euros.

Fines depend on the insults said while driving. For example, judges imposed fines between 600 and 4000 euros for showing the middle finger.  Calling someone “dumme Kuh” (“stupid cow”) can cost 300 euros and “idiot” 1,500 euros.

Gestures such as sticking out the tongue, making a circle with the thumb and forefinger, or other obscene gestures also lead to individual fines, often several hundred euros.

7. Here is what you risk running out of gas on the highway

It is illegal to stop on the autobahn in Germany without a very good reason and not having enough fuel in your car is not one of them.

Drivers risk a fine of 35 euros for stopping on the autobahn for less than 3 minutes, and 70 euros for more than 3 minutes plus a point on their license.

The fines can be very expensive if the parked car endangers the traffic and leads to an accident.

8. Inattention of pedestrians

Jaywalking or als Fußgänger im Straßenverkehr unachtsam sein is the action in which pedestrians cross a road with traffic, other than at an appropriate crossing point, or otherwise, in disregard of traffic rules. 

This violation in German law will get you fined 5 to 10 euros on-the-spot.

9. Secretly recording voice

Under section 201 of the Penal Code in Germany, recording someone’s voice without consent could put you at risk.

Regardless of the content of what was said, unauthorized recording of the spoken words in situations where one does not speak in public is punishable.

The law is so strict that even the German authorities are not allowed to make secret audio or video recordings to investigate a crime.

10. Washing cars in front of the house

Depending on the state, washing your car in front of your house can get you a huge fine in Germany.

Despite the fact there is no blanket ban on washing cars on private property, the Federal Water Resources Act (das Wasserhaushaltsgesetz) makes contamination of groundwater punishable. Every state have their own regulations, which specify more details about washing cars on private property.

The states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia are particularly strict in this regard and issue fines starting at around 500 euros.

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