Living in Germany
Germany has a lot of laws and rules that are sometimes difficult for us to understand, but if you know the reason why it is that way perhaps it will be easier to live with. Germany is about the size of Oregon with a population of about 80 million people (1/3 the population of the US). They must have laws in order to live so close together peacefully.
Monday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. there is a lunchtime quiet. In the evening you are not permitted to mow the lawn after 8 p.m. General evening quiet time begins at 10 p.m. SUNDAY ALL DAY (includes lawn mowing, car washing, loud children, stereo or radio (loud)--if it can be heard outside your dwelling or vehicle it is too loud.)
If you live in an apartment building, you cannot grill on the balcony, you must be at least 8 feet away from the building; depending on the direction of the wind, maybe further.
Windows and Stairwells
You must keep your stairwells and windows clean. If you don't have time to clean all your windows, at least clean the ones facing the street.
Garbage and Recycling
Germans are concerned about the environment, so you'll notice a significant difference between trash collection here and back in the States. For one thing, your trash and recycling are collected much less frequently--because you're expected to generate less of it.
In most communities, your refuse is collected once a week--and different materials are collected each time. Your city will provide the refuse containers. For example, your paper may be collected once a month at the beginning of the month, your biodegradables may be collected once in the middle of the month, and your trash may be collected the alternate weeks. The Housing Office or your landlord can give you specific information about your town's collection schedule and how to sort waste.
You must take glass to special collection centers or back to the store where you bought it. Many communities have receptacles set out for you to sort your glass-- clear, brown and green glass goes into different containers.
Hours of shopping are difficult to get used to at first. During the week, the shops stay open until 8 p.m. On Saturdays, they normally close about 4 p.m. Most shops do not open on Sundays, In January and July, the shops normally have an end-ofseason sale.
Flea markets are great fun as are the antique markets. The markets are quite festive and have lots of good food and drink as well as lots of "stuff" to see. They are usually held on the weekends and usually go until 4 p.m. There is a list of flea market dates and places in the Kabel magazine.
UNDERSTANDING GERMAN CUSTOMS
As a guest in another country, you are expected to be on your best behavior. Service members are unofficial "ambassadors in uniform." Understanding customs and courtesies is the first step towards getting along with your German neighbors and NATO partners. You are here to fulfill an important mission, but you can also enjoy yourself and the cultural experiences of Germany and Europe.
The German people are probably the world's greatest hand shakers. When you are introduced to a German person, you will be expected to shake hands_ It is also customary and polite to first introduce and shake the lady's hand. Germans also generally shake hands when they part. A nod of the head and a friendly "Guten Tag" (good day), "Guten Abend" (good evening) or "Auf Wiedersehen" (good bye) usually accompanies the handshake.
Germans will appreciate your efforts to learn their language. There are several sources to learn the German language. And there are many "friendship clubs," universities, and German Volkshochschule (Adult Education Centers) willing to teach you. You can also go to your local library and check out the language
tapes, or take a course at the Education Center. When you do try out your German, always use the polite form (Sie) and never the informal (du); children, though, will expect to be addressed with "du."
Germans may seem formal because they do not use first names as readily as Americans. The best practice is to use a German's last name until there is a mutual agreement to use the first name; however, this may never occur. If a German has a title. like a doctor or professor, he will probably use it and should be addressed as "Herr Doctor" (Mr. Doctor) or "Herr Professor" (Mr. Professor).
While older traditions permitted women to use the title of her husband, presently this is now only acceptable if the woman has the title herself, i.e. if the
woman is a doctor she may be called "Frau Doctor" (Mrs. Doctor), but if not, she is to be addressed as "Frau" and last name. Women should be addressed as Frau (Mrs), whether she is married or not. In present-day Germany, the word "Fraeulein" is banned as it may be perceived diminutive and derogatory by a woman. You will almost never be asked by a woman to address her as "Fraeulein."
There are some areas of sensitivity not always understood or appreciated by Americans. Germans are very punctual and may be displeased if you do not arrive in time for an appointment or a social gathering. Arriving 15 minutes late is an American habit that Germans find rude.
Perhaps the most frequent cause of accidental friction is German sensitivity about personal property - cars, homes, gardens, and so on. Leaning against a car or letting children run their hands along the sides of cars may bring an irate German to your side with a firm protest. A good general rule is: if it isn't your property, don't touch it. Be prepared to pay for damages - no matter how minor they seem to you.
Damage to rental housing is another example of German concern for property. The concept of "normal wear and tear" exists in Germany, but is interpreted much more strictly. You are expected to return property in approximately the same condition as you rented it.
STATUS OF FORCES AGREEMENT
The legal status of Americans stationed in Germany is governed by special international agreements including the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.
People stationed at overseas bases or posts must remember German laws apply to them, too. To protect yourself, know what rights you have as an American. Whether German authorities exercise their right of jurisdiction depends on the circumstances of the case.
German Polizei are empowered to fine you on the spot for lesser traffic offenses not associated with an accident. You must have a U.S. Army Europe certificate and a stateside personal driver's license (or a military or German license) to operate a USAREUR-registered car. Speed limits are often enforced by specially placed cameras, which snap clear pictures of speeding drivers and their vehicles. A few weeks later, you receive a speeding ticket in the mail, often through your unit.
U.S. personnel and family members are exclusively subject to trial by German court. In civil actions. German courts have jurisdiction over all parties,
regardless of nationality or status. You can sue or be sued in German courts in regard to such matters as breach of a lease or failure to pay debts. German authorities can also directly serve process for civil matters on service members and Department of Defense civilian employees and their family members.
Law enforcement authorities in Germany have the right to require U.S. personnel to identify themselves. You and your family members must carry your military ID card with you at all times.
Some German laws differ from those in the United States. For example, insulting the Federal Republic of Germany, one of its states or its constitutional order is against the law. Germans are very concerned about the environmert. Even a small amount of oil lost during an oil change can result in a heavy fine_ The best practice is to have oil changes done in a facility specially equipped for the work and capable of recycling or properly disposing of used oil. Drug abuse is considered a national problem and local laws are enforced vigorously. Even the possession of the smallest amount of illegal drugs can result in prosecution. Stringent requirements for registration and possession of weapons are strictly enforced to ensure compliance with USAREUR and U.S. Air Forces in Europe weapons regulations.