For members


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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For members


Living in Germany: International train routes, ‘Wurst’ idioms and high salaries

In our weekly roundup, we look at train routes through Germany and far beyond, difficult-to-translate German phrases and how much you need to earn in Germany to be considered well-off.

Living in Germany: International train routes, 'Wurst' idioms and high salaries

Travelling by train in Germany and beyond

After the stress of the past few years with Covid and a turbulent 2022, people are excited to get out and explore. So there’s been lots of excitement in the past few weeks as we’ve discovered new international train routes connecting more parts of Germany with the rest of the world. For instance, starting at the end of March, Sweden’s national railway SJ is extending its night train to Berlin.

The company launched its night train between Stockholm and Hamburg in September last year, but it will soon stretch the EuroNight service to Berlin, which is great news.

But it’s not just northern Germany that’s benefitting from new routes. The southwest also has new daily services with sleeper cars to transport people to exciting destinations further south. For instance, there’s a new Nightjet service starting at the Baden-Württemberg capital and heading to Göppingen, Ulm and Augsburg before ending up in Venice. We chatted more about international train travel in the Local’s Germany in Focus podcast this week – check it out here.

Tweet of the week

We’re visiting the world of football this week, because this tweet demonstrates how German idioms can be a little confusing to non-native speakers… and often do include a reference to “Wurst”.

Where is this?

Photo: DPA/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

As winter weather returned abruptly to Germany this week, this photo shows the remaining water of the Forggensee in the snow. The reservoir, fed by the River Lech, is drained for the winter season. The lake is also known as the Roßhaupten Reservoir and lies north of Füssen in Ostallgäu, Bavaria.

Did you know?

You might be wondering how much you have to earn in Germany to be considered well-off. Of course, that depends on where you are living, whether it’s the likes of Hamburg or Munich – where the cost of living is higher – or a smaller town. Plus an income doesn’t bring in other assets that rich people often have, like more than one property or shares.

One of The Local’s journalists Aaron Burnett recently dug up the most recent figures (from the end of 2021), which found that a single person bringing in €3,700 a month after taxes qualifies as rich as Germany – because it puts them in the top 10 percent of earners. For a couple without children, the combined salary is €5,550.

Meanwhile, the Institute for German Economy (IW) data says that a net monthly salary of €4,560 would place a single person in the top one percent of earners. And for a couple without children, it amounts to €7,190.

However, the Labour Ministry sees it differently. It says that anyone who earns triple the average monthly net German salary (€1,900) qualifies as rich – that would amount to €5,700 per month.