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Inside Germany: Grundgesetz, citizenship language requirements and vomit toilets

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Inside Germany: Grundgesetz, citizenship language requirements and vomit toilets
A German dictionary. What level of language do you need for citizenship. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

From a tense atmosphere at a ceremony to mark 75 years of Germany's constitution to citizenship language requirements and a vomit toilet, here's what The Local team has been talking about in Germany this week.

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Inside Germany is our weekly look at some of the news and talking points 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.

Grundgesetz anniversary sparks warning to safeguard democracy

Thursday marked 75 years since the the founding of Germany's constitution - known as the Grundgesetz or Basic Law.

With the assistance of the Allied powers, West German states formulated the Grundgesetz over a number of conferences in 1948 following the devastation of the war. It fully came into effect on May 23rd, 1949 and was adopted by all German states after reunification in 1990. 

READ ALSO: What does Germany's Basic Law really mean?

Although it doesn't include the word 'Verfassung' (constitution) in it, the Basic Law contains all the features of a constitution and has functioned effectively as one for decades. 

Various ceremonies are being held over the coming days to mark the anniversary of the document that has shaped modern-day Germany. 

Even though the annual celebrations are always proud moments for the country, it's clear that there is a tense atmosphere. 

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During a high profile event on Thursday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that democracy was not guaranteed in future, and said there could be tough times ahead. 

"After decades of more prosperity, more democracy, more Europe, more freedom, the success of German reunification, we are now experiencing an epochal transformation," Steinmeier said, referencing how Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine had brought war back to Europe. 

He urged for courage to face the challenges ahead, saying: "We have to assert ourselves, with realism and ambition."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses guests during the state ceremony as part of celebrations to mark 75 years of the German Constitution in front of the Chancellery and Reichstag building (background) in Berlin, Germany on May 23rd.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses guests during the state ceremony as part of celebrations to mark 75 years of the German Constitution in front of the Chancellery and Reichstag building (background) in Berlin, Germany on May 23rd. Photo by Liesa Johannssen / POOL / AFP

The president also outlined how concerned he was about recent political violence in the run up to the European elections being held in Germany on June 9th. 

"We have received news of physical attacks on elected officials and politically active people almost every day," he said.

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"I am deeply concerned about the coarsening of political life in our country."

READ ALSO: German president decries violence in politics after attacks

German toilets get weirder...

Now onto a bar in Koblenz that has installed a 'Brech-Platz' or 'vomit space' toilet high on the wall. Perhaps it's genius?

Germany in Focus 

On the latest episode of the Germany in Focus podcast, we invite special guest Avalon Pernell into the booth to talk about culture shocks that people from the US face when they come to Germany (including the food!). We also get into the maze of trying to secure therapy in Germany and why it's so hard, the outlook for the self-employed and freelancers and the new campaign for German citizenship.  

What level of language do you need for German citizenship?

Anyone getting ready to apply for German citizenship will have to think about their language skills. 

That's because for most routes to naturalising in Germany, you need to have a certain level of German - and some things are changing in light of the reform. 

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As regular readers will know, from June 27th holding multiple citizenships will be allowed in principle, and the required residency period will drop from eight years to five years on the standard route for naturalisation. 

But one thing that won't change on the standard route (at least for the majority of people) is language requirements. You'll still need to have passed a B1 level exam. 

As Aaron Burnett wrote in one of our most-read stories this week, "B1 is the third level out of a possible six and someone who has achieved it is classified as an 'independent user' under the Common European Framework for Languages."

"This means the speaker can handle most aspects of their daily life - shopping, getting around, and basic topics around work, school or living."

A big change coming up is that applicants who can show exceptional effort to integrate into Germany - or who have made big contributions to German society - could be eligible to naturalise after just three years on the new fast-track route.

But these applicants will have to show they can speak German at C1 level - the second highest level possible. 

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"C1 speakers are typically able to understand longer and more challenging texts - including those that are not within their area of expertise," wrote Aaron. "They can also express themselves fluently on complex issues and even make academic arguments that follow a certain structure."

There are also some routes that don't require such a high standard of German. Check out the full article here.

Lastly...

A few German states enjoy a public holiday on Thursday May 30th for Fronleichnam or Corpus Christi. Residents in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland will likely have a day off work or school. Remember to get your shopping in beforehand! 

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