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15 Interesting, Weird Laws in Germany

15 Interesting, Weird Laws in Germany

Germany is a dream destination with scenic landscapes, good pretzels, freshly brewed beers, and historic castles. Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt bring in millions of tourists each year alone. Each major city is beautiful and rich in culture. 

But you should beware, the country is also full of the weirdest laws! Some of these laws make total sense. But others are not what one would expect. Keep reading to learn more about strange and fun laws in Germany.

The Laws & Rules On Beer

Glassful of Beer

Germany is known for its beer, especially the iconic celebration known as Oktoberfest. Germany is typically loose in its alcohol restriction, allowing for a few interesting laws. 

Plus, you can’t have weird laws in Germany without throwing in a few rules about the Germans’ beloved beer! 

The 500-Year-Old Beer Purity Law

Pouring a beer on a glass
Gerrie van der Walt / Unsplash

This law might be as old as the country itself. This well-respected beer law is also known as Reinheitsgebot. In 1516, the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm IV brought the law into effect. 

The Beer Purity Law decrees that there shall be no other ingredients besides barley, hops, and clean water in a Bavarian brew. There have been some updates to this law, including the addition of yeast, so it isn’t entirely the same as in the beginning. 

Over 1,300 German breweries adhere to this law when brewing their beer. It is a law in high regard and shared among most German beer lovers. 

16-Year-Olds Can Drink Alcohol

Group of friends drinking
Elevate / Unsplash

Along with Belgium and Denmark, Germany made it legal for 16-year-olds to purchase alcoholic beverages with less than 1.2% distilled alcohol. They can consume beer or wine without a legal guardian or parent present. 

18-year-olds can purchase spirits (beverages with more than 1.2% alcohol) and drink without a legal guardian or parent. Even 14-year-olds can drink beer or wine if they have a guardian present. 

The drinking age is lower than in other countries, especially the United States. The German beer laws are typically more relaxed as Germans are trusted to use alcohol responsibly rather than drink irresponsibly all the time due to the lack of availability and strength of restriction. 

You Can Never Be Illegally Drunk During Oktoberfest

Beer festival with many visitors
nils juenemann/EyeEm / Abode Stock

I know it’s a strange law, but it’s real. It’s probably the best German beer law, and most party animals are grateful for the leniency during this popular celebration. 

This law says you cannot get fined for consuming alcohol, no matter the amount. Don’t get too excited, though. The rule no longer applies if you drive (or cycle) while intoxicated. 

Oktoberfest is one gigantic party of beer, beer, and more beer where you can drink as much as you like without becoming a bierleichen, or a “beer corpse,” as it is known. These people are usually passed out on the ground. 

You do not want to be one of those people. If you ever find yourself at Oktoberfest, remind yourself and your friends to avoid becoming a bierleichen. 

See Related: Best Breweries in Germany

The Law on Quiet Hours

Men Doing a Shush Hand Gesture

Germans are known to love their quiet time on Sundays. Even in public, obnoxious people will get many frowns and stares thrown their way by annoyed Germans.

It is best to keep the peace by letting Germans have their time of minimum noise level. Adhering to a few of these German laws will ensure that every German gets rest and a peaceful Sunday. 

Sundays Are For Resting 

Woman resting and enjoying her day with her dog
Roberto Nickson / Unsplash

Germans take their day of rest very seriously. On Sundays, all stores, shops, and restaurants are closed. Unsuspecting tourists may not know this rule and might wander into town looking for local shops to spend their money on but will only find those shops with closed signs. 

Making loud noises in your apartment can get you yelled at by an angry German neighbor or even a visit from the police. It is against the law to do any DIY projects in your home or on your property when it’s Sunday. If you have plans to mow the lawn, clean the house, or have many guests over, think again. 

Save Your Piano Skills For the Daytime

Mother and son playing piano
Paige Cody / Unsplash

Quiet hours are a real thing in Germany. Germany declared it illegal to play an instrument after midnight. Even though Germany encourages musicians to practice their art, living in an apartment can hinder them from practicing at night. 

This law applies specifically to piano tuning. It is strictly forbidden to tune a piano during quiet hours. If it happens, you will probably receive some angry knocks on your door or a passive-aggressive note left on your doorstep. 

Leave Your Creativity For the Weekdays

Couple doing a home renovation
Roselyn Tirado / Unsplash

Germany banned making loud, excessive noises during quiet hours, typically between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The time depends on the region. 

This ban includes any DIY projects or household cleaning that produces loud noises. Living in an apartment is a bit worse since neighbors are right there and can tell if you are running the vacuum, blasting music while you clean, or hammering away at a nail. 

If you have a creative burst and it’s a Sunday, you must be patient and wait for a day when it’s acceptable for maintenance or cleaning. 

Rules of the Road

Woman Driving

In Germany, the autobahn has no speed limit. It is quite a wild idea but proves safe and useful for reducing unbearable traffic jams. 

The freedom to drive without limits comes with the responsibility to follow the rules to keep drivers safe.  I’ve laid out a few of the more interesting laws in Germany dealing with road etiquette. 

Driving on the Speedy Autobahn  

German Autobahn During Day
VanderWolf Images / Adobe Stock

Running out of gas on the highway is excruciatingly annoying for the driver. In Germany, it is just as annoying for other drivers, causing them to slow their speed to accommodate a slow-moving vehicle inching its way closer to a gas station. 

It is illegal to stop on the autobahn without a valid reason. Unfortunately, running out of gas is not on the list of excellent reasons for stopping on the autobahn. 

It is recommended to fill your tank up before you hit the autobahn, or you may risk running out of gas and angering yourself, fellow drivers, and the lucky police officer who gives you a ticket. 

Don’t Drink and Bike! 

Man having fun biking
Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

Driving a car while drunk is a big no-no. But in Germany, even riding a bicycle while intoxicated can get you into serious trouble with the law. 

If someone is caught cycling and drinking (or already drunk), police officers will stop them and confiscate their license if necessary. It can be challenging trying to get it back. So, if you are under the influence, walk or call an Uber. Your sober self (and license) will thank you later! 

The Crosswalk 

Man crossing a Crosswalk
青 晨 / Unsplash

Foreigners always seem to make this mistake. Crossing the road when it isn’t your time is a huge mistake in Germany. It is illegal to do it, and jaywalkers can face fines when they use the pedestrian crossing at the wrong time. If it isn’t green, stay put! 

You’ll get a €5 fine (or more) or even scolded by other Germans who frown upon jaywalkers (they like to set an example for the children). 

See Related: Public Transportation in Germany

Your Car, Your Rules (Or Not So Much)

Man Wearing a Cap and Driving

The German autobahn is famous for allowing drivers to drive as fast as they desire. Cars can drive down the road, going 200 miles per hour. 

You Can Be Naked In Your Car

Car in Taxi at night
Vasyl S / Unsplash

Public nudity is such a taboo topic in most countries. This isn’t the case in Germany. This funny German law views your car as your private space, allowing you to drive in your birthday suit. 

However, it does come with limits. As long as you are not flashing anyone on the road, you won’t be stopped by police officers.

It is even becoming more accepted to be nude in cities like Berlin as long as you are not offending anyone.  If you’ve dreamed of driving down the highway in the nude with the wind blowing through your hair, then Germany is a good place

No At-Home Car Washes

Car washing a black car
Clément M / Unsplash

Washing your car will most likely have to be an activity reserved for car washes or in designated areas since German law says no one is permitted to wash their car at home. 

This law makes sense once you understand the reasoning behind it. When you wash a car, the chemicals from the soap can get into the water system underground. German authorities banned car washing at home to prevent those issues. 

Keeping your car clean is essential to making it look shiny and beautiful. So, please take it to a car wash to get it professionally done, or find a self-service car wash. 

The Laws Every Tourist Needs to Know

Tourists on the Side of the Streets of a Historical Site

Many interesting and weird German laws make for an entertaining read. But knowing these laws have practical value too. 

If you’re planning a trip to Germany or want to in the future, make sure you keep these German laws in mind. 

Watch Your Language!

Old man gasping and covering his mouth
krakenimages / Unsplash

Mastering the German language can be difficult, and even natives still mix their “du” and “sie” when speaking to adults. 

It’s illegal to address a police officer informally, and it could land you a fine. The word “du” is considered more informal and isn’t used with strangers, so if you address a police officer this way, you may get more than a disapproving look. 

See Related: What Languages Are Spoken in Germany?

Beware of Recycling Incorrectly 

Trash and Recycling Bins in Germany
Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock

Some laws in Germany make sense, like mandatory waste separation and recycling. It’s great for the environment; many other countries could benefit from this process. 

Many tourists find themselves confused when figuring out where to throw their trash. It doesn’t help that there are multi-colored bins for separate items

Germany requires everyone to separate their waste into bins in blue, green, yellow, black, or brown. Each bin is designated for a type of waste (plastic, glass, paper, household, etc.). 

Learning to throw away your waste properly is an absolute must if you’re planning a visit. It also gets much easier the more you do it. 

Never Show the Nazi Salute

Man receives a middle finger for doing the Nazi Salute
Evan Nesterak / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

Not only is it highly insensitive, but it is prohibited, too. Many Germans still feel a sense of guilt over the events of World War II. It’s disrespectful for someone to mock the events that occurred. 

Swastikas and SS sig runes symbolize anti-constitutional organizations that are banned from being sold or used in Germany. The Nazi salute is also banned and forbidden in public. 

Breaking this law can be punishable with a fine or up to three years in jail, based on the severity of the offense. So, even if your intentions aren’t evil, it is best not to joke around while touring Germany. Settle for some good beer jokes instead! 

Skip the Pillow Fights

Couple in a Pillow Fight

If you are planning a trip to Germany and to bring your favorite pillow, leave it in the hotel room so you aren’t tempted to smack anyone with it. 

German law classifies a pillow as a passive weapon, meaning it could be used to cause harm to an individual, leading to assault charges. 

If you were to go out in public with your pillow and happened to come across a rude person, you might get the urge to engage in a pillow fight (where you are the only one with a weapon).  Not everyone likes pillow fights, so it’s best to leave your fluffy pillow at home.

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