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Thursday, May 14, 2015

An American's Reaction to Holidays in Germany

In terms of public holidays, Germany and the U.S. are fairly similar with around 10 public holidays each (the actual number depends on the specific U.S. state or German Bundesland). However, Germany takes public holidays much more seriously than the U.S.

So, on German public holidays like today (Christi Himmelfahrt - Ascension Day), the following situation is embarrassingly common:








When the Germans have a holiday, that means everyone gets a holiday -- even the cashier at the grocery store and the barista at the coffee shop. Considering that I have memories of shopping at Walgreen's on Christmas Day and buying last-minute groceries on Easter morning, Americans definitely have a different perspective on what "public holiday" means.

And no matter how long I live in Germany and respect the fact that everyone deserves the day off, I will still act shocked and appalled whenever I feel the urge to go shopping on a Sunday or a holiday and realize that I cannot. 

Germans: Do you wish stores were open on Sunday/holidays?
Americans: Do you think shop owners/workers deserve holidays off? What about Sundays?

17 comments:

  1. Ami SchwabenlandMay 14, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    It's also Father's Day in Germany today! Father's Day is always on Ascension Day - so fathers get an additional day off. Mother's Day is on a Sunday, which is already a day off. Hm.


    As an American living in Germany, I LOVE it that the stores are closed on Sundays and holidays. (I know it's easier for me because I'm a freelancer an I can shop during the week when I need to.) This could never happen in the U.S. where holidays are opportunities for stores to earn extra money by advertising sales "in honor" of the day. It used to be that way, though. My mom remembers when most places were closed on Sundays and families spent the day together.

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  2. "Father's" Day, which the Germans also like to call "Men's" Day. Ridiculous. There are currently groups of young men (teens and twenties) roaming around my neighborhood already drunk at 2 in the afternoon. Where is the women's day when we get to stroll around town drunk in the afternoon?!


    Anyways, I do also think it is simply due to the hyper-commercialism in the U.S. A pity, I agree. Yet, I do also sometimes miss the convenience. Grocery shopping in Germany on the evening before a public holiday is MADNESS.

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  3. Ami SchwabenlandMay 14, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    Indeed! We're usually ready to go at least 3 days before a holiday, but I had to go last night for the hamburger buns I forgot. Ugh.


    I'm glad we live in a small (teeny) town, because all I've seen today are fathers going on walks with their families. We're staying off the roads today, though - drunk driving incidents are something like 3x the usual.

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  4. As a German living in the US, I have come to get used to being able to run errands any damn day I please... but, if I could make the decision, I think every worker deserves the public holidays (and Sundays) off (don't get me started on the Thanksgiving shopping hell here where people have to work ON THANKSGIVING DAY to accomodate the sales rush! Ridiculous!). It seems "unfair" that only a small percentage of the population (e.g. federal and state workers) actually get (all) public holidays. I am lucky enough that I do (or I would complain more about it!).

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  5. Whether it is in Germany, Spain, France or wherever, if the "holiday" is a "holy day" such as today, then if you take the day off you better be going to church! Otherwise it is hypercritical!! At least not everything is closed in Germany as it is in Spain and France...you can still go to the gym!

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  6. The same here in Iceland. I remember my first Easter here and I was so surprised to hear that everyone had the day off!

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  7. Ami SchwabenlandMay 16, 2015 at 12:22 AM

    I don't agree. I'm not telling my employer I won't show up because it's a holy day. The office/store is closed because it's a federal/state holiday. I can't go to work even if I'd want to. That doesn't obligate me to go to church, but I'm glad that those who want to do so may.

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  8. Like Ami Schwabenland said, it is a federal holiday. So, everyone that gets the day off can do what they want. Also, in Northern Germany, the majority of people are actually non-religious as well. So, I do not think many people even consider the fact that the holiday has religious roots anymore.

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  9. Yeah, you're right. Although, down there in Schwabenland, it is probably the case for a majority of the population. Here in Northern Germany religion is much less popular, and I don't know a single person who would be going to church for Christi Himmelfahrt.

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  10. We were thinking of going out next mothers day just like men do in Germany but maybe not get too drunk (and since it doesn't have to be "fathers only" you are more than welcome to join). :)

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  11. It takes some getting used too, but I think that everyone having the day off is fair.

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  12. My husband and I live in Germany right now (American Expats), and at first, everything being closed on Sunday was a huge hassle. Without a doubt, I would forget a crucial ingredient for a recipe and not realize it until I was half way though making it. I have come to accept it, but that does not mean I still don't find it frustrating. If essential stores were open even for only a few hours on a Sunday, that would be a huge improvement.

    Feel free to check out our expat/travel blog: http://www.submergedoaks.com/

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  13. But it's actually quite sad that our American minds work that way, isn't it?

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  14. You say "it would be a huge improvement," but that insinuates that the German system is broken, or worse than the U.S. Don't you think maybe consumerism has gotten out of hand, considering we find it such a big inconvenience for stores to be closed just one day per week?

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  15. That's a good point Courtney. I wasn't trying to imply that the German system is broken. But it would be helpful if ''essential stores'' like a droggerie, supermarket, or apothek had some sort of opening hours on a Sunday, even if it was only from 11 - 2.

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  16. That's true. But you can buy tampons and milk as the gas station, which is open on Sunday!

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  17. Bavaria is very Catholic. I remember when my family was there in the 60's that on Holy Days was always a parade. usually with the statue of Mother Mary wobbling on the platform as She was taken down the street. Schools were closed also. I think that it is great that the stores are closed. I wish that we could do that in this country. However, it would never work in this 24/7 society.
    I live in a very small village in northwest Montana. our one grocery store closes at 7:30 pm. but the 3 bars are always open. lol

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