Getting to know Germany and its culture may be a little strange in many aspects: For example, many expats are surprised by traditional German foods, or how common it is for teenagers to drink (legally!). However, it’s not just German customs that might sound odd — there are many actual laws in Germany that are even weirder. But don’t be scared to get arrested for anything strange in Germany! We’ll give you a rundown of some of the weirdest laws in Germany so you can learn about some of the more peripheral dos and don’ts in the country.
- You can be nude in your car
- You can only address a police officer formally
- Don’t drink and bike
- It’s forbidden to keep urns at home
- Don’t run out of fuel on the Autobahn
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1. You can be nude in your car
Let’s start off with one of the more funny laws in Germany. While nudity is frowned upon in most countries in the world, Germany is famously known for its lax approach to people showing some skin. For example, nude beaches are a common occurrence, and going topless is more than common for German women. It may therefore not be fully surprising that you can absolutely be nude in your car — as long as you are not flashing anyone outside your car and you don’t get out.
2. You can only address a police officer formally
Learning the German language is hard and it doesn’t help that there is a formal and an informal way to address people. A good motivator to learn the difference between “Du” or “Sie” however may be the fact that you can be fined when addressing a police officer with an informal “Du”. Addressing a stranger informally can be considered rude in Germany, and since offending a police officer is a legal offense, you may get fined. So make sure you address officers with “Sie” and their surname.
3. Don’t drink and bike
While it absolutely makes sense to leave your car parked if you’ve had a drink, switching to biking may not actually solve the problem, since German law forbids you to drive anything while under the influence – including bikes. In rare cases, you can even lose your driver’s license when biking drunk, so make sure to always take public transport or a taxi home from parties. The same goes for electric scooters. There is a certain tolerance though so having a drink or two might be okay – be sure to look up the legal alcohol limits for riding bikes and scooters.
4. It’s forbidden to keep urns at home
Keeping urns with the ashes of loved ones in a special place is common practice in many countries, but in Germany, it’s actually punishable by law. In Germany, there is the Bestattungspflicht: The obligation to have a funeral for any deceased person. In addition, funerals have to take place in a cemetery, with the only exception being burials at sea.
5. Don’t run out of fuel on the Autobahn
You’d think that running out of fuel on the Autobahn may be bad enough, but wait until the police catch you and fine you for it, too! Yes, you read that right: Since it is illegal to stop on German highways for any invalid reason and running out of fuel is considered invalid due to the many gas stations around, having your car run out of gas costs you €70, in addition to having your car towed.
Strange laws exist everywhere and Germany is no exception. But don’t worry: As long as you don’t drink and bike, remember to buy fuel for your car and are polite to police officers, you won’t run into much trouble. In fact, German lifestyle and culture may be much stranger to expats than the laws are!
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Anne is a German freelance writer and communication consultant. In addition to her job, she is the founder and coach of the Dutch not-for-profit organization CLUB Coaching. Due to her work, she resides in both Germany and the Netherlands. Whenever her time is not occupied with communication in all its forms, she spends time with her six pets, gardening or being creative with fashion and design. You can follow her on LinkedIn.