Sundays in Germany are almost like traveling back in time. Here you will find a entire day dedicated slowing down, resting, and being quiet.
One of the biggest culture shocks I had when moving to Germany was adjusting to Sundays in Germany. When I lived in States, I would usually do my grocery shopping for the week, clean the house, mow the lawn, and maybe even do some handy work around or outside the house. I was a bit taken back when I was informed about how quiet Germany is on Sundays, and how there are laws and regulations on maintaining peace and quiet.
A look into a Sunday in Germany
Perhaps one of my favorite things about Sundays has to be that sleeping in or even taking a nap during the day is totally acceptable. Even in big cities, you typically do not hear much movement outside until at least noon.
A lot of Germans typically walk very fast during the week to get to where they are going, but on Sundays they often go with their loved ones on slow Sunday strolls through the city center to look through the windows of closed shops, enjoy time in nature with a nice long walk through the forest or seaside on the beach. Long leisurely bike rides, spending time by the water, reading, or even enjoying tea and cake with family or friends.
Sundays have become one of my favorite days of the week, but it did take me a bit to adjust to the rules that are set in place to make this peaceful vibe possible. Keep in mind these vary from place-to-place in Germany, but the overall theme of Sunday is to not disturb others.
1. No Recycling on Sundays
All throughout cities and towns, you will find dedicated areas where you can recycle your glass. There are three colors for each color of glass. It is always very important that you follow the rules by sorting your glass into the proper colored container to ensure the recycling process goes smoothly.
While these containers are pretty efficient, and I honestly still enjoy getting to hear the glass bottles shatter as they drop in, this noise is absolutely forbidden on Sundays.
2. No Power Tools or Construction on Sundays
That’s correct, you cannot do any home renovations that involve drilling, sanding, sawing, or hammering on Sundays. This includes in your own apartment or outside of your home.
German walls are thick, consisting of brick and cement. They hold sound in very well, and you never have to worry about finding a stud to hang things on the wall. Even though the walls are extremely thick and hold sound in very well, deciding to pull your drill out on a Sunday to install your new curtains could mean a complaint to the police from your neighbor because they can hear or feel the vibrations in their apartment. However, you can still be productive on Sundays if you have renovations like painting that you just have to get done.
3. Working in the Garden on Sundays
When Spring and Summer arrive in Germany, you sieze any moment of sun you can. Gardens are a huge thing here in Germany, many people plant pollinator friendly scapes that are absolutely gorgeous. It is one of the many things I quickly fell in love with about Germany. Here, you do not have a yard, it is simply called a garden—even if you do not actually have a garden where you grow fruits and veggies.
In the States, it is not uncommon for your neighbor to start mowing early in the day on Sundays, but here in Germany the only garden work you should be doing is the quiet kind. That’s right, you will not hear lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, or weed eaters on Sundays.
4. Housework on Sundays
Of course, you can clean your house on Sundays but you should reconsider vacuuming or using the washing machine. That’s right, I said the washing machine! German washing machines spin super fast and their spin cycles are extremely loud. This has also taken some time for me to get used to, but on the flip side, my clothes are always really clean.
Sometimes your apartment contract will clearly state “no laundry on Sundays”. If you simply must clean on Sundays, it is always a good idea to check with your neighbors to make sure they will not be bothered by the sound of the vacuum or washing machine before you do it, and remember to keep the music down when you are cleaning.
But, honestly, I have come to enjoy taking the day off from having to do things around the house and now I much rather clean throughout the week and on Saturdays, because I know I can go out and enjoy the day on Sunday.
5. Shopping on Sundays
In general, you are very limited on Sundays when it comes to shopping. Honestly, it really depends on if you live on the countryside or in a bigger city, and in what region of Germany you live in as to what you have available to you on Sundays. Typically, it is wise to make sure you have all you need for cooking before Sunday.
If you live in a smaller town, kiosks and gas stations are open on Sundays. Here you can find some things like beverages, snacks, and tobacco products but you are very limited and these options are often extremely overpriced.
In bigger cities, like Berlin, you will find Spätkauf shops (literally translated to late purchase). Many of these shops are open late, sometimes even 24 hours, and on Sundays. They have a small selection of groceries including bread, fruits, meats, and cheeses but the prices are typically higher than what you would pay in the grocery store.
This cultural difference has come to be something I really cherish. I greatly enjoy being able to take things slowly and how generally quite things are on Sundays. If you are ever unsure about the noise of an activity, let’s say having a barbeque with friends and family, a good rule of thumb is to simply check in with your neighbors beforehand to ensure you do not get a complaint to the police or even find a lawsuit in the post.