So it’s back to the mini-series with Part 2 of “Germany: What’s the difference?”!
Most people would say a week is broken into milestones and to demonstrate, here are a few typical expressions or comments:
Hump Day (Wednesday), TGIF (Friday) and then there are the Monday blues.
But in Germany, there is an additional component of the weekly milestones.
Sunday = Ruhetag (Resting Day)
Of course, in the US the intent is there. But in reality, what does Sunday mean for most people? It means running around to finish up errands. It means grocery and supply shopping for the upcoming week because Saturday was used for more interesting activities after a hard week of work.
But where the intent comes in is finding long lines at the stores at 4PM because they close at 6PM instead of 9PM or later. Furthermore, banks are closed and the post is not delivered. And this is the closest the US has come to a resting period.
In Germany, Sunday Ruhetag has been designated as a way to protect small businesses from the overt capitalistic possibilities of big businesses. So therefore, an entire country is literally shut down. In Frankfurt, one will see many, but not all restaurants are open. But in the villages, it’s quite literally the day of rest and all is closed.
This goes as far as to ban noise that comes from any sort of “work”. On this day, a neighbor has the right to complain about the sound of lawn mowing or nail drilling. The day is intended for peace and tranquility.
And I certainly feel a different vibe on Sunday. The neighborhoods are closed down, and even in the Bahnhofsviertel the typical liveliness that gives it its character is somewhat muted. And it’s quite a shock. Coming from NYC, where every day is a circus, Sunday Ruhetag had me stunned.
The simplicity of mandatory rest is well-intentioned but perhaps somewhat disillusioned. Germany is the currently the economic powerhouse of Europe, and to interfere in economic activity so blatantly seems backward.
In these past 6 months, there have been two or three instances of “Verkauksoffener Sonntags” which means shops can choose to open for limited hours on a Sunday. Fortunately, they came directly after moving to Frankfurt. M began to work on April 1st, and we arrived to Germany on March 27th. That gave us 4.5 days to sort out the most essential details before he began work, and having an open Sunday that week was incredibly useful.
Despite the shock of learning to make sure everything is purchased before 6PM, perhaps someday I will learn to not only accept but welcome a day when commerce is forbidden.
Thanks for reading! Happy Autumn!