Sunday in Germany is quiet. Too quiet, if you ask me. Of course, no one has; and, any time I’ve expressed this opinion on the Internet, every German online will suddenly appear to tell me I’m wrong. And a stupid consumerist American.
Sometimes, they even throw in a “go back to America!” for good measure.
I’ve learned to tolerate Sundays in Germany. I don’t enjoy that so many things are closed, but it no longer bothers me, as you can see from this blog post dedicated entirely to the subject.
For those who aren’t aware: shops and grocery stores are closed on Sundays in Germany. As is the case with many laws that seem out of place in our modern world, this one has its roots in religion. In the Christian faith, Sunday is a day of rest. With Article 139, the German government ensured that their citizens would have Sundays free to attend church services and spend time with their families.
Sonntagsruhe (Sunday rest), you see, is heilig in Germany.
There are exceptions, and not all of them are for (what I would consider) essential workers. Waiters and cooks work on Sundays. So do baristas. Museum employees, bakers, theater employees, and even florists can work on Sundays.
Why don’t these workers also get to rest on Sunday?
The answer, of course, is that Sundays would be a lot less enjoyable if they weren’t working. The Germans who roll their eyes at the stupid Amis for complaining about restricted Sundays would probably see things a little differently if the only things they could do on Sunday is attend church, visit friends and family, or go for a walk.
Those who can legally work on Sundays are protected by other labor laws; they will get time off on another day. Store employees would also get time off if they had to work on Sundays.
So, who are the Sunday laws really for? If restaurants are essential on Sundays, then why aren’t grocery stores?
I’ve yet to receive a straight answer. The conversation always goes one of two ways:
I ask why shops are closed on Sunday, and I’m told that it’s to protect workers and give them a day of rest. I then remind them of all the non-essential workers that have to work on Sundays, and they either shrug their shoulders and change the subject or they get angry and change the subject by bringing up American consumerism.
Which, OK. Fair enough. But, when that happens, I can’t help but wonder if they’re one of the Germans who go absolutely bananas when their city has a Verkaufsoffener Sonntag, or Sunday shopping. These happen a few times per year in each German city and they’re like a shopping-themed festival. In addition to stores offering discounts, most of the usual festival stands appear in the city center. Well, they do here in Wolfsburg, anyway.
There’s also entertainment. The last Verkaufsoffener Sonntag I attended in Wolfsburg was about two years ago. Not only were the festival stands up on our one busy street, there was a bike trick show in the mall.
For me, the shops being closed really isn’t a big deal. I honestly hate shopping. Just ask my husband, who has to remind me to use gift cards whenever I receive them. I’ve needed new shoes for a year now, but the mere idea of shopping, even online, makes my body go limp from the boredom that hasn’t even begun.
I would, however, like the option to go to the grocery store on Sundays. I’m only human. Sometimes, I forget to buy something on Saturday and then the entire meal plan for Sunday is ruined. And anyone else who was in Germany for Christmas 2015 knows how post-apocalyptic things can get when the holidays and the Sunday shopping ban line up juuuuust right.
Do I want things to be like they are in America? Absolutely not. Workers have zero protections in the US, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Germans enjoy protections and benefits that American workers can only dream of.
I do, however, think that the non-essential workers who already work on Sundays prove that it is possible to loosen Sunday restrictions without hurting anyone.
Is it necessary to have shopping on Sunday? No. But is it technically possible? Yes.
All I want is some consistency; or, an admission that some things don’t make sense in this supposedly logical country.