And In State-Sanctioned Xenophobia News…

A new installment in our recurring segment:

Guess What I Just Found Out Was Illegal in Germany?

  • Getting out of a car stopped on the side of the highway without wearing an orange safety vest
  • Driving a car without having an orange safety vest available for emergencies
  • Facebook’s ‘Like’ button (if present on commercial websites)
  • Importing vitamins via mail (don’t get me started about how I found this out. Hint: the custom’s agent’s last words to me were ‘Please leave. Now.’)
  • Doing anything without carrying appropriate identification. For non-Germans, this means that you are required to carry your passport at all times. It’s a bit too yellow-star-on-the-chest for me, so I don’t do it. Wow, Bets, way to stick it to the man! Hmm, yeah, I might not be bettering the world through my flouting of this law, but I haven’t misplaced my passport, either, so I think we’re even.

And guess what’s legal in Germany?

  • Riding a bicycle without a helmet
  • Having a kid in the car without a carseat (if all other restraint devices – seat belts – are already in use)
  • Raw-milk cheese
  • Prostitution
(Note: best not to look for a theme in the list above, ok?)

Other things that I find surprising:

  • You can pay traffic and pedestrian fines immediately, in cash, directly to the police officer who’s writing you the ticket
  • All tax returns are audited. 100% of them!
  • Daylight savings time ends a week earlier in Germany than in the U.S.
  • Germany’s immigrant population is analogous to that of the U.S.: 10% of people living in Germany were born elsewhere. The population of Turkish-born people in Germany is the same percentage of Mexican-born people in the U.S.
  • It is illegal for an elementary student who is a German native speaker to take a Turkish language class at his/her elementary school. When this state regulation was questioned, the response was that there were not enough Turkish-speaking teachers. I call bullshit.


Oh, Germany, sometimes I’m not such a huge fan of you and your regulations, and it about kills me that the only way that I’ll be able to effectively lobby for meaningful change is to  learn fluent German*. Aargh, the irony**!


*As opposed to my current level of German fluency, which is limited to food- and pregnancy-related present tenses.

**Irony: still legal at press time.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *