Good to know
- Police: 110
- Fire service: 112
- Ambulance: 112
- Poisoning (Poisoning information centre in Göttingen): 0551 / 19 240
- Emergencies and urgent medical care services (Ärztlicher Notdienst): 116 117
You lost your credit card, need directory assistance services, or lost track of all the different waste bins? For situations like these, we have put together some useful tips on everyday life in Germany.
A television licence fee is charged in Germany. As of 2013, the blanket contribution must be paid by all households regardless of equipment or actual usage. The fee is billed monthly or quarterly and used to fund public broadcasters that operate national and/or local television channels and radio stations. Exemptions or reductions may be obtained upon application. Further information can be found at www.rundfunkbeitrag.de (in German) and at www.germany.angloinfo.com (in English).
Though dubbing is standard on German television, cinemas often show films in their original language. They are labelled either "OV" (Originalversion - original version) or "OmU" (Original mit Untertiteln - original version with [German] subtitles).
A deposit of up to 25 Cents per bottle/can is charaged for most carbonated beverages at supermarkets and convenience stores. When you return the bottles or cans at reverse vending machines, labelled Pfandrückgabe or Leergutannahme, you get your deposit back in the form of a coupon which you can either use to pay for your groceries at the respective supermarket or simply exchange for cash at the till.
The national electric power transmission network (grid) in Germany uses the standard electrical voltage of 230 volt AC, 50 Hz. European standard plugs, or Europlugs, usually fit all sockets. However, depending on your home country, a plug adapter or transformer (voltage converter) may be needed to connect your electronic devices to German sockets.
To report and lock bank or credit cards that got lost or stolen: (+49) 116 116 (all cards)
Visa (International): 0800 / 811 8440
MasterCard (International): 0800 / 819 1040
American Express: 069 / 97 97 20 00
(Electronic) Cash Cards (Maestro): 01805 / 021 021
Diners Club (International): 01805 / 07 07 04 or 069 900 150-135/136
In Germany, shops and stores are usually open from 9:30 to 20:00 Mondays to Saturdays, while shopping malls may close at 21:00 or 22:00. Supermarkets open at 7:00 or 8:00 and close between 20:00 and 24:00. Small shops may close earlier, around 18:00 or 19:00, and on Saturday afternoons. Please note that on Sundays shops and supermarkets are closed. Petrol stations, corner shops/convenience stores (Kioske) and bakeries open on Sundays and on public holidays, although bakeries generally close before noon.
The following public holidays are observed throughout Germany:
- New Year: January 1st
- Good Friday: Friday before Easter
- Easter Sunday/Easter Monday: End of March/beginning of April
- International Labor Day: May 1st
- Ascension Day: May/June (40 days after Easter)
- Pentecost: May/June (50 days after Easter)
- German Reunification Day: October 3rd
- Christmas Eve: December 24th (starting in the afternoon)
- Christmas: December 25th and 26th
- New Year's Eve: December 31st (starting in the afternoon)
According to Germany's non-smokers protection law (Nichtraucherschutzgesetz), smoking is banned in all public places, including shops, public transport stations (where it may be allowed in designated smoking areas), airports and sports and leisure facilities. As the federal states each have their own smoking laws, smoking may be permitted in cafés, bars and restaurants. In Lower Saxony, however, smoking is usually only permitted in clearly designated separate rooms.
Apart from Deutsche Telekom AG, which operates the German telecommunications service and network in large parts of the country, there are other providers that may be less expensive. Most providers offer various deals for landline and internet services (WiFi is usually called WLAN in Germany). As charges for telephone calls vary it is worthwhile to compare prices. There are also many different mobile phone providers offering a variety of deals. Before signing a contract, please note that many providers stipulate a minimum contract period of 24 months, so you may want to check for deals with shorter contract periods.
Alternatively, you can get a prepaid SIM card. Again, different providers offer different deals, so comparing terms and charges is advisable. Prepaid SIM cards and top-up cards can be purchased at drugstores and supermarkets (at or near the checkout), at media and electronic stores, convenience stores and, of course, at the providers' stores too.
Tipping in Germany is slightly different to some other countries, where tipping may be higher or not common at all. Germans usually tip 10 percent, which may be rounded up to an even number. We generally give tips at restaurants, cafés, bars and hairdressers and for taxi rides or (food) deliveries. It is also very common to pay cash rather than by credit card, even at restaurants, and also to pay separately. Waiters will ask you "Zusammen oder getrennt?", which means "together or separately?", and if the answer is "separately" ("getrennt"), they will figure out the sum for each customer separately. Again, this is very common, so there is no need to feel uncomfortable about causing any inconvenience. Please note that waiters and waitresses often stay at your table while you pay.
Germans attach great importance to environmental protection. We separate and recycle waste using a waste separation system that includes different coloured bins: blue for paper, yellow for plastic, black for general waste and green for organic waste. Waste separation is a serious issue in Germany, so please be careful about what you put in which bin. Plastic and packaging materials are also collected in yellow recycling bags (Gelber Sack). You can get these recycling bags for free at some supermarkets or city authorities. Sometimes, however, it is required to use coupons (vouchers) for the exchange of bags. You can order these coupons either by phone via 0800 - 4842900 (free of charge) or online. You can then exchange the coupons for the bags at a supermarket, for example. Supermarkets often provide small boxes for the disposal of packaging materials and non-rechargeable batteries. Public containers for the disposal of waste glass and old clothes can be found at various locations in Oldenburg, as well as recycling depots for harmful substances, garden waste or electronic waste. The City of Oldenburg provides information on waste separation at „What to do with the waste?“ (also in Turkish, Russian and Arabic).
Waste Collection Calendar for the City of Oldenburg - enter the name of the street you live on (do not remove the ticks) and click on "Weiter". The Waste Collection Calendar will be displayed and can be downloaded. You might have heard about waste separation in Germany. Each waste bin has its own colour: paper - blue, plastic - yellow, general waste - black, organic waste - green). Waste separation is a serious issue in Germany, so please be careful about what to put in which bin.