follow the rules

That stereotype about Germans loving order…I’m feelin’ like it’s pretty true.

Respect for order as well as steadfast rule-following is paramount.

Now, before you get testy, I realize that all Germans are not fanatical rule followers.   Also, I’m not intending to paint Germans as overly rigid people.  Most of the Germans I’ve met have been warm, friendly, lovers of leisure and fun loving.


Public Transportation

Many native Berliners gasp and admonish you if you suggest riding the U-bahn with an unvalidated ticket, or even one stop ticket-less.  The penalty for such reckless behavior is a 40 euro fine.  While it’s certainly a deterrent, it’s not such an outrageous sum that I don’t continue to ride all rebellious-like with unvalidated tickets sometimes.  Don’t tell please. I’m too fond of getting a 2-way journey for the price of 1.

Then there’s parking tickets

In much of the city, parking is a rare commodity.  Additionally, many parking garages and meters charge up the wazzoo. However, parking illegally will cost you a whopping 5 Euro.  In many cases, paying the 5 euro ticket will cost less than actually paying for legal parking.  Even more bizarre is the 15 euro fine you’ll receive if you pay for legal parking, but overstay your time.  Yeah.  Imagine paying a few euro at the meter, arriving back to your car late and seeing a lovely 15 euro ticket.

Compared to parking fines in Australia or America, these penalties are paltry.  I think this speaks to some part of the German psyche which recognizes that merely being caught in violation of the rules is almost penalty enough.  Exorbitant fines seem to be unnecessary to maintain law and order.

Check out this article.  In Potsdam (near Berlin), a new initiative has been enacted in which the police are giving out tickets without fines.  If you are parked illegally, you might come back to find a slip of paper that essentially says “Lucky you! Next time you’re in trouble!”.  If this works, I’ll be dumbfounded.

Here’s another example of order and rule following….

The Garbage

Recycling and proper garbage disposal is taken quite seriously.  Just look at each of the bins at the apartment complex.  You better sort out your paper, from your plastics, from your bio waste, from your green glass, from your brown glass, from your…well you get the picture.  I’ve even heard that garbage police will come around every now and then to inspect the bins and make sure everyone’s sorting properly.

the many bins

 Even on the streets there are large recycling containers for your bottles, and other glass items.

white, green and brown glass

I was running past these the other day, when I actually stopped to read the label.  I found something interesting.

pay attention to the time

That’s right, there’s actually regulations on when you can use these.  In what I assume is a protection against clanking glass noise pollution, it’s forbidden to dispose of your recyclables here between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, after 8 pm, and never on Sundays or holidays.

I suppose it makes sense, but I was still surprised.

I’m still trying to figure out where this love of regulation stems.  Perhaps it speaks to the community mindedness that Germans have.  Rules are needed for a community to thrive, so one has a responsibility to uphold them for the common good.  Conversely, in America, an individual obsessed nation, there is far less importance placed upon one’s duty to the community.  Higher fines may be necessary in the US to force individuals to follow the rules.

I’m not sure if there’s anything in that hypothesis, but if you are German and would like to enlighten me, suggest alternatives, discuss this I would sooooo love that.


6 thoughts on “follow the rules

  1. I love the different bins at the apartment! It reminds me of my childhood best friend who created the same thing in her house when we were in elementary school. Even though she’s Chinese, maybe there is some German in her somewhere 😉

  2. I wonder if the real penalty for illegal parking is getting towed after a few cheap tickets. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.
    Couldn’t U-bahn tickets be cheaper if everybody paid? Just sayin’.
    I need to invent a quiet bottle bin & make a million bucks!

  3. I think their austere society from the beginning has fostered and valued discipline, order, teamwork, unity, and devotion to precision. Any violation of laws and rules tends to make things less precise and “messy”. Love your observations and the companion photos 🙂

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