In Germany, the Benefits of Rest and Quiet on Sundays

Germany holds to much the same Monday-to-Friday work week rhythm as the rest of the world, but on Sundays it skips a beat. This uber-efficient country, which puts more restrictions on Sunday activities than nearly all of its neighbors, nearly shuts down.

Laws regulating shopping hours and noise levels mean stores shut, lawnmowers fall silent, and woe unto him who flips the switch on an electric tool.

Sunday reflects the importance Germans place on quality of life, neighborly consideration and the need to unwind. The postwar constitution safeguards Sundays and recognized holidays as “days of rest and spiritual edification.” Most Germans use the day to get outdoors, visit friends or, hit the gym or pool. “Sonntagsruhe” is one term they use. It simply means “Sunday rest.”

Opening Sundays to shopping is fiercely resisted, mainly by churches and labor unions. Efforts by retailers and businesses to loosen the rules have also been unsuccessful. But a blan- ket prohibition was lifted in 2006, when states were allowed to designate a certain number of Sundays as open for shopping. In Hesse, where Frankfurt is located, four are permitted each year.

Anyone considering undertaking outdoor chores or home improvements will be in for a sur- prise. Regulations limit noise levels, forbidding the use of electric tools like drills and leaf blow- ers, as well as hammering, sawing and loud music. At recycling containers, it’s even prohibited to throw away glass jars and bottles on Sunday because of the noise.

Heavy trucks are banned from German roads on Sunday. The aim is twofold, says Jan Jurczyk of services union Verdi: To relieve streets and cities of noise and traffic, and to give drivers a break. “People who work weekends have trouble finding time to spend with family and friends, so Sunday shouldn’t be a work day for anyone unless it’s absolutely essential,” he says.

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