Ruhe is a German word that literally translates to Peace. So Yes. Sunday is Rest Day. I do not know about the rest of Europe, but in Germany hardly anything is open on a Sunday. In addition to religeous reasons this is also for taking the interest of workers into consideration! How awesome is that?
The ‘Ladenschlussgesetz’ makes it a legal requirement to take rest on a Sunday in Germany! It has been around since the 1950s and has seen some restrictions gradually relaxed through the decades, but labour unions very strongly argue for the concept of Ruhetag to continue further in the name of worker’s rights and harmony.
When I first came to Germany, I found the idea of everything being closed on Sunday a bit strange. And by everything, I do mean everything; grocery stores, supermarkets, shops, everything! The only places you could find open are a few restaurants, bakeries, pickup stores at gas stations and maybe supermarkets at main train stations, but that’s pretty much it.
It’s taken me time to understand this, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced about the importance of Ruhetag. Many would say isn’t it ok or even better for business to take off on a weekday, something which is very common in countries like India. The market I lived close to in Delhi is closed on Mondays and bustling busy on Sundays to take advantage of the holiday footfall. But when you really think about it, is it really not a problem?
The important thing to understand about the Ruhetag is that it’s not just for a physical break from work. It’s meant to give you time to unwind, to spend a day with your friends or family, go out biking, hiking etc. etc. And what’s the point of a rest day which you spend alone at home on a random weekday when your spouse or loved ones are off to work and kids are in school. Now I am in no way saying that it is mutually exclusive and all of the rest day is to be dedicated to family and friends. Of course spending time alone with yourself is very important. But I hope my point and the theme of this post is understood and I don’t need to explain that in greater detail here.
Pharmacies are also closed but in case of emergencies, the ones in hospitals are obviously open 24×7. When it’s about necessity, it’s understandable for people to wish for open Sundays. But I’m sorry to say, grocery shopping, a weekend trip and buying ‘stuff’ you can buy on another day can never count as an emergency in my head.
In Wedel, the nearest Sunday open grocery store was about half an hour train ride away for me. In Darmstadt it’s much closer, just a 10 minute bike ride. But I don’t think I’ve ever made use of this option. Grocery shopping is always on a weekday and in case work’s too busy then on a Saturday. But knowingly or unknowingly Sonntag = Ruhetag is now engrossed in my way of life.
Ruhetag doesn’t mean we don’t go out on a Sunday (talking about times without lockdown obviously), it just means that when we do, it’s factored in our plan and budget. So we make sure to carry our own light snacks and water. Some of my favourite evenings in Germany have been spent watching the sunset by the river with fresh bread and hummus and a bottle of German wine. An under 5 Euro fiilling meal with a remarkable view that, in my honest opinion, trumps over any fancy restaurant. P. S. Germany is bread heaven so you can find ‘great’ bread from a corner bakery nearby or even the supermarket bakery. I am not a fan of the shelf packet bread, you would hate it too once you try out the wonderful variety of breads Germany has to offer. P. P. S. Some may call that cheap, but my bank balance disagrees and the word is frugal! Anyway coming back to the topic, if it’s Sunday and we know in advance that we wouldn’t have a supermarket open for picking up our DIY quick ‘on-the-move’ meal, we know we’d be eating out at a restaurant.
I don’t want this to be a long post, plus I probably do not even have the right words to write my mind out. But this is a topic I just randomly felk like writing about. The idea that 21st century Germany would follow this wellness regime of practicing Ruhetag (some would call this a bit far fetched, but is it… ?), even though it may be bad for business and borderline anti-consumerism is to me a sign of an evolved society walking the talk to promote work-life balance. The slight inconvenience, by a few people’s standards, is by choice and in general most people, including myself, are happy with the status quo.
Sunday also comes under the Ruhezeit law so one should avoid noisy household chores. You could be required to pay a hefty fine or dragged to court by a neighbour for seemingly harmless stuff like drilling, hammering, mowing your lawn, vacuuming or even using your washer and dryer, if you don’t respect the Ruhezeit stipulated in the House Rules or rental agreement.
So that’s it for today. Now I go and enjoy my Ruhetag! 🙂