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About Germany

Language: official language is German, but many other languages are spoken by minorities (Danish, Sorbs, Frisian, Low Saxon) and large immigrants communities (Kurds, Turks, Italians, Serbs, Poles, Croats, Russian). English is widely spoken.

A large number of ethnic German immigrants from former Soviet Union area, Poland  and Romania, which are automatically granted German citizenship and have been settled by the government throughout Germany, speaks, beside German, the languages of their former resident countries.

Currency: Since early 2002 the Euro has been the currency unit for most member states of the European Union, including Germany. The Euro is divided into the following denominations.

  • Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent ; 1 and 2 euro.
  • Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500

Time zone: Standard time zone is GMT + 1 hour. This means that when in London is 11 am in Berlin is 12 o'clock. Germany applies Daylight Saving Time during summer months. 

Electricity: In Germany is 220 volts, 50 Hertz. It is important to pay attention to the voltage system. Even though you've bought a plug adaptor, the different voltage may cause your expensive electrical appliances to cease functioning with a bang in a smelly cloud of blue smoke. If in doubt check light bulb at home or in a supermarket and read the information on it.

Electrical plugs: Type C and type F.

  • Type C: A two-wire plug, ungrounded, with two round prongs, commonly known as Europlug, is probably the single most widely used international plug. It will mate with any socket that accepts 4.0-4.8 mm round contacts on 19 mm centres. It is commonly used in all countries of Europe except United Kingdom and Ireland.
  • Type F Plug F, commonly called "Schuko plug", is similar to C except that it is round and has the addition of two grounding clips on the side of the plug.
  •  There is no on/off switch for powerpoints.

You can purchase round child safety plastic catches to plug in powerpoint. These are thin disks that only allow the wires to be accessed when you put a standard european electric plug in the socket.
Author's note: We rewired our Australian power boards with the European plug, and all our electrical devices have worked including lamps, laptops, phone chargers, etc. The only appliance that doesn't work is the bread maker, but the user is probably to blame rather than the voltage!
If you intend to use your electrical appliances from home, make sure that you buy the correct pin adaptor at home. While it is possible to buy adaptors that allow you to plug German electricals into Australian/Asian/American/etc powerpoints in Germany, it is impossible to find adaptors that go the other way.

Phone jacks:  The 22GER style telephone jack is by far the most common and is replacing all others. The 22GERO comes next, followed at a distance by the 22GERE which is only found in old East Germany.  Germany (as well as Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland) has "tax impulsing" (or metering pulses), a connection-disrupting noise pulse used to monitor the length of telephone calls for billing purposes, which was created before modems. Tax-impulsing  can cause data errors or even disconnects, therefore a tax impulse filter is recommended.

Mobile phone system: GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) digital mobile phone system is used for German mobile phones. Germany has four main competing digital phone standards, D1, D2, E2, and e-plus (all are GSM).

DVD zone: DVDs are Region 2. It is possible to buy multi-region DVD players. 

TV system: PAL system, like most of Europe. It is possible to get video recorders that play both NTSC (for Japanese and American videos) and PAL.

Measure system: metric.

Phone code: country code is 49

International phone calls

  • Calling Germany: IDD of the country you are calling from + 49 + city area code + phone number
  • Calling from Germany: dial 00 before the country code+area code+phone number.

Paper (Papier): The basic printer paper and folder paper size in Germany is A4.
Most "Schulblocks", school exercise books, and lecture pads are also A4. The paper is different though. Instead of having ruled horizontal lines printed across the paper, most exercise books have both horizontal and vertical lines forming a grid.
Smaller exercise books are available in A5. A "Vokabelheft", vocab book, has a line ruled down the centre of each page, presumably to write German words on one side and "foreign" words on the other.
Vokabelheft are also available in A6, as is an "Aufgabenheft", homework diary.
Art paper is available in multiple colours and thicknesses. The commonly available sizes range from 50x65cm, 50x70cm to 70x100cm.

Envelopes (Hüllen): Envelopes come in a range of sizes. Business envelopes are "DIN Lang", and measure 110x220mm. If you wish to send a bunch of A4 paper without folding it, buy either a DIN C4 envelope or a DIN B4 (which is a bit bigger). For general letter writing, envelopes come in DIN C6 114x162mm or DIN B6 125x176mm.

Pillows and Bed linens: Pillows and bed linen sizing in Germany took me completely by surprise! Double beds are very uncommon. Most double beds are made up of two single bed mattresses on a double bed frame. Each mattress is covered by an individual base sheet, and rather than one large duvet there are two separate single bed duvets. At least this style of sleeping puts an end to all those arguments over who steals the duvet!

It's not just the bed size that's different, but also the pillow size. European pillows measure 80cm x 80cm. It is also possible (but difficult!) to buy 40cm x 60cm pillows, and 40cm x 40cm cushions and covers.
The general sheeting (and duvet) size is 135cm x 200cm. This fits both a child's single bed and each mattress of the usual double bed.

"Übergrössen" (oversized) sheeting measures 155cm x 200cm.
If you own a "französisches Bett", a French bed - in other words a large double bed with one giant-sized mattress - then you will need a 220cm x 260cm base sheet.

A 200cm x 200cm duvet and cover will suffice. Both the bed itself, the base sheet, the duvet and the duvet cover are very hard to find, so you might want to stock up on bedlinen before moving to Germany if you are moving with your mattresses and pillows.

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