Sundays in Germany

When we initially arrived in Germany, it was a Saturday morning. Jet lagged, we got acquainted with our temporary apartment, napped, and woke up in time to have dinner with a friend. At the restaurant, I asked our friend where we could pick up some groceries and told him, since we were so tired, we’d probably go to the store tomorrow.

He said, “Oh, no, you have to go tonight. All stores in Heidelberg are closed on Sundays.”

“What? I can’t shop on Sundays?”

Forbidden Sunday shopping

As it turns out, all grocery and other retail shops are closed. Gas stations are open, and for part of the day, a few select bakeries are open. I’ve heard that pharmacies have a rotation, so if you have an emergency, you can go to your pharmacy and see a notification on the door that tells you which pharmacy is open that day. (Oh, and our pharmacies are not like CVS or Walgreens. They only sell medication. I’ll write more about that another day.)

The U.S. is a very comfortable, convenient place to live, and you really realize this when you find yourself planning for everything you may need on a Sunday. Do I have all of my ingredients for dinner? Am I stocked on every possible medication I could need?

Given the limited storage space most German apartments have in this area, I wonder if people stock up on goods. We are extremely fortunate to have a “kellar” storage unit. I’ve stocked away a few essential items down there (e.g. medications, toilet paper, soap) in case my American brain forgets that I can’t get something 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or if an unforeseen German holiday pops up when, again, all of the stores are closed.

What's sadder than a closed bakery? Probably the person taking the picture of the closed bakery.

On our arrival night, I remember asking our friend, “So, if everything is closed, what do you do on Sundays?” I guess I was afraid of not having anything to do. He said he didn’t seem to have a problem and that you’d be surprised how a day can pass you. I was skeptical, but now I see it’s actually pretty nice.

Since we moved into our permanent apartment, we’ve spent nearly every Sunday cooking meals that are very intricate and take at least an hour (though, usually several hours) to simmer or cook. We received two Julia Child cookbooks for Christmas and have made many difficult, yet extremely delicious, meals from them. I’ve found filling the house with wonderful aromas is a great way to pass winter Sundays.

What's happening in the kitchen today?

Last Sunday, there were enough leftovers, so we didn’t need to cook. Also, Chris planned to spend the day working on a presentation he had to give the next day. So, I decided to cuddle up on the couch with my computer and catch up on some tv shows.

Chris came in the living room and asked me what I was going to do for the day. “Just this,” I said. “It’s my day of rest.”

He hesitated. I knew that he wanted to say, “Rest from what? You’re a self-proclaimed lady of leisure.” But instead, (while shaking his head) he closed the door and let me enjoy my German Sonntag.


19 responses to “Sundays in Germany

  1. Loved your Sunday of Leisure Day! I can remember those Sundays before it all went to practically 24/7. Probably a little hard to get used too. The bakery being closed is the worst!!!

    • Thanks!! Luckily, there is a bakery around the corner that is open, so I like going there on Sunday mornings for fresh bread. I had Chris pick me up a big pastry yesterday from another bakery I like so I could have some leftover for today. 🙂

  2. LoL… it’s fun to see the reverse side. When I was in the US, I was always surprised that we could go grocery shopping on Sundays. 😉 I always felt bad for the people that had to work on Sunday.

    • Yeah, I do feel very bad for people who have to work on Sunday and especially on holidays in the U.S. As a shopper in Germany, It’s really not that bad as long as you can plan ahead. I hope you get your chance to return to the U.S.!

      Thanks for following!

  3. You should have seen Germany 10 years ago, when all shops had to close by 1800 (hours, not the year).
    It was a long and hard battle (mainly against trade unions) to achieve some liberalisation of shop opening hours.

    When I worked as a lawyer in Germany, once somebody informed the authorities for me having my law firm open on a Sunday. Nothing happened to me, though.

    • I’ve heard about that! If I was working then, I’d probably go hungry, especially with the size of my refrigerator. It’s not like I can stock very well.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. When I first moved to Germany, Sundays used to kill me with boredom. And I never remembered to go shopping on Saturday, so I usually went hungry! Now though, I love taking the time to have a big brunch with friends (usually lasting about 4 hours!), then relaxing 🙂 I’m glad you’ve also seen the good side to non-shopping Sundays!

    • Haha! Luckily, when we first moved, it was Christmas market season. So, if we didn’t get enough food, we’d just run over to the food stalls for some yummy cheap food. I have a good routine now to make sure we don’t go hungry! 🙂

      I used to have brunch all the time in Boston. I’ll have to remember to do that now. Great idea! Thanks for following!

  5. I just want to say that your blog is very well written and entertaining. Signed up a few days ago and caught up on all your posts.

    My wife and I are taking our very first vacation outside of the US and heading to Germany in September. I’ve been learning the language for over a year now, using Pimsleur, and hope to have a basic grasp for communication.

    Not knowing anything about the country or International traveling in general, we will be going with a tour group but have flirted with the idea of extending our vacation a week or so to strike out on our own. One of our stops will be in Heidelberg.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep posting. Reading how you’re able to adjust to life in Germany is making me more confident (and excited) about our upcoming trip.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and interest in my blog! I started it as a way to stay in contact with my family, and now, I am so touched to find others who like to read it.

      I am also using Pimsleur and find it very helpful with pronunciation. I think you will have a wonderful time visiting Germany. Heidelberg, in particular, is very easy to get around in even if you do not know German. (As you have probably read, I am struggling with the language but still surviving!) I hope you do strike out on your own and explore more of Germany (or another country). It can be stressful to travel without a guide, but it is also very exciting and liberating to blend in more and get a feel for everyday European life.

      I hope you have a great time in Germany, and thank you again for reading!

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  7. I think it is like that in pretty much all of Europe. When I lived in England, it drove me nuts that shops closed by 5pm and were rarely open on Sundays. I mean, when are people supposed to do their shopping? But as you say, you get used to it and just learn to plan ahead. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of those people who has a hard time feeling awake enough to do anything before 3pm, which then doesn’t leave much time for shopping.

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  12. I just stumbled over this ! I enjoyed reading all of it! I am a born and raised Bavarian. And am here in the USA for 46 years. Have still family in Germany,and been back to visit this past september(2014) . It is as if I were visiting again,just by reading your blog, and I enjoy the comments readers write as well. Thank you for a nice thing you do for us who are from there,and from those who love that beautiful Country Germany!!!

  13. I came to the UsA in 1960. Of course I remember my growing up years in Germany. It is so americanized over there now,except for a few inconveniences. The language is riddled with american,English words. The old Germany,post war was so different. We had no TV , until 1955 ,refrigerator around 1950. I may not be too correct on the dates. Food was bought fresh every day. Saturdays the stores closed at noon. Sunday was always wonderful. Walks into town,window shopping,visiting friends. My mother baked several things every Saturday. If company dropped in we never lacked for cakes. From what I see now ,Germany is not far behind from America. I think the young people take everything for granted they do not know any different.I am not saying this is bad,progress will always be made. So Germany is not a hardship to live at. It is a wonderful place,and most everybody speaks English or several other languages. I almost want to live there again. But I lived longer in California than over there. As we used to say,” Servus “,everybody.

  14. I too was shocked to find out that everything was closed on Sundays! In the beginning, I always seemed to spend Saturday in a panic wondering if I had everything I MIGHT need on Sunday or Monday…But after a while I started to like having a day of relaxation, and used the day to explore castles or ruins.

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