“Oh no, is tomorrow a holiday?”

How do you know there is a holiday coming up in Germany? By the lines at the grocery stores.

This weekend is Pentecost weekend which means all of Germany has a free monday. Pfingstmontag is a Feiertag. Since everything in Germany is closed on Sundays and public holidays, this means two days without the option of dropping into the store and getting some cheese. Forty-eight-hours of not being able to shop those onions you need for the cooking you planned. Two nights during which you will not be able to buy any toilet paper.

It was much easier to get used to everything being open in Sweden seven days a week, 363 days a year. (If I remember correctly, only Midsummer and Christmas are sanctified.) I know of more than one non-German’s plans that were toppled upon learning that if you want anything, you better get it now or you’re on your beam ends for two days. 

Maybe this is where the Germans’ good sense of planning in advance originated. In Germany, the pre-holiday-anxiety starts building up already days before the actual event comes around. (“I have to remember to buy plastic wrap before Saturday, I must not forget, I must not forget!”) And I am not alone, all the Germans flood the stores like they have to bunker food for the apocalypse.

In Hamburg, being a big city, you can of course buy stuff even on Sunday and holidays in two stores that have a special sale permission. However, this either means travelling a long way to Altona or paying three times the price at Hauptbahnhof. [Also, they are not allowed to sell anything frozen.] Is your cheese, your onions, your toilet paper worth that? No. You try to prevent this situation by stressing out each Saturday night, “do we have everything for the no buy day?”.

When I was a child, things were much worse. Stores shut their doors at 6 pm sharp on week days and everything closed at 2 pm on Saturdays. Today, you can do your emergency-shopping as late as 23.55 on a Saturday.

There are probably really good reasons for closing everything on Sundays and public holidays. Or maybe it is just an important tradition in Germany. Perhaps the unions want it to be this way. But really: I have a hard time getting used to it again. You’ll excuse me – I’m hitting the supermarkt now. 

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