If you come from the country where 24/7 shopping is common, you might be surprised to hear that this is not a case in Germany. Shopping hours in Germany may vary depending on the city and region but one thing is same everywhere: stores are closed on Sunday. Why is it like this? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to have a possibility to do shopping on Sunday? I didn’t understand the reasons until I moved to Germany and experienced it on my own.
First of all, if you find shopping hours in Germany too short now, you need to know that the situation has actually improved in the last years. Yes, it was worse before.
In 1956 the stores had to be closed at 2 pm on Saturday and 6.30 pm on weekdays in the whole country. “Shop closing law” (Ladenschlussgesetz) was changed a couple of times in the next few years. Finally, in 2006 the responsibility for the opening hours was given to the federal governments. Every every state could now decide whether to keep the federal shop closing law or cancel the restrictions. Most states took advantage of their freedom and allowed the owners to decide on the operating hours of their shops on the weekdays. Some other states like Saarland and the more conservative Bavaria kept the restrictions. In those states, stores have to remain closed between 8 pm and 6 am. The only rule that is same in all states is about restricted shopping on Sunday. All stores ( except a few exceptions that I will mention later) are closed on Sunday.
If there are no restrictions on weekdays, why there are no 24-hour shops?
In most German states shop owners have the freedom to decide about the opening hours for their business. But this doesn’t mean you can find shops that are open late easily. You might be lucky in Berlin but don’t expect to find a supermarket open at midnight in a smaller city. I am not sure why it is like this but I guess no one just wants to work so late. It seems like people in Germany care more about the work-life balance than the money they could make if they worked more.
Where do you go shopping on Sunday if you really need to buy something?
There are some types of stores that remain open even on public holidays and Sundays. Those are pharmacies, kiosks, petrol station, shops in tourist areas, on railway stations, bus stations, and at airports.
There are also special conditions for bakeries. Many bakeries are open on Sunday morning even in small towns or villages. This is perfect if you want to have Sunday breakfast with family or friends.
Shopping Sundays (Verkaufsoffene Sonntage)
Another exception to the law are the so-called Shopping Sundays that may happen three to ten times per year depending on the region. On these days usually, the big stores and shopping centers are open but the small privately owned shops remain closed. Again, seems like they care about profit less than rest.
What do German people think about shopping hours?
Believe it or not, I never met a German person who would be unhappy with the current shopping hours. And surveys confirm that most German people want shops to remain closed on Sunday. This way, Sunday remains a day of rest. You don’t have to worry about shopping on Sunday, so you can spend time with family or friends. It also allows people working in shops to have at least one free day to spend with family. I really started to understand this when I worked in a hostel. I had only two free weekends per month and it was harder to keep in touch with friends and meet them because our schedules didn’t match.
Would I still prefer to have a possibility to shop on Sunday? Yes, for sure. But getting used to the shopping hours in Germany was not so difficult as I expected when I just moved. It feels nice to have a free day when you don’t need to think of shopping and just do something fun on Sunday. It requires some planning, you need to buy food in advance if you want to cook on Sunday but on the other hand, it is a perfect excuse to go out and eat nice lunch or dinner in some restaurant.