Germany’s shops have just about everything you could possibly wish for – from fresh, locally grown vegetables on street markets to low-price home furnishings, right through to luxury articles that are "made in Germany". Here, we tell you about shop opening times and what you need to know about paying.
German towns and cities offer a great choice of shopping facilities:
Shops: For your everyday needs, you’ll find supermarkets and small shops, such as baker’s and butcher's, in residential areas. To buy fashion clothes, household goods and electrical equipment, many Germans travel to the town centres, where there is plenty of choice of shops, especially in the main shopping streets. In contrast, large furniture stores, electrical goods stores and shopping centres are often located just outside the town or city, but have large car parks and good bus or train connections. You can find supermarkets for food and all the important, everyday goods both in town and outside urban centres.
Shopping trolleys: Many supermarkets as well as some smaller shops put shopping trolleys at their customers’ disposal while they shop. A few years ago, a system was introduced to prevent the trolleys from being stolen. The “loan” of shopping trolleys in Germany is based on a deposit system. The chain that joins one shopping trolley to another can be released with the aid of a €1 or 50 cent piece, or a token. Once you have finished shopping, you can chain the trolley back up and get your deposit back.
Bottle deposit system: In Germany, a deposit is charged on numerous drinks containers. That means that you pay a small amount for the container you buy, which is refunded when you return it. For most non-re-usable drinks containers, such as cans and non-re-usable glass and PET bottles, the deposit is mandatory. It costs 25 cents. For most re-usable containers, the deposit costs 8 or 15 cents. The empty containers can usually be returned to any shop that sells drinks in similar containers. You can find further useful information about the German deposit system here.
Street markets: In Germany, you can buy fresh foodstuffs such as fruit, vegetables or meat not just in shops, but at markets too. You can find out when and where in the town these markets take place by asking at the town hall.
Online shopping: Buying online is becoming increasingly popular in Germany. More than half of Internet users order goods or services over the Internet. If you order this way and receive goods that you don’t like or which are damaged, that’s no problem. With online shops in Germany, you are entitled to return the goods within 14 days without having to provide any justification. For your own security, always read the legal notice of online shops you are not familiar with. You can find out more here.
When you first move to Germany especially, you might find flea markets a good place to shop. At these markets, private individuals and professionals sell second-hand goods at low prices – from crockery to hi-fi systems to bikes. It’s also worthwhile taking a look at the classified ads in daily newspapers, special advertiser newspapers and on Internet auction sites. Here, private sellers offer just about everything you will need on your arrival in Germany. Whether you’re buying at flea markets or through classified ads, don't hesitate to bargain, as this is one of the few opportunities you will have in Germany to do so. In most cases, sellers are willing to reduce the price a little.
The larger shops – especially those in town and city centres – are usually open from Monday to Friday from 10am to 8pm. Many supermarkets do not close before 10pm or midnight. Smaller shops outside towns are open from Monday to Friday, usually until 6pm, and on Saturdays until 2pm or 4pm. The legislation governing shop closing times differs from state to state. However, even outside these opening times, you can still go shopping in Germany – shops in railway stations, as well as fuel stations and very small shops called "kiosks" sell basic foodstuffs and beverages, some around the clock – and even on Sundays and public holidays.
In addition to this, many towns and cities have "verkaufsoffene Sonntage" – Sunday opening – up to four times a year. On these days, the shops are open exceptionally and besides strolling round the shops the customers can also enjoy live music and arts and crafts in the town centres.
In most shops, you can pay using cash, or direct debit or credit cards. However, many smaller shops only accept cash, while others will accept direct debit cards only from a certain amount. If you buy online, you can either pay by bank transfer or by cash-on-delivery. Cash-on-delivery means that you pay the money directly to the postman or woman, or courier service, when the goods are delivered. Incidentally, unless you are buying large objects such as furniture or electrical equipment, or second-hand goods, you do not barter over the price. The price on the label is the price you pay. However, under certain circumstances, for larger acquisitions you might be able to bargain for free delivery or a small price reduction.
On most things that you buy in Germany, the State levies 19 percent of value-added tax. For certain products, for example food staples such as milk or bread, or books, newspapers, flowers and art objects, a reduced VAT rate of 7 percent applies. When you shop, there is no need to pay any attention to the VAT rates, as the tax is already included in the prices charged in shops and restaurants.
German companies place great value on product quality and are furthermore required to respect Consumer protection legislation. Toxic or carcinogenic ingredients are prohibited in certain products. Particular attention is paid to hazardous substances in toys, tattooing inks and cosmetics in this respect. Companies are therefore obliged to check that their goods are free from harmful substances and generally meet all other quality standards. You can find out more on the Web site of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
In addition to this, the EU has defined a strategy for greater food safety. This ensures that the strict quality standards are applied not only to foods produced within the EU, but also to imported foods. You can find out more here.
More and more people in Germany are consciously turning to organic products – foods produced by ecofriendly agriculture. If you pay particular attention to healthy eating and high-quality products, you can let yourself be guided by the Bio-Siegel logo on products. The Bio-Siegel logo is proof that the goods are produced by ecofriendly means and that animal welfare is taken into account.
You can find organic products in organic food shops and supermarkets.
Shopping facilities in Germany (German, English, Russian, Turkish)