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.
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.
Consumer protection and product quality
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.