Sunday Shopping in Germany

September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I knew — from my previous living experience in Germany (1987-1996) — that Sunday shopping was “verboten” so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this has changed. There are now actually certain Sundays when the stores are open — albeit from 1:30 until 6pm.

Here are the Sunday Shopping Days in Berlin: Oct. 2 and 23. November 6. December 4 and 18.

There’s even a website where you can get more information: —  which basically means Sunday shopping days.

My kids thought this was hilarious, since of course you can shop every Sunday in the US and essentially at any time, though the malls are of course “only” open during the day.

I think it’s really rather interesting to see how humans adapt to their circumstances. When I lived in Germany in the 90s, there was never any Sunday shopping and the stores were closed by 2pm on Saturday — and by 6:30pm during the week. I remember my first days way back in 1987 thinking how does anybody ever get anything done in this country? And of course the stores were JAMMED after work — because people knew that either you got your food before 6:30pm or that was it. There was and is of course some isolated “spaetverkauf” shops or stores that were open late, but the prices are higher and they don’t carry a whole lot.

Back then shopping on a Saturday was a real challenge because the stores were so jammed.

I have mixed feelings about the Sunday shopping thing. I actually like the idea of having one day free of commerce. For Jews it should be Shabbat, or Saturday, but of course so many (myself included) don’t observe that. I’m actually not tied to one day or the other but I like the idea of a day of rest. Just stopping. And I say this as a person who is constantly on the go with gadzillions of things going on. I probably could use 2-3 days of rest.

For some reason I remember a story my rabbi told me years ago about a Jewish theater producer who was in the middle of launching a Broadway production and they were in rehearsals and there was a lot going on and he had invested all this money into the show. And he was an observant Jew and so when Saturday rolled around, he said he wasn’t going to work, because it was Shabbat. And everyone else involved with the show couldn’t believe it. And of course they continued to plough whatever it was they were doing.

And the next day — Sunday — the producer came back. And he was very refreshed and had new ideas and was able to make the production even better.

Now that I think about it I never really did know if that story was true or if it was something that the rabbi told us to illustrate the importance of Shabbat. And of course now it doesn’t matter to me. It’s a good story with a good point.

So my son’s comments on Sunday as we watched these floats gliding through the air above Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm saddened me a bit. Arnold couldn’t believe that none of the stores were open with all those people out there. “In the States, everyone would be open and selling stuff,” he said.

And that’s true. But is that better?


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