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That’s typically German: Line-jumping and bottle deposit Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 in Culture, Current Events, People

During my holidays in England it was easy for me to recognize typical German peculiarities: Waiting in line is not among them. But when it comes to bottle deposit Germany is way out in front of it.

I’m German, to wait in line is torture to me!

I’m envious of the British about their patience to wait in line, may it be at an ATM or at the supermarket checkout. Germans don’t share this characteristic of a civilized society. It seems that we Germans are always on the run and always out of time.

Waiting in line is simply like torture to us. That’s why Germans don’t hesitate to jump the line in a way that is clearly unapparent. You just turn your head to the right – while another person is standing to your left – then you take a quick step forward in order to push the other person softly to the back while praying that your secret competitor capitulates and let’s you go first.

In case that the other person points out that she was first, the well-bred German apologizes for his bad manners by professing that he didn’t saw her and that his pushing was unintentional.

But the good news is that not all Germans take part in such line-racings. Most of us just nag why the cashier is working so slowly or why it is impossible to open another checkout. And sometimes we Germans can even be very kind and courteous. It often happens that customers with packed shopping carts turn around in order to check how many goods the person behind him is going to buy. If the second in line clearly shows that he has got only a packet of butter and one liter of milk, most Germans will offer him to go first – because we know that waiting in line is a pain in the neck and we know that the butter-and-milk-customer would hate us for letting him waiting.

I’m going to the supermarket, should I take the bottles with me?

bottle deposit

Whenever you see this sign on a bottle don’t trash it. You will receive a refund of € 0,25. (photo © Sandra Rösner)


When Germans head for the supermarket they every now and then arrive there with huge bags filled with bottles and beverage cans, which they have carefully treasured up during the weeks beforehand.

Water, soft drinks, and beer are usually available in plastic or glass bottles and cans in Germany. And since Germans care about the environment, the country has established a national deposit system. Hence, simply trashing bottles in Germany is like tossing money out of the window because whenever you buy bottled drinks you also have to pay a deposit. The most valuable containers are plastic bottles or PET-bottles and cans which are refunded with € 0,25, no matter whether they contain 0,33 liters, 0,5 liters or 1,5 liters. Glass bottles with Bügelverschluss (swing top) are refunded with € 0,15 and bottles without swing tops are refunded with € 0,08.

By the way, die Pfandpflicht (deposit obligation) has been existent since 1st January 2003 and is valid for all non-refillable drinks packaging. Since 1st May 2006 the Deutsche Pfandsysteme GmbH guarantees a nationwide withdrawal of bottles and cans.

What about you? Can you wait in line patiently? And do you take bottles to a certain collection point or do you just trash it?

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Stefanie:

    I’m a German and I can say line jumping is common in Germany. I think you shouldn’t give people the impression it’s ok to try because you WILL EARN the hatred of the 99% who do wait in line without a problem

  2. John:

    Enjoyed your article I save drink cans and give them to charity.

  3. Jane Caron:

    I have lived in Bavaria for 18 months now and have only pleasant things to say about the kindness of strangers when one is out shopping. As you pointed out, people are quick to invite someone to step in front of them in line if they only have a few items in hand, and you will be thanked profusely for offering your spot. Ski mountains are a completely different story, however. Unlike America where it is generally accepted that you simply have to wait your turn to get on a ski lift, some Germans think nothing of pushing by you even if it means they step all over your skis (and your children) in the process. I have learned to keep my elbows out and strategically place my ski poles to prevent the guy behind me from forcing his way past me. My kids have also learned how to defend their position. It is really quite silly also because the guy who battles his way past you will often abruptly stop just before getting on the lift in order to wait for his friend who is still in the back of the pack. Go figure…

  4. oriella:

    I’ve visited Germany and especially Bavaria a few times, bit I’ve never noticed the line-problem…maybe because I’m Italian : ever tried a bus queue in Italy?! It’s a mess!!
    About the Pfandpflicht, I find it a great idea, wish our Burgermeister puts it in effect in Bologna, too!