Germany has a reputation for being a straight-laced, by-the-books country -- but plenty of weirdness bubbles just below the surface. Honestly, "Sprockets" isn't that far-fetched. As it turns out, there's more than enough weird and wacky going down between the Vaterland's borders. Here are 18 eye-opening facts about good old Deutschland:
1. On the first day of first grade, every child gets a giant cone filled with toys and candy
The Schultüte, a tradition that dates back to the 1800s, gives kids toys when they enter school to celebrate the "seriousness of life." Going back to work after vacation would be a whole lot more bearable if employers were like Germany. These days, it's not unlikely for kids to even get video games and a cell phone in their cones, too. Germany's not alone in the practice, however -- Austria and the Czech Republic have a similar tradition, too.
2. Drinking alcohol in public is legal
Germany's laws about boozing in general are seriously loose. In fact, by the age of 14, you can already crush beers or swig wine "in the company of a custodial person." And that means, like, Mom or Dad, not the janitor in Billy Madison.
3. College is free for everyone (even non-Germans)
Just a few months ago, Lower Saxony was the last state to scrap public university tuition. Now getting a degree is free for international students, too. You still gotta pay for your own red Solo cups, though.
4. The government can (and will) reject weird baby names
According to German law, a person's gender must be obvious by first name. So the civil registration office, or Standesamt, can refuse names that don't comply. Re-applying can be a costly process, so that's why many parents go for traditional names like Michael and Maria. Basically, Frank Zappa would never have been able to have kids in Germany.
5. Prostitution is legal
Back in 2002, Germany declared the world's oldest profession within the law, clearing the way for everything from department store-sized brothels to drive-thru sex boxes.
6. Everything is closed on Sundays
Ya know, except church. And probably brothels, for that matter. But don't expect to get errands or shopping done on Ruhetag, or "quiet day." In fact, don't think about home renovations, either -- drilling on Sundays is also illegal. So that framed photo of grandma is just gonna have to wait until Monday to get up on the wall. All the more reason to partake in Sunday Funday.
7. The Chancellor has her own Barbie doll
For Mattel's 50th anniversary, the company came out with a model of Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, sporting the same practical haircut, power suit, and proportionate features to boot. Unfortunately, her beau, Joachim Sauer, does not have an analogous Ken. Probably because "Joachim and Angela" doesn't quite have the ring to it as "Ken and Barbie."
8. The government pays for sex for the disabled
In Germany, a stipend covers the cost of people with disabilities to pay for intercourse. So not only is prostitution legal, but it's also part of your welfare check. There's even certified training for sex workers in "qualified sexual accompaniment and assistance."
9. It's bad luck to wish someone "Happy Birthday" in advance
There's a saying that sums up the German mentality nicely: "Du sollst den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben," or, "You shouldn't praise the day before the night." It means don't be sure of something until it happens, because then it won't happen. So wishing someone a happy birthday early could mean they won't have one, or more precisely, that they'll die.
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