#96: €9 tix, Querdenker, pee for free, tipping, autobahn concert
Angela Merkel was a squatter
Dear 20 Percent,
All kinds of frivolous and artificial debates occur in the Sommerloch (“summer hole” aka the silly season) but I think this one is legit. This week, German media are discussing tipping, thanks to a Twitter thread by TV anchor Anja Reschke in which she laments Germans’ growing reluctance to leave a fair gratuity in restaurants and cafes.
She has a point. In Germany, a tip of 5% to 10% of the bill is customary, but anecdotal reports suggest a lot of customers are tipping far less than they used to or not at all anymore. Why not?
One explanation could be the increased inflation we’ve seen since the Russian invasion of Ukraine — a development which began during the pandemic due to fragile supply chains and labour shortages.
But I don’t think it’s just about inflation. For many Germans, saving money is a hobby unto itself and there’s nothing new about that. Twenty years ago, electronics retailer Saturn struck a chord with the slogan Geiz ist geil (stinginess is awesome) — a phrase that still gets thrown around today. This is, after all, the country that pioneered and is in love with the discount supermarket. It’s also the only country (I’ve lived in a few) where I’ve heard about a guy who tried to charge his girlfriend for showering at his Berlin flat.
The deteriorating economic climate is especially hard on low-income households — and the explosion of heating costs forecast for the coming winter will only exacerbate the situation. So it’s worth remembering that most bar and restaurant workers aren’t exactly making bank. Many earn minimum wage or are paid under the table without any social benefits and also rely heavily on tips, which are not taxed in Germany, to make ends meet.
The minimum wage rose to €10.45 on July 1 and is set to jump to €12 on October 1 — a justified measure in light of the level of inflation and an important step to reducing inequality. No excuse to forego tipping, though.
More news below!
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, August 2
Received booster: 62.9% (62.9% Friday)
New cases in one day: 3,173 (2,697 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,715 (+7 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 360.8 (409.8 Friday)
🔴7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 16.7 (18.1 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 6.4% (7.6% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
One more month of €9 ticket
In June and July, a total of 4 million €9 transport tickets were sold in Berlin. Nationwide, that number was 30 million. August is the last month that the ticket will be available under the current scheme. Politicians are now debating the pros and cons of extending the programme, which was intended to provide relief amidst soaring energy prices and all-round inflation — with the added bonus of being climate-friendly. In terms of passenger numbers, the ticket has been a success. Transport authorities report ridership rising to pre-corona levels. The German government is mulling some form of flat-rate local transport ticket after August, though it’s expected to cost more. If you’re in favour of extending the €9 ticket, here’s a petition you can sign!
A gaggle of Querdenker, that ungodly alliance of right-wing extremists, Covid-skeptics and New Age conspiracy theorists, showed up for a “media march” through Berlin on Monday. The demo, which Tagesspiegel said was comprised of 500 people, passed various newspaper and TV offices. Grievances ranged from the usual “corona dictatorship” stuff to their new favourite position: support for Russia. Then there is the message in the above tweet: “MAD (the German military counterintelligence service) and BND (German intelligence agency) implanted a chip with artificial intelligence in me to read my brain and torture me brutally.” It’s easy to mock these people, but they’re by no means harmless: last year, a gas-station attendant was murdered in cold blood by a man who refused to wear a mask and an Austrian corona doctor last month committed suicide after months of harassment.
Anti-autobahn concert on the autobahn
As we’ve reported, the city is extending the A100 highway into Treptow — and possibly further all the way to Pankow (the governing SPD says it won’t allow this next phase to happen, but let’s see). The project is controversial for many enivronmentally conscious Berliners and there have been numerous protests, but on Thursday activists will be stepping up their game with a protest-concert on the A100 itself. Police have banned the event, but the Lebenslaute orchestra of around 100 musicians plans on going ahead with it anyway on the autobahn in the vicinity of the Tempelhof exit.
Well, this takes the cake. For years, — no, decades — I’ve been griping about German pay toilets. Now, out of the blue, Berlin will be making 50 of the 278 Tardis-like “City Toiletten” run by the advertising firm Wall free-of-charge from August 15, according to RBB24. Just for a “test phase”, but we’ll take it. Many toilets already have free urinals, but non-urinal users have to pay, not exactly fair. Why the about-face? Crime. Thieves have been cracking open the loos for the cash so it was deemed too costly to charge money. Here’s a list of the free 50 WCs by district. The remaining 228 restrooms will take card payment only by mid-month. And while we’re on the topic, a handy resource is Gratispinkeln.de, which has a crowd-sourced map of free loos throughout Germany.
Angela Merkel (CDU) was a squatter in the late 1970s, sort of. In a 2008 interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung magazine, the first East German chancellor revealed that she’d moved into an abandoned flat in Marienstraße 24 in Mitte with her first husband Ulrich Merkel. At the time in East Berlin, it was nearly impossible to find an apartment through official channels if you didn’t have a job. “This was really nothing political,” Merkel told the magazine. “The GDR almost counted on the ability of many to solve their housing problem ‘creatively,’ because there was an incredible shortage and a big mess in housing administration.” Worth mentioning: unlike West Berlin squatters, Merkel diligently paid what she thought was appropriate rent to the local housing authority.
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