Weird German Laws

Obscure Rulings and Graveyard Obligations

A toy hazard sign surrounded by other various road warning signs
There are many confusing laws in Germany. Larry

Before the age of Buzzfeed and the likes, obscure American laws have been a safe go-to topic for German tabloids, in case they needed to fill up their pages. Maybe it’s about time we take a look at some of the weird laws of Germany – because, well there definitely are some. A hint for beginners: Look out for regional differences.


Motorists and Bereaved: Beware!

For example: Should you run out of gas on one of Germany’s famous Autobahn’s, that is not only a nuisance, it is also illegal.

That’s right, as the owner of a car you have to make sure its gas tank is filled when you use the highways. Another regulation concerning motorists states that it is allowed to drive naked, which is good news for nudists. But beware! If you should leave the car without wearing any clothes, you could be fined.


A very interesting concept and furthermore another fantastic specimen of the German language is the “Friedhofszwang,” probably best translated with “Graveyard Obligation.” This law prohibits human remains to be laid to rest anywhere else but a graveyard. Recently, though, the law has been loosened. Now, it is actually allowed to scatter the ashes of a loved one on your property.


You can already see that all spheres of life in Germany are heavily regulated. The workspace is no exception. Every employee has the right to a movement area of 1,5 square meters at his workplace. A German shepherd dog, in comparison, has the right to 8 square meters of space in its cage.

Dog sure is man’s best friend in Germany.  


Weddings and Capital Punishment

The legislature of the federal state of Hessen holds a special curiosity, which is fortunately nullified by the German Federal Law. The state’s penalty catalogue veritably still permits the death penalty, but as the federal law had abolished said penalty with the introduction of the constitution in 1949 (the GDR abolished the capital punishment in 1987), the Hessian law is not longer executed.

Another strange paragraph in the penal code regards nuclear explosions. Should you be responsible for such an explosion you could go to prison for, believe it or not, five years or be fined. 


Also brushing the topic of death is an odd paragraph of the North-Rhine-Westphalian regulations for travel costs for civil servants: It specifically states that a business trip ends when the civil servant dies during that trip.


But that is not the only case the German laws and regulations are very specific. Though, one has to say, that is probably for the best. If just to prevent misunderstandings: In Germany, a marriage is not legal if one of the spouses was unconscious during the wedding ceremony. Or, to be clear, if one of the partners has not been aware, that the wedding was, in fact, a wedding.


Speaking of festivities: the state of Bavaria prohibited dancing on Halloween in 2008. The reason is the “quiet holiday” All Saints’ Day, which is celebrated on November 1st. In another part of Germany, namely the former GDR, nudist beaches are very popular. Should you want to visit such beach, be sure that you really are not wearing any clothes. The only kind of clothing allowed on these beaches is usually headgear.

So, yes, you can leave your hat on.


German rulings and legislation surely can’t compete with e.g. the long list of obscure American laws, but then again, the country is much smaller. Last but not least, here’s another tip for you: Never be too colloquial with German policemen- or women. It could cost you.