March 2023: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany
Springtime is just around the corner! In the month when the clocks roll forward in Germany, granting us that much-needed extra hour of sunshine, here are the upcoming changes that expats should know about in March 2023.
1. Gas price cap begins
Germany’s now well-known gas price cap will come into force from March 2023 and is currently expected to last until April 2024.
Under the gas price cap, 80 percent of a household's usual consumption (calculated according to the previous year's consumption) will be capped at 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), while any consumption above this will be charged at the going market rate. The state will then make up the difference between the capped price and prices paid by gas importers.
This means you don’t have to do anything to benefit from the gas price cap, as the relief will be deducted automatically from your energy bills.
2. Students can finally apply for 200 euros in energy relief
Months after people working in Germany received a one-off 300-euro energy relief payment, students are soon set to get their (smaller) share. Everybody who lives and studies in Germany, whether full-time or part-time, is eligible to receive the long-awaited 200-euro payment so long as they were enroled in their studies on December 1, 2022.
If you are eligible it may be a good idea to get started on the paperwork since you must register yourself online to receive the relief. In an unusually modern manner, the German government has set up a website where students can make an application. For the application, you will require a BundID-Konto, an online certified ID or your personal ELSTER certificate.
3. Masks scrapped for staff in medical facilities
Following the German government scrapping obligatory FFP2 masks on public transport last month, masks will also no longer be mandatory for staff working at doctors’ offices, in hospitals or in care homes. The new rule will apply from March 1.
From the same day, visitors will no longer have to test before visiting hospitals or care homes, but they will still be required to wear a mask until April 7. Free tests for coronavirus for visitors without symptoms will also be scrapped from March 1.
4. Deutsche Post strikes continue across Germany
If you’re planning to send or receive any important post in March, you should be aware of continuing strikes and negotiations between Deutsche Post staff and their employer. Since February Deutsche Post workers have been striking for a 15 percent increase of their salaries, in line with inflation.
Deutsche Post AG has still not come to an agreement with ver.di, the union representing postal workers. This means that on March 8, Deutsche Post union members will vote on whether to carry out indefinite industrial action. The result will be announced on March 9. However, whichever way union members vote, there is likely to be at least some disruption to the postal service.
5. Obligatory insurance signs for two-wheel drives
From March 1, mopeds and e-scooters in Germany must display a black sign which proves that they are insured. These signs are available from vehicle insurance companies and the colour of the sign changes each year to make it easy to spot invalid registrations.
6. Funding programme for climate-conscious house hunters
Climate Friendly New Build is a funding programme organised by the state-owned bank KwF. From March 1, the bank will offer prospective homeowner loans to people building or buying a new home.
To be eligible for the loan these homes must meet strict sustainability standards, such as being free from fossil fuel-based heating systems and having an EH 40 energy efficiency standard.
7. Deutsche Bahn lounges become more exclusive
Many large train stations across Germany are kitted out with a swanky Deutsche Bahn lounge offering free newspapers, snacks and drinks to more moneyed customers. Now, these lounges are set to become a little more exclusive, as the rules of who can get through the DB lounge doors become even more limited and Kafkaesque.
Currently, 1st class ticket holders with a BahnCard 100 or a 1st class “Flexipreis” traffic ticket may enter. BahnCard 100 holders with 2nd class tickets can enter but only if their card has a Bahn Comfort Logo on it. BahnBonus customers are also allowed to enter, though their eligibility is dependent on an additional silver, gold and platinum points system, which can allow them access to a VIP section of the already exclusive lounge.
So what will change? From March 1, the aforementioned BahnBonus customers must show that they have a 1st or 2nd class ticket. This can include a Sparpreis or Super-Sparpreis tariff ticket in 1st or 2nd class. Additionally, BahnBonus customers will still be able to enter lounge VIP sections but they will not be able to invite fellow passengers to join them.
8. Clocks go forward on March 26
On Sunday, March 26, the clocks will go forward in Germany. At 2am the clocks will move forwards to 3am, meaning the weekend will be one hour shorter, but soon, daily sunny weather will put outdoor life in Germany back in business.
Thumb image credit: 0711bilder / Shutterstock.com
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