"A different language is a different vision of life" (Federico Fellini))


Did you know?

Funny or interesting “party” knowledge about our and other nations.

Found something? Don’t keep it!

(mfe) This article on Spiegel Online reminded me of a discussion we recently had. I was told that in the USA there is no such (legal) concept of “Finderlohn” (finder’s reward) the way we have it here in Germany. I wonder if this is true – please comment. People told me “finder’s keeper” is a common US phrase, meaning: Whoever finds stuff, may keep it. Under the term of “homesteading” this even applies to empty houses – look up “squatters”. And if you plan to buy a house in the states be sure to not leave it alone for too long.

German paragraphs regulate Finder’s Rewards

In Germany there is – as so often even a legal paragraph (and a whole legal concept “Fundrecht”) that tells us how to handle lost and found items: §§971 BGB defines who has to and how much finder’s reward has to be paid. So if you happen to find a wallet e.g. on a street in Germany, better be careful: you might commit an offence by simply keeping it. You are supposed to return it to a local “Fundamt or Fundbüro” (They even offer online search for lost and returned items!) or any similar office of the authority where you found it – on trains that might be the conductor or on a bus or tram the driver (The Deutsche Bahn even runs its own service ). Simply keeping precious things you found might bring you in trouble, it’s considered fraud. However, if nobody comes to pick up the lost item from the Fundamt, you may be allowed to keep it after some months of waiting. In the meantime, you could think of visiting one of the regular auctions that happen at the Fundamt. Yes, there you can buy lost items that nobody (owner nor finder) claimed within the legal period.

Fighting for Rewards – or not

In the story from Munich, a woman did not even want the hundreds of Euro reward that she would be supposed to get. I guess in the US this seems to be handled differently: In 2010 US rapper Ryan Leslie lost his laptop. His video announcing one million reward for the lost device went viral, because first he tried to find his laptop bag via Youtube, then he refused to pay finder’s reward he had promised, and in the end a court had to sentence him to pay the reward he promised – which he responded to in a Youtube video as well.


What is a Betriebsrat?

A Betriebsrat is often referred to in English as a works council or a workers council, which consists of a group of employees, who are democratically elected by the workforce to officially act as representatives on their behalf on all matters concerning workers’ rights.

Normally the Betriebsrat works very closely with the Human Resources department particularly on employee issues or new company wide policies. In all cases the Betriebsrat has to discuss whether the company has acted lawfully in a matter and ethically. If a decision needs to be made, then the Betriebsrat would normally take a vote.

If you are working at SUSE, you might be interested to know that the SUSE Betriebsrat was formally required to approve your employment before you began at SUSE. Why? You may ask. Well, that’s because the members of the Betriebsrat have to ensure that each person who was interviewed for the job was not unfairly discriminated against. So the fact that you have a job here at SUSE means that you won that job fairly-and-squarely and on your own merit.

The Betriebsrat is also concerned when new software is used inside the company where users are expected to open accounts by giving some of their personal information. In Germany, the data protection policies are probably the most strictest in the world and so the Betriebsrat has to be extremely cautious to allow the use of software that might have the potential of causing personal data to be illegally exploited. This could have a heavy consequence on the company, particularly if the company is seen to condone the use of a software tool, where the data might be stored – let’s say for example – in a large data centre somewhere in the U.S. where data protection laws are quite relaxed.

Sometimes there are no easy solutions to problems, so the Betriebsrat has to work with the local management to come up with the best outcome for the employees without compromising the business too much. This is known as codetermination (that is “co-determination” and *not* “code-termination” if you’re wondering).

What happens if the company runs into financial problems and has to lay workers off. Then the Betriebsrat normally steps in and would initiate  procedures in an attempt to protect as many individuals’ jobs as possible. One such mechanism is Kurzarbeit, where your current salary is partially subsidized by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (the government’s unemployment office). What’s the advantage of this? For you, getting a new job isn’t always easy once you have been laid off, so it’s good to be able to keep your job, even though you might asked to stop working for a period of time. For the company, they don’t really want to lay anyone off and they certainly don’t want to have to recruit new inexperienced and untrained people at great expense to replace you once business gets better again. So it’s a win-win situation when it works.

There are many other laws that the Betriebsrat has to make sure are upheld in the work place and so the Betriebsrat often act as a think-tank on solving long and short term issues that affect everyone.

If you are interested to know a little more about your own rights in the German workplace, you might want to take a look at the Works Constitutional Act, which has been fortunately translated into English and published online:

I hope this might help.

Die Nachrichten

Most people have their own favourite websites or newspapers to find out what’s going on in the world. As a foreigner (Auslander) living in Germany, it’s easy to find out what’s going on internationally, but not so easy to find out what’s happening locally without asking someone else and this can sometimes make one feel isolated. Of course, the problem here is usually to do with language.

If you are learning German, I would strongly recommend you to try reading the Nürnberger Nachrichten newspaper online. You might not understand everything in it, but it is a good exercise and it does help to improve your language skills.

For those of us who find the news difficult to follow, there is in fact German news available in English language. Der Spiegel magazine translates most of its articles into English, allowing non-natives the opportunity to find out what’s topical in Germany and locally.

The Local is another news website in English which is operated from Sweden:

You might also want to take a look at the website for The AGBC (Association of American-German Business Clubs). There is also a lot of useful news and information available there too.

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