Verbal Insults are Costly in Germany

In the past, there had been a few times when driving on Germany’s roads got me nervous. Not only due to the heavy traffic on the Autobahn or looking for a parking spot in downtown Frankfurt, but because of verbal insults among drivers. There were a few times I had to remind my American husband not to use cuss words as they can be costly. Insults such as Blöde Kuh (silly cow), Depp (idiot) and Idiot are subject to fines. Some plaintiffs might even be able to read lips, note down your license plate number, and voilà – there could be a letter of complaint in your mailbox.

Fines for verbal insults are based on the speaker’s income and the average charge is 15 – 30 days of paid income. The fine for showing the Stinkefinger (middle finger) is higher and fixed at 40 days of paid income. For example, if your net income is 2,500 euro, then the charge for showing the middle finger is 3,300 euro. Showing the Vogel (by pointing at your head) is a bit cheaper and usually rated with 20-30 days of paid income.

A few years ago, a then-famous soccer player called a German cop an Arschloch and was fined 10.000 euro (20 days of paid income). Calling a government official must rank the highest in the list of expensive insults. Based on the defendant’s statement, he had only said Schönen Abend noch! instead of Arschloch! though. Quite possibly, this became a bit slurred with the help of beer.

On top of being charged a fine, there can also be additional costs such as court and lawyer fees. In case you have a Rechtschutzversicherung (legal costs insurance) and think you can run this through your coverage – no, insults are not insured in Germany (one of the rare uninsured items in over-insured Germany). Based on Germany’s Strafgesetzbuch (criminal code), an insult can also put you behind bars. In its worst scenario, an insult can lock you up between one and two years. These charges apply to all kinds of situations, whether on the road, in a bar, or elsewhere.

As we get older, tempers flare down and verbal road rage diminishes. What also helped to reduce this was having young children with healthy minds in the back seat. Once, when my husband had to break rather abruptly, but held his tongue, our then two-year-old daughter blipped a “Fu*#§%…-A!” from her child seat. This was only the third word she had learned after Mama and Papa. Well, we used to go on regular Sunday drives…

Enjoy your Fahrvergnügen in Germany and remember:

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say It in Yiddish: The Book of Yiddish Insults and Curses

Yiddish is pretty close to German, more in a previous post.


  1. Did you know that the law works the other way around as well, ie. if the police insult you then the law works in the other direction?

    Here is an example of out at work: (you need to read to the end to find it)

  2. I wonder if the laws on insulting other people in Germany are as tight/costly as anywhere else?

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