German Drivers License Requires a Savings Fund

Our son will be 17 soon and every once in a while he gets the typical German statement: Na, da wirst Du ja bald Deinen Führerschein machen! Reaching the legal age of 18 includes getting the driver’s license. Oh ja, das deutsche Fahrvergnügen! Well, wanting the license seems universal, but…

Germans generally do not ask about what college one intends to attend as the rate of university graduates is rather low at 14%. But most Germans hold a driver’s license, which is costly. So costly that some parents or grandparents start saving for the driver’s license as of birth –  in the same way some international parents set up a college fund for the newborn.

In Germany, the cost of a driver’s license ranges from euro 1200 – 1800, based on 18 minimum hours of attending the Fahrschule. In some cases it takes much longer, such as more lessons, another testing fee (in general, one out of three fail the driver’s license test), etc. The base price given usually applies to young and quick learners only. Older applicants usually end up taking more lessons, the rate of failing is higher and then the cost is usually between euro 2200 – 3000.

The German ADAC  offers the following savings plan:

ADAC driver’s license savings plan – a gift for the future. Why not present this on the child’s first day in first grade? You can start saving as low as euro 10 a month. Earn 4.3% interest.

(4.3 % only apply to savings plans which run 17 – 18 years. For example, on a 10-year savings plan, the rate of interest is 4.0%)

As parents of international children, we believe our children will get their driver’s license whenever they are ready. This is not a top priority. We have a college fund for them – not a driver’s license savings plan.

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.

The Costs of Getting a Driver’s License in Germany

When a child is born in the United States, some parents are eager to set up a savings plan to fund the later college years. With college fees ranging well in the tens of thousands of dollars, this is understandable.

Well, in Germany no such college fund is really needed as college fees are rather low at 500 euro per year and many students attend college nearest their hometown and keep their cost of living low this way.

There are also government-supported programs such as BAföG or Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (Federal Education Assistance Act), which supports students in financial need. But the Germans still have another high-end need – financing a driver’s license, which can take as long as from the time the baby is born until he/she has reached 18 years of age.

Why finance a driver’s license, you may ask. In Germany, the average price for a driver’s license ranges from 2000 euro to 3200 euro. This life-time license is not easy to get and one out of three applicants even fail the test the first time around, adding more to the initial cost by having to take extra lessons, paying another hefty testing fee, etc. This is big business here in Germany.

Most Germans value added financial security to compensate for their angst, and banks, as well as the German ADAC profit from this by promoting the set up of a driver’s license fund to finance its horrendous cost.

One ADAC reader wrote: ” I want to get something special for my godchild. Is your ADAC-FührerscheinSparen (driver’s license saving plan) suitable as a gift even though the boy is already six years old?” The ADAC’s reply stated that”… it is not too late, of course. Such a savings plan can be set up anywhere from spanning four to 18 years….” This ad is addressed to parents, grandparents, and godparents.

My driver’s license obtained in the U.S.A. had cost 20 dollars. In the United Kingdom, the cost is about 150 pounds, and I heard a lifetime license in Norway costs only the equivalent of 33 dollars.

Germany, being the biggest car exporter in the world, knows how make money on its industry’s byproducts. To sell Fahrvergnügen, it takes a lot of Fahrschulen (driving schools). One needs to attend a Fahrschule for about three months to be able to take the test.

Some like to take a short-cut and book a Führerschein Holiday for two weeks. Two weeks of leave, intensive in-house training (school and hotel, all in one), are probably even higher than the training for three months in one’s hometown. But this is how my cousin got her driver’s license as she had been too timid behind the wheel during regular lessons. So I would suppose these in-house driving schools are also for hard-to-teach students.

Interested in knowing how much money you did not spend on getting your license? Then visit Fahrschulen Preise, where you can get a free estimate for a German driver’s license by just clicking on any Fahrschule listed, type in your gender (Herr/Frau), first name, last name, type of license required (click on the very first option) and number of driving lessons. To determine the number of required Fahrstunden (driving lessons) based on your age, you need to multiply your age by 1.3 and hit weiter (submit).

The German Fahrvergnügen has its price – and getting the driver’s license is highly valued, not just in terms of need.

Edit: The tuition fee at German universities is 500 euro per semester, and not per year.

English words derived from German culture

The following youtube clip just sums it all up in naming all the strong German feelings going from the need for lebensraum and angst to fahrvergnügen (not listed in the Webster’s Dictionary…yet) to schadenfreude.

[youtube w7Je3TBtA_8]

Being German myself, it is hard to know how much of a cliché is rooted in these words and how much of it is so true.

The Germans want their privacy, hence Lebensraum.

They can be driven by Angst for their security.

The Fahrvergnügen has been invented by VW back in the 90s to advertise the German car industry.

Schadenfreude is definitely on the list, but seems contradictory for a country which has to pay church tax (shouldn’t church goers be without schadenfreude?) Schadenfreude – another term coined for this emotion is Gluckschmerz – stems from envy, and the Germans are known for Neid (envy).

Well, Germans don’t know really know about the meaning of these terms meant for English. These words have no negative connotations for them.

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