Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Kiel

The Darling Disorientation of May

May in Germany is an entirely disorienting month, not because the weather can either be the most joyful weather in the world or subject to frozen winds whistling in from Siberia, but because for the 31 days of May, many Germans work for approximately three of them. How do they do that, I hear you ask, stunned that a country whose citizens have a month of mandated holiday days anyway, could possibly get more time off work. Two words: Feiertage and, perhaps more importantly, Brückentage. A few more words; the clever use thereof.

Feiertage – public holidays – abound in May. The 1st of May was Tag der Arbeit; the 10th of May was Father’s Day (which is also a day upon which men celebrate …. themselves) and Christi Himmelfahrt (the day Christ drove to heaven, aka Ascension Day); Sunday the 19th is Pfingstsonntag, which makes Monday the 20th Pfingstmontag, or just Pfingsten (Pentecost). Tag der Arbeit fell on a Tuesday this year, which means Monday was a Brückentag – a bridging day – that magical day which links a public holiday to the weekend. Many take it off, using a holiday day, or overtime hours, which gives them a four-day weekend at little cost to the holiday day account. Himmelfahrt was a Thursday, which made the following Friday a bridging day, giving those who took it, another four-day weekend. Next week shall be, most depressingly, an ordinary working week, however the week after will be a short one, with Pfingsten giving us another 3-day weekend. Really, altogether, May has felt like one giant, communal holiday, a month in which the entire country has been super relaxed and super happy.

At this juncture, I must also add, this has been the most extraordinary spring. My God. I think this might be the best spring I have ever had in Europe (second always to the spring at the end of which my son was born, a similarly sunny and warm one). One could be inclined to assume it’s apologising for letting winter go on so long, because we went from a white Easter to 25 degrees in a matter of what felt like days. The trees went from naked to lusciously green, the bees from asleep to buzzing, life from reluctantly indoors to entirely outdoors almost too quickly for us all to know what was going on. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, the most serious of German ailments that apparently is a result of sudden changes in weather and pressure systems and other things I am not entirely convinced of, mingled with a terrific burst of pollen that bolted out the door like kids running for the bus, and for a couple of weeks I could barely get out of bed.

Of course, get out of bed I did, and lie in the sun like a lizard I also did. Everyone keeps wringing their hands and saying ‘what if this is summer?’. It has happened before – a glorious May, a terrible summer. We have fallen for this before, drunk on sun and pollen and barbecues and Hugo. I personally refuse to entertain the notion, and using the same mental trickery that means I have almost forgotten how hideous winter was, have convinced myself the next four months straight will be 25 degrees and sunny.

I think it’s called delusion, but it works for me.


  1. Friedrich Heberlein

    16 May, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    > Feiertage – public holidays – abound in May.

    Living in northern Germany you have, of course, forgotten Fronleichnam, always thursday, this year 31 of May – yet another Brückentag. That’s God’s punishment for your being Protestants or other heretics. 😉

    Greetings from Bavaria (and thanks for your entertaining blog),

    1. m

      17 May, 2018 at 10:01 am

      you mean “happy cadaver day ” xD?

  2. Renate

    16 May, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Enjoyed it thank you

  3. m

    17 May, 2018 at 10:00 am

    in the first paragraph you have a typo “there clever use”

    1. Liv

      17 May, 2018 at 11:09 am

      whoops, should be ‘the’, thank you!

  4. Bart Rosenberg

    24 May, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Hi Liv, I’m one of your dedicated readers. My American friend Susan married Mick from Kiel in 2011, and they are back and forth betw Kiel and Cincinnati, Ohio. I had forwarded your article on happy northern Germans to him, and he went to tears.

    Anyway, saw an article on that reminded me of you.

    Bart Rosenberg

    1. Liv

      27 May, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      Bart, that makes me so happy to hear. Thank you so much for reading and for touching base here – I love getting these sorts of messages.

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