December 2023: 9 changes affecting expats in Germany

December 2023: 9 changes affecting expats in Germany

We don’t know how it all happened so quickly, but December is already here. Here are nine changes and events that expats can expect this coming month before we flip back to the beginning of our calendars all over again.

1. New Deutsche Bahn timetable

From December 10, Deutsche Bahn will be running on its new timetable for 2024. The national rail service will be running faster and more frequent connections between large German cities and has added more night trains to its schedule.

The main new features include running intercity high-speed trains more regularly. This concerns two lines in particular, the first between Berlin and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The train will connect Berlin and Cologne every 30 minutes, passing through Hanover and Wuppertal on its way. The high-speed ICE line between Berlin and Munich will also run more regularly.

Buying a ticket for the Bahn will also get more expensive from December 10. Flex price tickets and BahnCards will increase in price by an average of 4,9 percent. The CityTicket, which included a ride on public transport at both ends of the long-distance train journey will also be scrapped.

2. Expect Deutsche Bahn strikes

More in train news! Dates have not been confirmed, but Germany’s GDL trade union has announced that travellers can expect further strikes in the run-up to the Christmas holidays. A GDL strike would severely disrupt long-distance trains in particular.

After the industrial peace agreement between Deutsche Bahn and the GDL came to an end on October 31, collective bargaining begun on November 9. On behalf of its members, the GDL is demanding shift workers get a 35-hour week with full wages, a pay rise of 555 euros per month and a tax-free 3.000-euro compensation bonus, but a deal agreement has not yet been met. Staff already carried out the first of the promised strikes in mid-November, bringing transportation to a standstill.

Though the GDL is the smaller of the two unions at Deutsche Bahn, EVG being the biggest, the fact that a high number of GDL members are train drivers means that the organisation has the potential to greatly disrupt train traffic during a strike.

3. End of the energy price cap

Some unwelcome news for many, Germany’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) announced last week that the federal government will end the country’s price cap on gas and electricity on December 31. 

The policy, which was introduced to limit the blow of rising energy prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, caps energy prices at a maximum of 12 cents per kilowatt hour of gas and 40 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity for 80 percent of a household’s average annual usage. The difference is then paid out by the German government.

The decision means that consumers can expect the cost of home utilities to go up just as the January weather bites.

4. Deadline for renters to receive 2022 utility bills

December 31 is the deadline that landlords have to give tenants the bill for home utilities usage in 2022. This is generally the rule, but some personalised agreements may have been reached in the contract so it is always best to check there.

It is also worth checking that your utility bill is correct when you get it, as some errors can make their way in.

5. Sick notes will (hopefully) be available by phone

Now, this is not set in stone, but from December 7 you might no longer have to traipse to the doctor when you’re sick. While coronavirus was spreading rapidly across Germany, the government brought in a temporary rule which meant that workers could call their doctor to get a note for sick leave rather than have to go in to collect it in person. From December 7 this coronavirus rule may become a permanent policy.

The reason this is still a maybe is because the legislation was originally intended to come into force from the beginning of the new year. But with such a wave of coughs and sneezes, doctors in Germany have urged the government to push the law through as soon as possible. 

There are still some specifics to be confirmed, but it is expected that to receive a note for sick leave by phone, you should be a regular patient at the practice you call.

6. Higher wages for care workers

Care workers in Germany are set to get a pay rise. From December 1, the minimum wage for a care worker will rise to between 18,25 and 14,15 per hour for care workers, depending on their level of qualification.

Care workers won’t have to wait long until they see their next pay rise, which is expected in the new year when rates will go up to between 16,10 and 20,50 euros per hour.

7. Higher tolls for lorries on the motorways

From December 1 anyone driving a lorry on the motorway (Fernstraße) in Germany can expect to pay a higher toll, thanks to new climate policies.

From the beginning of the month, there will be a surcharge of 200 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide released during the drive. These costs are likely to be passed on to customers who are buying the products being transported in the lorries.

8. Nutritional information will be added to wine and Sekt labels

Companies that produce wine and sparking wines will soon be required to print the nutritional information, the amount of calories contained and the drink’s ingredient list on bottle labels. 

The new regulation will come into force from December 8 and will apply to all such drinks produced in the EU after this date.

9. Google to deactivate inactive accounts

Still have a Google account from your salad days? It might be time to log in if you don’t want to lose it. From December Google will begin deleting inactive accounts across many of the platforms it owns on the internet.

Google considers an account to be active if you do any of the following activities while you are logged into your account; read or send an email, use Google Drive, watch a YouTube video, share a photo, download an app, use the Google search engine, use the “Log in with Google” feature available on many platforms.

Thumb image credit: gallofilm /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

Read more



Leave a comment