Straßenkreide – Pavement Chalk

A popular pastime during the summer months for children in Germany is to create works of art on the pavements outside their houses – with coloured chalk.

A chalk pavement picture

A chalk pavement picture

At this time of year, shops such as our local newsagents sell the large pieces of chalk in buckets of assorted colours, and it is not unusual for the children to decorate not only the pavement but also parking spaces and sometimes even entire roads if they are private ones.

But whilst this may be seen as harmless in Germany, the pictures are obviously washed away with the next rainfall, other countries take a different view.  I have read about cases involving the police and other officials in the USA, Wales and Scotland, each with either people being fined or threatened with such action.

In Germany, on the other hand, there was even a court case last year where the judge decided that drawing with pavement chalks could be considered “normal use”.  Some towns such as Geldern even have pavement picture contests.

It strikes me as strange, that something that children are encouraged to do in one country, can cause such a problem in another.

But perhaps the underlying German attitude to pavements and property is part of the reason.  German tenants and property owners are responsible for not only their own piece of land, but also for the public pavement that it borders with.  Hence they sweep it most weeks and even legally obliged to clear it of snow and ice in the winter.

This is definitely a case of andere Länder andere Sitten.

Großes ß

It’s not often that I can say this, but I used a new letter of the alphabet for the first time this weekend.

Now it’s quite possible, that you are not even aware that the German alphabet has a new letter.  It is, in fact the Eszett (ß), which now has a capital equivalent.

Until now, the letter ß – which replaces ss or sz in a word  – has strictly speaking only be a lower case letter.  If you wrote a work in capital letters, you were expected to write it out in full.  eg. muß became MUSS.

Apparently there was a capital ß in East Germany for a time and it was even used on the cover of the East-German Duden dictionary for a number of years, but only in April of this year did it become formally recognised for the whole of Germany.  (For techies out there: it is part of ISO/IEC 10646, unicode U+1E9E)

So when I was writing my Christmas cards this weekend, I addressed them to “GROßBRITANNIEN” – hence writing my first capital ß.

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