Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pfand - tastic

Sorry for the cheesy title. I am again trying to make everyday things sounds interesting.

Germans are into deposits, which are called Pfands. The first time we encountered a Pfand was when we arrived at the Hannover airport on August 10th.  We had checked 4 bags, all of which were over the weight limit, one of which contained the aerobed we would be sleeping on for while. They have these handy little carts that you can use for luggage and they are free, except for the 1 euro pfand you have to pay in order to unlock them. We actually had some euros, but only big bills we got from the currency exchange. And the change machine was broken, and I had no idea how to ask someone to borrow a 1 euro coin. So we somehow wrestled them out of the baggage claim area. If you ever come to visit, remind me to mail you a 1 euro coin so that this doesn't happen to you.

There are Pfands for all variety of cans and bottles. When you buy a can of Pepsi, for instance, (yes, you can buy them individually at the store) it costs 39 cents including a 25 cent Pfand. So it's actually 14 cents as long as you return the can and get your deposit back. A bottle of water or soda or whatever works the same way. At the grocery store there is a big machine that you put the bottles in. It spins them around in circles and scans them, then the amount of the Pfand pops up on the screen. You keep feeding in your bottles and cans, and push a button when you are finished. The machine prints out a receipt that you take to the cash register when you buy groceries and you get credit for the deposit amount. You can also put a whole case of beer bottles in through a little door in the bottom and it scans them all at once.

It works at festivals and things too. If you buy a beer at an outdoor event it usually comes in a glass, a real glass with a handle and everything. You have to pay a 1 euro Pfand for it and you get that back when you return the glass. When we went to the Hannover Oktoberfest (again, think county fair more than a real Munich-style Oktoberfest) the big steins had a 10 euro Pfand. Brian went off to buy beers and then came back to ask me for more cash because they cost 34 euros. 34 euros? for 2 beers? that's like 45 dollars! Each beer was 7 euros plus a 10 euro Pfand for the stein. I like that it's not a plastic cup, but it's not ok if you don't have that much extra money on hand.

Some people have figured out how to make money out of this system. You'll see guys in the train station looking around for plastic bottles that people have left or have put in the trash can. It's sort of polite to leave your plastic bottles beside the trash or recycling cans if you don't plan to cash in on the Pfand, so that these guys can grab them.

In general I think the Pfand system is supposed to keep down waste and encourage recycling. Or it's just another way to confuse foreigners and people who drink beer out of big glasses. Sometimes they are the same people.


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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.