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Christmas gifts for helping hands

Do you want to thank all those people who are making your everyday life so much easier?

Are you unsure about what an appropriate little gift for Christmas might look like in Germany?

In this blogpost you’ll discover the best tips on how to give thanks to whom!

Christmas is the time of giving – but also for saying “thank you” to all the people who have made our life better or easier during the year, like: the mail carrier, the teacher or the garbage collector.

Wanting to show that appreciation with a gift is wonderful. However, giving too much can get the recipient into trouble: anyone who disregards the respective requirement must expect legal consequences. There is a threat of a warning or even termination. So don't be offended if the recipient doesn't want to accept a generous tip.

No strings attached

It should go without saying that a gift needs to be unconditional. If you seem to expect a favour as compensation it might be misunderstood as bribery.


What certain types of professionals in Germany are – or aren’t - allowed to accept:

Unfortunately, there is nothing like a fixed set of regulations. Rules vary, even within one branch! But the following paragraphs can serve as a guideline.

Öffentlicher Dienst – Public service

It can be quite tricky to make a present to employees of the public service, like teachers or postal carriers. They are generally prohibited from accepting gifts from students or customers valued more than 10 €.

For teachers, those gifts have to be given by the entire class, not from single students or his parents.

There was a case in Berlin that went through the German newspapers in 2011:

A group of parents wanted to express their gratitude to a very popular teacher by giving her a sculpture (worth: 198 €) together with a bouquet of flowers (worth: 20 €).

A father, who had not been part of that group, told the teacher that accepting the gift was illegal, and so she handed it over to the school. But that father had also reported the incident to the police. In the end, the teacher had to pay 4000 €!

So, please consider that instead of making someone happy, you might put them in a very awkward position!

Perhaps the best gift for anyone working in public service is simply a heartfelt "thank you." – either with a card or even better in person.

Parcel carriers

DHL states:

For many years it has been a tradition for delivery drivers to receive a small tip from their satisfied customers during Christmas traffic. In general, civil servants and employees are generally not permitted to receive rewards or gifts. Exceptions, however, are low-value gifts in kind up to a value of 25 euros. The tips at Christmas are regularly well below this amount.

Dieter Nawrath, Deutsche Post DHL Group

The carriers of Hermes are allowed to accept cash or little gifts like chocolates:

We cannot and do not want to forbid our colleagues from receiving tips. On the contrary, our messengers are generally very happy to receive such appreciation - by the way, even outside of the Christmas period

Marei Martens, Hermes Germany GmbH

Newspaper deliverers

If you happen to receive a newspaper on a daily or weekly base, you might want to show your appreciation for the delivery service within the early morning hours, whatever the weather may be. The best gift would be a tip of 10 – 20€ - other wise the poor man might end up with tons of chocolates, liquor or vases, that he doesn’t even like!

Our newspaper deliverer will always come around on an afternoon before Christmas to wish every household a Merry Christmas. So be prepared to have something ready!

Garbage men

For garbage men rules can be different in every city, town or community.

For example:

As with DHL, employees of the Abfallwirtschaftsbetriebs München (Munich waste management company) can also accept vouchers and gifts in kind up to a maximum value of 25 €. And all of this only once a year and per household. However, like for all other employees of the state capital of Munich, cash is taboo. So, a voucher for an online shop, hardware store or bakery that is on the way might be a better idea.

The Abfallwirtschaftsbetrieb Augsburg (Augsburg waste management company) also differentiates between gifts in kind and gifts of money. The limit for gifts in kind is 20 € per year. In cash, employees may not accept more than 10 € per donor. Even if it used to be a tradition, in Nuremberg city officials are in principle prohibited from accepting gifts. However, low-value courtesies (promotional items and local tips) are acceptable in the usual scope.

Würzburg has got the strictest regulation: Here the city cleaners have to refuse both money and gifts completely.

If you want to know the exact rules and do not want to embarrass the employee, I recommend contacting the appropriate waste management office and asking what gifts in kind or money can be given to the individual garbage collector.


If you belong to the lucky few who managed to have a good cleaner, you should definitely try to keep him or her happy!

After all, a clean and tidy household is a great contribution to domestic happiness and takes a whole (unpleasant) workload off your shoulders.

A little gift like a nice hand cream or a beautiful candle plus some cash money are a good idea.


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