Germany's Obsession with the "Wildpinkler" or wild urinator

Dropping Trow in Public

This is an informational post about....public peeing.  This forbidden act of dropping trow in public is crystal clear in the United States, but it's a different story here in Germany.  Coming from the west coast, I grew up knowing that you DID NOT pee in public.  You found a McDonald's, rest stop, or a gas station to do your business. If you are caught publicly peeing in America, you may receive a harsh warningfine, or even be arrested depending on the state you live in.  You just don't do it.  So, imagine my surprise to find adults and children, peeing in pubic freely, without a care in the world.  You can routinely find these outdoor pee-ers alone or in groups, behind bushes or trees, or in plain site on the side of a road or public trail.  I remember one of my first experiences was seeing a father helping his daughter drop a deuce right outside Sealife in Speyer.  I was really shocked, and kinda grossed out by this!


The Road Trip

Growing up we would take LOTS of road trips, because plane rides were way to expensive.  I recall my parents getting really irritated with us kids when we suddenly, "Gotta go pee!!!".  They would get angry because everyone was scrambling and stressed out trying to find the nearest restroom so no one had an accident.  There would be an accident before we were every allowed to just pee on the side of the road.  In Germany, however, it is not uncommon to see people pulling over and relieving themselves publically.  If you prefer to use facilities, there are plenty.  You are more than welcome to shell out ,50-,70 Euro cents per pee break at the rest areas (about 30-60 km apart).  Be aware of the Parkplatz, typically also found along the Autobahn.  The sign along the Autobahn will indicate parking, but nothing else.  Enter the Parkplatz and you will be greeted with spaces to park you car, garbage cans, and possibly picnic tables to rest and have a snack.  Well....there are no restrooms here.  If you stop at these parking areas, there is a very real possibility that you WILL see people peeing.  There may not even be trees or bushes to hide behind, so men may typically just be doing their business beside their vehicles.  This may be "kein problem" for German folks, but us foreigners may prefer to pay our ,70 cents.

No bathrooms here!  Keep moving if that's not your style.

No bathrooms here!  Keep moving if that's not your style.

Proper Etiquette

When my husband and I first landed in Germany, we were out for a bike ride on one of the public trails when we saw a man in the distance who appeared to be squatting.  I told my husband, "STOP! What is happening there?!"  Mortified, I refused to ride past him because in my experience, the only people who would drop a solid on the side of a walking/bike path are either drunk, homeless, or mentally ill.   So, my husband and I, in the middle of the very public pathway, had a lively conversation, hoping it would alert the man to our presence.  Turns out, he didn't mind us being there and was willing to finish his business as he saw fit. We waited 10 minutes, debating what to do, until we decided to roll on by (but first I snapped the picture below).  Thankfully, the biker was "cleaning up" and had pulled up his bike shorts by the time we rode past.  He even greeted us with a "Hallo" as we rode by.  We learned a lesson that day about the German culture and decided it was just one of those differences we needed to get used to.

 Wildpooper in the distance.

 Wildpooper in the distance.

Is It Legal?

In the United States, if you are arrested for urinating in public, you may be required to register on the Sex Offender Registry.  That's serious!  In Germany, however, public urination is quite common.  Due to the frequency which people pee outside in public, authorities will rarely take action against the offense.  Public pee-ers CAN be punished and fined, so it's best to still seek out a restroom if possible.

Fixing the problem

If you've ever been to Oktoberfest or another large festival, you may have seen the mess that "Wildpinklers" or wild urinator can make.  The city of Hamburg has fought back against these folks, typically men, by modifying the area's walls to "pee back".  Although the paint is expensive, it's been worth it.  When you pee on the wall, the pee comes right back at you, usually soaking your shoes and pants.  Some of these areas have signs warning of the paint, while other places work with the element of surprise.

Photo by Slate

Photo by Slate

In Amsterdam they have these public urinals which are pretty innovative, but shocking none the less.  Even though it prevents people from peeing on the street, this area still reeks from the waste.