Many people enjoy shopping without having to go anywhere. It's a national pastime in Germany . Every conceivable item for person and household, home and garden is available in bewildering quantity and quality.
Consumer products that have long been favorites among foreigners in Germany include clocks, music boxes, nutcrackers, beer steins, wood carvings, figurines, beer mugs, tableware, cutlery, precision instruments and local costume items such as lederhosen, dirndls and Tyrolean hats. Top quality musical instruments are a specialty in Leipzig, a town whose history includes such great musicians as Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner. Toys and woodcarvings from the Harz Mountains, wood-carved religious statuary from the Alps and Christmas decorations from Franconia are other all-time favorites.
"The mall" is not nearly as well developed as in the States. The good stores are still downtown. Good public transportation systems make it less necessary to shop by car, and cities have revamped their downtown shopping areas and made them pleasant places to be. They have become pedestrian zones with outdoor cafes, sidewalk musicians, benches, fountains, trees and shrubbery, and some shopping streets have even been glassed over.
Expatriates are people on the go and more frequently than not travel extensively. For those Expats whose prime residence is outside of the EU, opportunities exist to obtain refunds of European nations' Value Added Tax when returning home. These refunds can help stretch shopping dollars particularly if high value items are purchased.
What with VAT's running as high as 25% in some countries such as Sweden, 21.6% in France or 16% on most items in Germany, any significant purchase being taken out of the country can put substantial cash refunds in one's pocket.
If nothing else, the refund provides gleeful satisfaction just knowing that you are avoiding taxes entirely legitimately.
This service is provided by Global Refund Deutschland GmbH, subsidiary of Swedish Global Refund Group, whose white/blue logo is a familiar sign at airports and major rail stations.