Germany has a reputation for being a bit of a nanny state – in that you must conform to various rules and laws in order that you are protected from yourself. Whilst these rules and laws are -in general- a good idea, sometimes they can seem a little intrusive.
Rules like not trusting you to cross the road by yourself, so making it law that you must wait for the green man before walking. But also something that I was completely unaware was even a thing before I moved here is, they do not trust you to be able to navigate the treacherous German roads of Hamburg without exchanging your tyres twice yearly for M + S (mud and snow) tyres.
Whilst there are such things as “all weather tyres” it is far more likely that you will have 2 sets of not only tyres – but wheels. from October to Easter (Oster) so “O to O” you have to adorn winter tyres and in the other month’s – summer tyres. Down in the south of Germany, this does make sense, their weather is far more extreme than say Dusseldorf or Hamburg. But the German government, not wanting anyone to feel left out created a blanket law/rule that applies to all Germans.
There are a few rumours around whether or not it is not LAW to have winter tyres on your car between October and Easter and after some research, it is actually not the law to do it by season, but by weather condition. Thus, if in the event of an accident you did not have Winter tyres in bad weather conditions you would be automatically held responsible for the accident, even if you were driving a hire car. So in extreme weather conditions be sure to check your tyres have an M + S mark (Mud and Snow)
So for every car there are two sets of wheels that you either have to store yourself, or pay a garage to store for you, not everyone will pony up to afford two very nice pairs of wheels, so often in the winter you will see very expensive cars rolling around on horrid steel wheels as opposed to the “fly” 22″ alloys that came with the car. Which is exactly the case for me, urgh.
More information on the actual law can be found here