Study Abroad in Germany – Whether you’re an artist, history buff, budding entrepreneur, or someone simply looking for an adventure, study abroad in Berlin is right for you. Germany draws loads of international students every year with its reputation for high quality and low costs of education.
If you are planning to study abroad, it is very likely you will add Germany as one of your options. It is because, whether you want to take up any of the STEM courses or go for a destination that is light on the pocket, Germany ticks all the right boxes and as such, here are things you will need to know about Germany before choosing to study abroad as an international student
1. Germans are Very Punctual
Germans love to be on time, or early by North American standards. From their expedient transit systems to personal meetings, to the start of sporting events — you’ll look like a real schmuck if you show up late, even if it’s just by a few minutes.
Some people might even consider it downright rude. Save yourself the pain and invest in a watch before you go so checking the time is as easy as glancing at your arm. You might even consider setting it a few minutes fast, just in case your North American tardiness habits sneak up on you.
2. The Immigrant Struggle is Real
Unless you are an EU citizen, expect to spend a decent amount of time dealing with the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners’ office).
If you are from the United States and have been accepted into a university program, the visa application should go fairly smoothly, and those who complete a degree in Germany are eligible for an extension of up to 18 months to stay and look for a job.
Still, be prepared for unexpected snags and understand that your starry-eyed dreams are of no interest to anybody within German bureaucracy.
You are responsible for getting your act together and navigating the various hurdles of obtaining health insurance, demonstrating financial independence, finding an apartment, registering yourself at the Bürgeramt (local administrative office), scheduling a visa appointment, and having all your documents organized.
3. Speaking German Helps Immensely
Sure, in the larger German cities you can get by without knowing the native language, and some degree programs are even available in English. Nonetheless, essentially every aspect of your life abroad will be easier with functional language skills, from dealing with government employees to making local friends.
If you decide to stay at work, fluency will give you a crucial advantage in the job market. And why wouldn’t you want to learn? Stale stereotypes to the contrary, German is a lovely language and relatively easy for native English speakers.
4. Figure Out Your Student Accommodations
Germans love to have everything planned. If you’re hoping to have a homestay arranged, chances are you’ll need to arrange it long in advance of actually arriving in Germany.
If you plan on staying in an apartment, we recommend seeing if your school has any recommendations for the area. There’s often an affiliated dorm or student housing arranged through your partner institution that’s the preferred accommodations for the area.
If you decide to look for your own apartment, there are plenty of resources available in English nowadays via the internet. Do research beforehand to make sure you can find a place that’s relatively close to where you’ll be studying to save some commute time.
5. There’s More to Germany than Big Cities
they’re popular study abroad destinations for a reason! –, but make sure you also investigate some of the smaller cities that also have unique exchange programs.
Places like Marburg and Freiburg are small university towns in idyllic settings, built around castles and look like the setting for a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. If hectic cosmopolitan life isn’t for you, it’s worth giving these options a look as well.
6. Germany has Lots of Amazing Snacks
Germans do snacks right, especially when they’re meant to accompany the beer. Here’s a short list of some you’ve got to try.
- Currywurst- classic German ‘street meat,’ grilled sausages sliced up and then drizzled with curried ketchup.
- Spreewaldhof Get One!— these single pickles packaged in a can will make you laugh, and also make for a good study snack.
- Spritzkuchen– delicious fried German pastries drizzled with icing; sometimes called German Crullers.
- Pumpernickel Bread– It might have a funny name, but Germans are downright serious about their bread. The darker, the better. In fact, bread, in general, is huge here, with bakeries doing everything from dark rolls to savory loaves, to sweet brötchen. You’ll quickly forget about the bread of home.
7. German Cinema Will Help You Fit In
Germany is a huge contributor to cinematic history, especially in the early 20th Century. There are distinct German film periods, including that of the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, and West German films.
Recently there have been a string of hits out of modern German cinema, including Run Lola Run, Goodbye Lenin!, The Edukators, and The Lives of Others.
I recommend watching a few German moves before you go to get a feel for the culture, and also have some pop trivia to discuss with your German classmates. We also recommend screening them in German with English subtitles, of course! This is also a great way to pick up some slang to add flavor to your German.
8. Football is Sacred
‘Fußball,’ or soccer as Americans call it, is huge in Germany. You’ll see bars full of crazed football fans on big game evenings, and it’s not uncommon for big rivalries to sprout between fans of opposing teams.
Football fans who choose to study abroad in Germany will be especially at home in Munich, where the whole city can be seen sporting the red colors of home team Bayern Munich when they have a big game, and where you’ll need to buy your tickets in advance if you want to catch a match.
9. Sundays are for Coffee & Cakes
Even though Germany has a very liberal attitude towards religion, they have a very strict attitude towards ‘No Work on Sundays,’ leftover from when it was still considered ‘the Lord’s Day.’ This means not only are most stores closed (except for train stations, and some other necessary conveniences), but Germans don’t like to see you doing anything that disturbs the peace or looks like hard work. This means no mowing the lawn, doing anything loud, or even practicing music.
10. Forthrightness Will Help You Communicate
Germans are very direct and outspoken, straightforward, and honest. If someone asks ‘How are you?’ They mean it as a serious question, not as a small-talk starter to be brushed off with, ‘Oh, I’m fine.’
If someone asks you how you are, they expect to hear about you, your family, how you’re feeling and what your plans for the next little while are. By contrasts, Americans’ proclivity for shallow small talk is one that some Germans find downright frustrating.
Furthering this intercultural communication crisis is the fact that German humor is often blunt to the point of seeming rude by American standards, and often relies on context rather than a knowing ‘wink’ or obvious guffaw to deliver the punchline.
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