Going to a new place always means adjusting and learning about that country and it’s culture. It is helpful to prepare yourself before going abroad, for the new things you will encounter, by consulting books, websites and forums as well as getting recommendations from friends that have been there before. To gain a good personal experience of Germany, you have to submerge yourself in its culture, by getting to know and spending as much time as you can with Germans around you, be it students or locals.
There is no shortage of student clubs and activities on and off campus, so if you are interested in activities like e.g. hiking or chess or whatever in your home country, you can continue pursuing the same interests and engage in the same activities and make new friends and learn German in the process. You may have heard that Germans are somewhat reserved in their interactions with others, and there may be some truth to it, but mostly in the case of elders and dwellers of smaller towns. But in larger cities and places with a lot of young people, you’ll find out that they are friendly and accepting of students from abroad.
Be sure to address the elderly with “Sie,” which is the formal “you” to show respect and call your professors by their last name; you can of course call your colleagues and friends by their first names and use “du” if you speak German. Germans value punctuality very much so be in time.
The best part: there are universities in both large cities or quaint towns – whatever suits your personality and needs. Whether you enjoy going out a lot and partying, or have a more chilled lifestyle you’ll have options.
Cost of living in Germany depends on the place you will be studying at and your lifestyle, but generally the basic expenses (such as accommodation, study materials, transportation, food etc) are close to the European Union average – around €750 a month. Getting a student card is recommended since you will get discounts at museums, theaters, cinema, public swimming pools and many other places so make sure you make the most of your student status as much as you can.
You can work part-time and earn extra money on the side to support your lifestyle while studying. If you are a national of an EU member country or a national of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, than you have unlimited access to the job market, just as Germans. Beware that if you work more than 20 hours during a week you will have to pay into social security.
If you come from a country not mentioned above you only have the right to work for 90 full days or 180 half-days a year and if you wish to work more than that, you need to get a work permit. Internships are regarded as work hours too – even the unpaid ones – so please be mindful not to work more than you are allowed to, so you don’t risk trouble with the authorities or worse still – get expelled from Germany. Labor laws are very strict in Germany, so make sure to respect them.
Transportation is not a problem since there are trams, buses and trains in almost all the regions of Germany. A common transportation ticket among students is the “Semesterticket” which allows you to use any public transportation at a discount price for a full semester.
Since some universities and campuses are located in suburbs away from city centers, you can save a lot with a single transportation pass. Riding a bike is a common choice among students too, you can get almost anywhere on a bike and thus cut the transportation expenses as well as get some exercise.
Food in Germany
Germans love their beer and most likely you have heard about the Munich Oktoberfest, where thousand of tourists, besides locals go every year just to relish the taste of a true Bavarian brew. But, Germany has a lot more to offer than just great beer, and that is among other things, their delicious food. German cuisine is as rich and diverse as the country’s culture and history. While studying there, you should by all means make sure you try some of the extraordinary traditional German food. Each region has it’s own specialties, so no matter where you wind up staying you’ll always be presented with plenty of choice and in no time at all you’ll fall in love with German food. Here is a very short list of some of the most popular specialties you will encounter in Germany:
Sausages are the staple diet in Germany and a big part of the German cuisine. Sausage are generally known as Wurst in German and there are over 1500 kinds. They are often eaten in combination with bread, potato salad and mustard. They are mostly made of pork, but it’s not uncommon to find ones made with beef or poultry. One of the popular specialties is the Currywurst, which is a large portion of chopped sausage, either fried or grilled, with spicy ketchup and curry powder, usual served with French fries. It dates from the 50s and originated in Berlin. You will find many places where you can have sausage specialties, ranging from fancy restaurants to local cafés and street stands.
Bread and potatoes
In Germany you’ll always be faced with a great variety of breads to choose from, since bakeries make over 6000 different types and Germans eat bread with almost every meal. No matter how you like your dough, you will probably find it in Germany. A very popular choice is the Brez’n pretzel, and you can rest assured that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the great taste of this soft and fresh original German specialty.
As is the case with bread, potatoes are used with almost every dish and every meal. They are used throughout Germany, but each region has it’s own way of preparing them so you will always find a great variety of potato dishes no matter where you travel.
Black forest cake or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, is a delicious chocolate cake made with cherries. Hence the name –Schwarzwälder means black forest, while Kirschtorte means cherry cake. As far as desserts go, this is one of the most popular cakes and you should definitely try it.
Another specialty coming from the forest fruits in Germany is the Rote Grütze, which is made with strawberries, blueberries, cherries or other red ingredients, hence the name “rote” (meaning red). It’s a dessert usually served with cream or vanilla ice cream – a joy to eat during summer time.