From the northern seacoast to the Bavarian Alps, discover hip cities, quaint towns and beautiful landscapes. Germany’s diversity is best explored by experiencing the country firsthand, the old and the new: gothic cathedrals vs. 21st century skyscrapers; Oktoberfest, Carnival and Christkindl markets vs. the Documenta art fair and Love Parade; soccer worship vs. the deep appreciation for museums, opera houses, theater and literature.



Languages Spoken:

German

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW 

The oldest German universities were founded in the late Middle Ages. Now, Germany has more than 100 universities and institutions of higher education which are administered by individual states (Bundesländer) under guidelines from the federal government. 

Higher education at public institutions has traditionally been free. However, in recent years some German institutions have begun to introduce nominal tuition fees per semester.  

University Types    

In Germany, there are two types of higher education institutions, traditional academic universities and Fachhochschulen:  

Traditional academic universities  

Contain humanities and science faculties, as well as professional schools (law, medicine, dentistry, etc).  

Fachhochschulen, (Universities of Applied Sciences): 

Offer subjects such as engineering, business administration, architecture and agriculture in a more practical oriented way. About one-third of all students attend Fachhochschulen.  

Degrees   

The system of degrees awarded in German higher education reflects a common European structure. The bachelor, master, and doctorate — is based on the number of semesters completed since leaving secondary school, and their equivalent in European credits under the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS):   

Bachelor = 3 years or 6 semesters  

Master = 5 years or 10 semesters  

Doctorate = 8 years or 16 semesters 

 

STUDYING AT A GERMAN UNIVERSITY 

Academic Calendar 

At most universities in Germany, the ‘Winter semester’ runs from mid-October to March and the ‘Summer semester’ from mid-April to Mid-July. The period of study is generally counted in semesters rather than years.  

Students are required to stay from the start of courses until the end of the examination period. It is unlikely that students will be allowed to take examinations early or remotely. This mostly affects students planning to attend programs in Germany during the Northern Hemisphere Fall term.  

ISEP has a few programs that are customized to fit the US Academic Calendar. Please speak to your ISEP Student Services Officer regarding these recommendations.  

 

Class Structure  

Teaching at the universities includes lectures and seminars: 

Lectures (Vorlesungen) 

Take up the full amount of time designated, and the number of students is not limited. Discussion and questions concerning the lecture take place during the accompanying Übungen, small discussion groups. The Übungen usually feature homework assignments, research and writing  papers. 

Seminars 

Seminars are headed by a professor and are dedicated to small-group learning.. They cover subject areas in more detail and require that each student contribute an oral presentation on a specific topic. Students are encouraged to participate  in two to four seminars per semester. Note: A common practice is the akademische Viertel. Classes are scheduled on the hour, but do not actually begin until 15 minutes past. This is signified by a "c.t." (cum tempore) after the listed time of a meeting. If this practice does not apply to a particular meeting, an "s.t." (sine tempore) will appear after the posted time. Check with other students before assuming that the akademische Viertel is practiced by individual instructors. 

 

Registration 

Course registration works differently at each institution. You should follow the instructions as outlined by your host university in detail. These processes are not standardized amongst all German higher education institutions and will likely be different than the registration processes you are used to. It is common for registration to occur after students arrive on campus for the start of the semester. 

In Europe, it is standard for full-time students to take 24-30 ECTS per semester; however, the weight of the ECTS may be assigned differently at each institution in Germany. Please have a clear outline of your academic requirements as set by your home university and work with your host coordinator to ensure you register for an appropriate number of courses.  

 

Coursework 

The German education system as a whole may be very different from your home country’s education system. German Degree-seeking students first declare their intended field of study, however, it is rare that the exact same courses are offered every semester. Indeed, some fundamental courses are offered regularly, but more often than not, universities give professors liberty to teach courses based on relevancy or interests within a particular field. Because new courses appear every semester, it is common to not see course descriptions until official registration opens. 

Independent, self-directed study is heavily emphasized at German universities. There are usually no definite assignments of a certain number of pages to read in textbooks. German students are expected to do independent primary and secondary reading during the course of their studies. Independent study is a crucial element of the academic freedom of a German institution and is designed to encourage self-motivation and promote interesting discussion, since not everyone has read the same material.  

For these reasons, it is very unlikely that syllabi exist in the first place and it would be incredibly difficult to obtain prior to the student starting their courses. The most up to date course information can be found under the Course Description section of each university’s program page.  

Like many European universities, German institutions do not differentiate between 100, 200, and 300+ level courses. Students from all levels are welcome to register for courses as long as they have sufficient background in certain topics. As there is a 3-year Bachelor’s degree program in Germany, it is often possible for 3rd and 4th year undergraduate students to take Master’s level courses in Germany.  

 

Academic Expectations 

It is important to meet with your professors immediately upon the start of the semester if you have any questions about academic expectations. It can be common for professors to ask international students to remain at the end of the first class in order to discuss academic expectations for the term more in-depth. It is also important to use formal language when addressing your professors (whether in German or in English). Professors will assume you understand all course material and assignments, so if you do have questions, you MUST ask.  

 

GRADES 

Grades are given on a five-point scale: 1, very good, to 5, unsatisfactory or failing. In general, receiving a grade of 3 out of 5 is good by German standards. It is extremely rare to obtain a 1 as German professors can be very conservative in their grading. 

 

EXAMS 

Most German universities do not have centralized or departmental registration, primarily due to the law governing the protection of personal data. In addition to the lack of centralized registration, there is no centralized recording of grades and transcripts are not automatically produced at the end of each semester. To obtain a transcript containing a record of courses taken and grades earned, you need to follow the procedures outlined by your host institution. It is extremely important that you complete all the required steps before you leave your German host university. Please find transcript instructions in your ISEP Acceptance Package.  

You may have to submit a paper, or Referat, at the end of the course or at the beginning of the next semester (usually six weeks later). You may also be asked to present your paper in class. Often several students join together to prepare a single Referat, with each student responsible for a particular section. In most cases, the paper accompanying the speech must be at least 10 pages long. You may be required to take a final exam. This is often the case with foreign-language courses. The final exam may be oral or written. 

 

STUDYING IN THE GERMAN LANGUAGE IN GERMANY  

All of ISEP’s programs in Germany offer German language courses for non-native speakers in some capacity. Students are enrolled in these courses based on language level. Please check the program pages and speak with your ISEP Student Services Officer for more details on these language courses.  

For students eligible to take regular courses in the German language, please see the program pages for more information on proficiency requirements. 

Due to the nature of German degrees, it is uncommon to see Liberal Arts programs in Germany as a whole. For students wishing to take “General Education” courses such as a biology course, please keep in mind that the course will be designed for degree-seeking students in that field of study and therefore may be more focused than that of a liberal arts course. As a general rule, taking degree-specific courses in a second language can often be more challenging than taking courses in your native language. Some programs may allow students to take some courses in German and the remainder of courses in English depending on your proficiency level.  

If enrolled in a German as a Second Language course or program, students may see that credits are awarded as hours of instruction/contact hours rather than ECTS. As mentioned before, the contact hour to ECTS conversion consists of both in-class work hours and time expected to spend outside of class working and researching. Language courses tend to have more in-class time over research and the ECTS awarded my vary. In ISEP’s experience, this is a common practice for Language programs across Europe.  

 

CREDIT TRANSFER FROM GERMAN INSTITUTIONS 

As mentioned previously, you should collaborate with your Home and Host University ahead of time to understand how academic credit taken in Germany will transfer back to your home institution.  

The number of classes you take per semester will vary depending on the number of credits/contact hours granted per course. You may take a higher number of individual classes than you are used to at home, yet the overall coursework should be comparable to that of an average full-time course load at your home university. 

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a standard for comparing the study attainment and performance of students of higher education across the European Union and other collaborating European countries. For successfully completed studies, ECTS credits are awarded. One academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits that are equivalent to 1500-1800 hours of study. One ECTS credit corresponds to 25-30 hours of work. 

For a detailed description on ECTS please read page 6 of the Transcript Evaluation Guide.   

* Reminder: All credit and grade conversions are ultimately up to the discretion of your home university. 

Visa and Residency

Please note that students should ALWAYS check the website of the embassy/consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence first, as the information in this handbook regarding visa application instructions is subject to change without warning. 

 

STUDENT VISA/RESIDENCE PERMIT

Type of visa for Semester or Full Year: Entry visa (if applicable) + Residence Permit

Visa fee: €80 for entry visa, €75 for residence permit 

Expected processing time: 3-4 months (entry visa) / 4-6 weeks (residence permit)

When to apply: after you receive your acceptance letter and any admission documents from your host university (residence permit)

 

HOW TO APPLY

All ISEP students will need to apply for a residence visa/long stay/national visa to stay in Germany for more than 90 days, such as for the purpose of study unless they are citizens of EU member countries. Please see the Federal Foreign Office webpage on Visa Regulations for further information, particularly article 8 for long-stay visa regulations, and article 12 for "Application forms for longer-term stays in Germany (national visa, category D)" in a variety of languages. There are additional resources at the bottom of this article.

 

Whether or not you need to apply for a visa PRIOR to departure will depend on your citizenship. Please see the Overview of visa requirements/exemptions for entry into the Federal Republic of Germany or the Visa Navigator to determine if you need to obtain a visa prior to departure. If you do not need an entry visa, you may apply for their residence permit after entering Germany without a visa. If you do need an entry visa, you must apply for a visa PRIOR to your arrival in Germany at the German Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of residence.

 

AFTER ARRIVAL

For all ISEP students: after your arrival in Germany, you will have to register with the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde). You will receive further instructions from your host institution during orientation weeks.

For your registration, be sure to bring the following documents with you to Germany:

• Passport
• Visa (If applicable – not U.S. students)
• One passport photo
• Letter of acceptance from your host university
• Proof of sufficient financial resources

However, if requested, this proof can be provided by non-EU citizens in two ways:

1. The student's parents submit a financial guarantee letter at the German Embassy/German Consulate closest to their place of residence. This letter will be forwarded to the Foreigners Offices in Germany

2. Students open a blocked bank account after their arrival in Germany, which they deposit the required amount (see link below regarding proof of financial resources). Students on scholarship who can take their scholarship money with them only need to show proof of the scholarship amount they receive to make sure it covers the minimum financial means required.

You will then receive your residence permit (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung) and your residents' registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung). Please take care of these documents as you will need them occasionally, e.g. when opening a bank account or applying for a reader's card in the public library.

 

EMPLOYMENT

Students looking for paid part-time employment in Germany must observe the German labor law regulations for international students. Most students from non-EU countries are not allowed to work for more than 90 full days or 180 half days per year parallel to their studies. All German and international students who earn more than EUR 400 per month are liable to pay contributions to the German pension fund. These contributions are transferable within the EU, students from non-EU countries can apply for a refund.

For most employment you will need a German tax card which can be obtained from the Citizen's Bureau (Bürgerbüro). Do not forget your passport and visa or residence permit.

 

IMPORTANT NOTES

1. As of January 2020, all students will be required to show proof of finances in the amount of:

- EUR 5,118.00 for one semester

- EUR 10,236.00 for two semesters 

Please see the link below in the Resources section for further information on how to document these sums.

2. Germany is a member of the Schengen area. Students should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.

 

RESOURCES

- German Missions in the US - Long Stay Visa

- Study in Germany: Obtaining a Residence Permit

- Study in Germany: Proof of Financial Resources

- Visa Fees as of February 2020

- Visa Navigator

 

---------

Updated August 2023

Culture

CULTURE

Population

The demographic changes of the past forty years have significantly altered the face of German society. While formerly very homogeneous, Germany’s population has evolved over the past decades into a socially and culturally diversified country. Of Germany’s 82.3 million residents, nineteen percent have an immigrant background, meaning they are foreigners, repatriates of German descent, or children of foreign-born parents.

Religious Tradition

64.1 percent of the German population belongs to Christian denominations. 31.4 percent are Roman Catholic, and 32.7 percent are affiliated with Protestantism (the figures are known accurately because Germany imposes a church tax on those who disclose a religious affiliation). The North and East is predominantly Protestant, the South and West rather Catholic. Historically, Germany had a substantial Jewish population. Only a few thousand people of Jewish origin remained in Germany after the Holocaust, but the German Jewish community now has approximately 100,000 members, many from the former Soviet Union. Germany also has a substantial Musilim minority, most of whom are from Turkey.

German lifestyle

The following traditional German saying probably describes it best, "Food and drink hold the body and soul together."

Germany is the world’s eighth largest wine producer, and ten percent of German wine is exported to the United States

Few traditions color the world's perception of Germany more than the brewing and drinking of beer. And with 1300 active breweries, beer is still an important part of German culture.

The influence of the various immigrant groups is most noticeable in the gastronomic and food sector. Many Germans love the healthy Asian and light Mediterranean cuisine. In fact, you often have to look long and hard to find a typical German restaurant, while Italian, Greek, Chinese, Spanish or Thai restaurants are lined up, one after the other.

However, not only the eating habits of Germans have changed. Their whole lifestyle has as well. One could say that German students have become more relaxed, easy-going and cosmopolitan as a result of the many different contacts with people and cultures from all around the world. They have, above all, been inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle. Besides working, which continues to play an important role, of course, they also like to dedicate plenty of time and space for some fun and joie de vivre.

Punctuality

Be on Time! Punctuality is seen not as a courtesy but as precondition for future relations. Most Germans arrive 5-10 minutes early and take this for granted from everyone. Arriving more than two minutes late to a meeting is seen as rude and will be tolerated only with unknowing strangers, unless you can give good reason in your defense. It is seen as a courtesy to call the other participants if you seem to run late. Regular delays are seen as a disrespect for the other participants.

Family

Diversity characterises how and with whom Germans live. An estimated 800,000 marriages in Germany are bi-national. In one-in-six weddings, at least one of the partners comes from abroad. This in turn means that ever more children in Germany are growing up with several cultures and languages, and so are particularly well equipped for the challenges of a globalised world.

Many different kinds of family structures also exist. The traditional Mom-Dad-2 Kids model is increasingly being replaced by a kind of patchwork family: people get divorced, then live together with their new partner, with children from various relationships. In addition, many single parents or same-sex relationships are bringing up their own or adopted children. Since 2001, gay partners can be registered as a couple and enjoy similar rights as married couples. Importantly, one marked difference about married Germans is that they wear the wedding ring on their right hand not their left.

Sports

Sport forms an integral part of German life, as demonstrated by the fact that 27 million Germans are members of a sports club and an additional twelve million pursue such an activity individually. Soccer is by far the most popular sport, and the German Soccer Federation (Deutscher Fussballbund) with more than 6.3 million members is the largest athletic organisation in the country. It also attracts the greatest audience, with hundreds of thousands of spectators attending top German National League (Bundesliga) matches and millions more watching on television. The other two most popular sports in Germany are marksmanship and tennis.Other popular sports include handball, volleyball, basketball and ice hockey.

Greetings

Greetings are formal. A quick, firm handshake is the traditional greeting. Titles are important and denote respect. Use a person's title and their surname until invited to use their first name. You should say Herr or Frau and the person's title and their surname. If you are invited to a German's house, bring a small gift such as chocolates or flowers. Gifts are usually opened when received.

Table manners

Table manners are continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or someone says 'Guten Appetit' (good appetite). Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate, with the fork over the knife. The most common toast with wine is 'Zum Wohl!' ('good health'). The most common toast with beer is 'Prost!'

Germans and Americans… some observations to be taken with a grain of salt:

Germans and Americans have a few different standards regarding what constitutes "politeness". Americans tend to define politeness in terms of "friendliness": smiling, telling "white lies" to avoid hurting people's feelings, pretending to like people even if we don't, saying "Hi, how are you?" whether we really care how they are or not, etc. Germans, however, tend to consider "respect" to be the proper way to show "politeness", and "respect" assumes that the other person wants an honest answer.

Humor

Dour. Unfunny. Serious. Such is the reputation of the German in much of the world. Problem is though, it's simply not true. While not everyone in the country is quite as ready with a joke as Hans and Franz, nor as outlandish as Dieter, the German funny bone is quite well developed. Self-deprecation, irony, sarcasm, and a sharp wit are to be found in abundance -- and often you have to really be paying attention. Nor is it easy to pin down. Germany has almost as many different ways of making you laugh as there are different dialects in the country. The following are just some of the stereotypes:

  1. The Bavarian: Humor just north of the Alps tends to be anything but subtle. In-your-face slapstick abounds as do hearty belly laughs around the Biergarten table.
  2. The Rhinelander: Germans from the Rhineland are crazy about Karneval. Each year, Cologne and many other cities shut down just to party for a week. Besides copious drinking, part of the fest is ritualized joke telling in massive halls.
  3. The Berliner: Germany's capital is famous for its Schnauze-- literally "snout" -- which is essentially shorthand for its big city attitude. Always quick with a retort, the Berliner is very definitely not a stranger to sarcasm. But so long as you're not overly sensitive, the snarky comments can often be hilarious. Just be ready with your own quick cutdown. A true Berliner will respect getting taken down a peg as much as making fun of somebody else.
  4. The Hamburger: No, we're not talking about American fast food here. The Hamburger is synonymous with the clichéd assumptions about Germany's supposedly cool and calm northern residents. Don't expect the knee-slapping, belly laugh of the Bavarian -- it's all about understatement and irony up north. Deadpan delivery and witty banter are the way to tickle the Hamburger's funny bone.

Making friends

German students may seem a bit distant and uncommunicative at first. Don't give up! Once you have made your first few contacts things will pickup and you are bound to be included in the numerous social activities of German students. Note that the German Freund involves a closer, much steadier relationship than its English counterpart "friend."

Tipping

Unlike in some other countries, service staff is always paid by the hour (albeit not always that well). A tip is a matter of politeness and shows your appreciation. If you didn't appreciate the service (e.g. slow, snippy or indifferent service), reduce the tip accordingly or don't tip at all.

Since the introduction of the Euro, a tip (Trinkgeld, lit. "drink money") of about 5-10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Nonetheless, service charge is already included in an item's unit price so what you see is what you pay.

Tipping in Germany is usually done by mentioning the total while paying. So if eg. a waiter tells you the bill amounts to "€13.50", just state "15" and he will include a tip of €1.50.

Tipping in other situations (unless otherwise indicated):

  • Taxi driver: 5%-10% (at least €1)
  • Housekeeping: €1-2 per day
  • Carrying luggage: €1 per piece
  • Public toilet attendants: €0.30-0.70

SHOPPING

Be prepared to bag your own groceries and goods as well as provide your own shopping bags for doing so. While most stores provide plastic as well as canvas shopping bags at the checkout, you are charged for them.

LIFESTYLE

Most cities have a vibrant gay and lesbian scene, especially Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin tourism agency and other tourism organisations have started campaigns to attract gay and lesbian travellers to their cities. In fact, some politicians (e.g. the Mayors of Berlin and Hamburg) and stars in Germany are homo- and bisexuals.

Daily Life

CULTURE

Population

The demographic changes of the past forty years have significantly altered the face of German society. While formerly very homogeneous, Germany’s population has evolved over the past decades into a socially and culturally diversified country. Of Germany’s 82.3 million residents, nineteen percent have an immigrant background, meaning they are foreigners, repatriates of German descent, or children of foreign-born parents.

Religious Tradition

64.1 percent of the German population belongs to Christian denominations. 31.4 percent are Roman Catholic, and 32.7 percent are affiliated with Protestantism (the figures are known accurately because Germany imposes a church tax on those who disclose a religious affiliation). The North and East is predominantly Protestant, the South and West rather Catholic. Historically, Germany had a substantial Jewish population. Only a few thousand people of Jewish origin remained in Germany after the Holocaust, but the German Jewish community now has approximately 100,000 members, many from the former Soviet Union. Germany also has a substantial Musilim minority, most of whom are from Turkey.

German lifestyle

The following traditional German saying probably describes it best, "Food and drink hold the body and soul together."

Germany is the world’s eighth largest wine producer, and ten percent of German wine is exported to the United States

Few traditions color the world's perception of Germany more than the brewing and drinking of beer. And with 1300 active breweries, beer is still an important part of German culture.

The influence of the various immigrant groups is most noticeable in the gastronomic and food sector. Many Germans love the healthy Asian and light Mediterranean cuisine. In fact, you often have to look long and hard to find a typical German restaurant, while Italian, Greek, Chinese, Spanish or Thai restaurants are lined up, one after the other.

However, not only the eating habits of Germans have changed. Their whole lifestyle has as well. One could say that German students have become more relaxed, easy-going and cosmopolitan as a result of the many different contacts with people and cultures from all around the world. They have, above all, been inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle. Besides working, which continues to play an important role, of course, they also like to dedicate plenty of time and space for some fun and joie de vivre.

Punctuality

Be on Time! Punctuality is seen not as a courtesy but as precondition for future relations. Most Germans arrive 5-10 minutes early and take this for granted from everyone. Arriving more than two minutes late to a meeting is seen as rude and will be tolerated only with unknowing strangers, unless you can give good reason in your defense. It is seen as a courtesy to call the other participants if you seem to run late. Regular delays are seen as a disrespect for the other participants.

Family

Diversity characterises how and with whom Germans live. An estimated 800,000 marriages in Germany are bi-national. In one-in-six weddings, at least one of the partners comes from abroad. This in turn means that ever more children in Germany are growing up with several cultures and languages, and so are particularly well equipped for the challenges of a globalised world.

Many different kinds of family structures also exist. The traditional Mom-Dad-2 Kids model is increasingly being replaced by a kind of patchwork family: people get divorced, then live together with their new partner, with children from various relationships. In addition, many single parents or same-sex relationships are bringing up their own or adopted children. Since 2001, gay partners can be registered as a couple and enjoy similar rights as married couples. Importantly, one marked difference about married Germans is that they wear the wedding ring on their right hand not their left.

Sports

Sport forms an integral part of German life, as demonstrated by the fact that 27 million Germans are members of a sports club and an additional twelve million pursue such an activity individually. Soccer is by far the most popular sport, and the German Soccer Federation (Deutscher Fussballbund) with more than 6.3 million members is the largest athletic organisation in the country. It also attracts the greatest audience, with hundreds of thousands of spectators attending top German National League (Bundesliga) matches and millions more watching on television. The other two most popular sports in Germany are marksmanship and tennis.Other popular sports include handball, volleyball, basketball and ice hockey.

Greetings

Greetings are formal. A quick, firm handshake is the traditional greeting. Titles are important and denote respect. Use a person's title and their surname until invited to use their first name. You should say Herr or Frau and the person's title and their surname. If you are invited to a German's house, bring a small gift such as chocolates or flowers. Gifts are usually opened when received.

Table manners

Table manners are continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or someone says 'Guten Appetit' (good appetite). Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate, with the fork over the knife. The most common toast with wine is 'Zum Wohl!' ('good health'). The most common toast with beer is 'Prost!'

Germans and Americans… some observations to be taken with a grain of salt:

Germans and Americans have a few different standards regarding what constitutes "politeness". Americans tend to define politeness in terms of "friendliness": smiling, telling "white lies" to avoid hurting people's feelings, pretending to like people even if we don't, saying "Hi, how are you?" whether we really care how they are or not, etc. Germans, however, tend to consider "respect" to be the proper way to show "politeness", and "respect" assumes that the other person wants an honest answer.

Humor

Dour. Unfunny. Serious. Such is the reputation of the German in much of the world. Problem is though, it's simply not true. While not everyone in the country is quite as ready with a joke as Hans and Franz, nor as outlandish as Dieter, the German funny bone is quite well developed. Self-deprecation, irony, sarcasm, and a sharp wit are to be found in abundance -- and often you have to really be paying attention. Nor is it easy to pin down. Germany has almost as many different ways of making you laugh as there are different dialects in the country. The following are just some of the stereotypes:

  1. The Bavarian: Humor just north of the Alps tends to be anything but subtle. In-your-face slapstick abounds as do hearty belly laughs around the Biergarten table.
  2. The Rhinelander: Germans from the Rhineland are crazy about Karneval. Each year, Cologne and many other cities shut down just to party for a week. Besides copious drinking, part of the fest is ritualized joke telling in massive halls.
  3. The Berliner: Germany's capital is famous for its Schnauze-- literally "snout" -- which is essentially shorthand for its big city attitude. Always quick with a retort, the Berliner is very definitely not a stranger to sarcasm. But so long as you're not overly sensitive, the snarky comments can often be hilarious. Just be ready with your own quick cutdown. A true Berliner will respect getting taken down a peg as much as making fun of somebody else.
  4. The Hamburger: No, we're not talking about American fast food here. The Hamburger is synonymous with the clichéd assumptions about Germany's supposedly cool and calm northern residents. Don't expect the knee-slapping, belly laugh of the Bavarian -- it's all about understatement and irony up north. Deadpan delivery and witty banter are the way to tickle the Hamburger's funny bone.

Making friends

German students may seem a bit distant and uncommunicative at first. Don't give up! Once you have made your first few contacts things will pickup and you are bound to be included in the numerous social activities of German students. Note that the German Freund involves a closer, much steadier relationship than its English counterpart "friend."

Tipping

Unlike in some other countries, service staff is always paid by the hour (albeit not always that well). A tip is a matter of politeness and shows your appreciation. If you didn't appreciate the service (e.g. slow, snippy or indifferent service), reduce the tip accordingly or don't tip at all.

Since the introduction of the Euro, a tip (Trinkgeld, lit. "drink money") of about 5-10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Nonetheless, service charge is already included in an item's unit price so what you see is what you pay.

Tipping in Germany is usually done by mentioning the total while paying. So if eg. a waiter tells you the bill amounts to "€13.50", just state "15" and he will include a tip of €1.50.

Tipping in other situations (unless otherwise indicated):

  • Taxi driver: 5%-10% (at least €1)
  • Housekeeping: €1-2 per day
  • Carrying luggage: €1 per piece
  • Public toilet attendants: €0.30-0.70

SHOPPING

Be prepared to bag your own groceries and goods as well as provide your own shopping bags for doing so. While most stores provide plastic as well as canvas shopping bags at the checkout, you are charged for them.

LIFESTYLE

Most cities have a vibrant gay and lesbian scene, especially Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin tourism agency and other tourism organisations have started campaigns to attract gay and lesbian travellers to their cities. In fact, some politicians (e.g. the Mayors of Berlin and Hamburg) and stars in Germany are homo- and bisexuals.

Health and Safety

Prescription Medications: If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Student Services Coordinator and ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions.

General Health Guidelines: Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference our Guides and Tips section for general information regarding health and safety abroad. 

Detailed information about Germany can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and SecurityLocal Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections. 

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S. nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections. 

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Currency & Exchange

In 2002, the Euro replaced the Deutsche Mark as the official currency of Germany. The Euro is the common currency of the European Union.

A useful currency converter can be found here.

Germans use cash for most purchases, reserving credit or debit cards for travel and for very large purchases. Checks are rarely used in Germany.

Banks

As a rule German banks are open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Thursdays to 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. Some smaller branches shut at lunchtime.

A Girokonto is similar to a basic U.S. checking account, while a Sparkonto, or savings account, accrues interest. However, German banking methods may take some getting used to. When opening a Girokonto, ask for an EC card (debit card) with a PIN code which will allow you to pay for  goods and services directly.  Many stores in Gemany will now accept this debit card as form of payment. Cash is still used when making purchases in smaller shops and restaurants.

Most monthly payments, such as for rent and insurance, are not made by check but rather by an automatic direct transfer from your bank to the party who should receive the payment. This usually eliminates the "float" period. You will have to sign a contract and give your Girokonto number for this direct transfer when you move into student housing.

Reportedly, some major German banks will waive service fees for students. Stadtsparkassen (city savings-banks) are popular among students because of their low service fees and many branches.

Credit Cards

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Euro-card are all widely accepted in Germany and throughout Europe. However, it is best not to rely completely on credit cards; carry cash in manageable denominations for smaller purchases. You can access your German or home bank account through ATM machines.

Sources of Information

https://www.studying-in-germany.org/
Multilingual Web site with information on studying in Germany.

https://www.germany.travel/en/home.html
German National Tourist Board.

http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/Startseite.html
Official German Information Center

http://www.daad.de/
German Academic Exchange Service.

http://www.dwelle.de/
Germany's International Broadcasting Service.

http://www.bundesregierung.de/Webs/Breg/DE/Homepage/home.html
German Federal Government Press and Information Office.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1047864.stm
BBC Country Profile.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com Web site for content and purchasing information.


Guides

 

Frommer's Germany 2008 (Frommer's Complete)

Insight Guide Germany (Insight Guides Germany)

Lonely Planet Germany


Culture, History, and Politics

 

Breuilly, John, ed. The State of Germany: The National Idea in the Making, Unmaking and Remaking of a Modern Nation-State

Childs, David. Germany in the Twentieth Century

Barkow, Ben and Stefan Zeidenitz. The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans

Flippo, Hyde. The German Way : Aspects of Behavior, Attitudes, and Customs in the German-Speaking World

Friedrich, Otto. Before the Deluge: Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, A

Hafner, Katie. House at the Bridge

Hall, Edward and Mildred Reed. Understanding Cultural Differences: Germans, French, and Americans

Huyssen, Andreas. Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia

Lorenz, Dagmar and Gabriele Weinberger, eds. Insiders and Outsiders: Jewish and Gentile Culture in Germany and Austria

Pond, Elizabeth. Beyond the Wall: Germany's Road to Unification (A Twentieth Century Fund Book)

Schlink, Bernhard. The Reader

Schneider, Peter. The German Comedy: Scenes of Life After the Wall

Storti, Craig. Old World/New World: Bridging Cultural Differences - Britain, France, Germany and the U.S.

Watson, Alan. The Germans: Who Are They Now?


Traveler's Health

 

International Travel Health Guide

CDC Health Information for International Travel 2008 (Health Information for International Travel)

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