Germany’s universities are working to attract more students from overseas. With Brexit making the idea of studying in the UK less appealing, more Irish students are looking further afield in Europe. Is Germany the right place for you? The biggest criterion is the particular programme. If you can find a course that offers what you want and doing it is within your means financially, the next question is probably the culture. What would a year in Germany be like?
The popularity of Oktoberfest makes it sound like the kind of place any beer-loving Irish person would feel right at home. What’s not to love about a fortnight spent celebrating beer? And let’s not leave out the sausages. Beer and sausages, so far, so familiar. Or is it? What’s everyday life in Germany really like? What are the biggest cultural stumbling blocks?
Real Life Germany for Students
The first shock might be discovering that small talk about the weather isn’t a thing in Germany. Your neighbours and the people you see regularly will be more formal with you than people are in Ireland. This is not because they dislike you. It’s because their culture is different. Germans don’t have the same tendency to strike up conversations with anyone they encounter, nor do they share the Irish interest in the weather. (Their weather gives them less to talk about, in fairness.) Use for the formal form of ‘you’ when speaking with new people unless they ask you to use the casual form. Don’t be daunted by this. German people are friendly and helpful. International students rate Germany highly, and it is one of the popular destinations in the world for studying abroad.
Another big cultural difference is timekeeping. German culture values punctuality. If a class starts at 9:00 am, you should be there at 8:55 completely ready to start. The up side of this is that you can expect public transport to run on time. Rules are big in Germany, and people are less flexible about them than in Ireland. It’s a very organized culture, but that also means it is very structured. Follow the rules, and don’t hesitate to ask if something doesn’t make sense to you. If you do break some rule along the way, the locals will let you know promptly.
One very pleasant difference is the lack of litter. There’s the good side of all that rule following. Germany is a beautiful, clean country. You won’t see beautiful views of the countryside spoiled by bin liners of rubbish or old kitchen appliances.
German culture has some stark differences from Irish culture, but once you get to know people you’ll find they really are mostly friendly, kind and helpful. Whether you go for a one year exchange programme or spend years in Germany earning a degree, you’ll return with wonderful memories … and a new level of rage about fly tipping.