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Pros and Cons of Living and Studying in Germany

I was born and grew up in Kazakhstan but I’ve been living in Germany for the last eight years.
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I completed an undergraduate program at the TH Wildau, then I got a master’s degree at the Dresden University of Technology, and now I’ve been working for a logistics startup in Berlin for five years.

Here I’m going to share my perspective on the pros and cons of living and studying in Germany.

Pros of Studying in Germany

Free education. Germany is known for its high education standards. Most of its federal states offer free education for international students, except for Baden-Württemberg, where they have to pay 1,500 € per semester. Generally, a student only has to pay a semester fee which ranges from 127 to 434 € depending on a university.

Thesis defense in front of your two academic advisors. In Germany, two people supervise your thesis project. One of them is a professor at your university and another one should be a PhD student, for example. When I defended my undergraduate and master’s theses, my academic advisors were in the reviewing committees. I think it’s good because both of them had worked on the thesis with me and, therefore, had a full image of what I was talking about.

Respect for students. First, professors here address students in a formal manner. Second, they never announce a student’s scores in front of their group mates. Every student has a private account in a university learning management system where they can view their scores and track their general performance.

Support for international students. Every German university has an International Office that a student can contact for any question or problem. For example, an international office helped me get health insurance that everyone in Germany is required to have. Besides, they gave me advice on what documents I needed to prepare to get a Student Residence Permit.

Student discounts. Being a student in Germany gives you certain benefits. Among them are doing sports, going to the movies, theaters, and museums at a reduced price.

For example, the Fitness First gyms offer students a 10 € discount for a membership certificate. In Berlin, a student would generally pay 1.5 € less for a movie ticket than other people. When visiting public museums in Berlin, a student only has to pay 50% of the price. Providing a student ID card in a university cafeteria will also cut the cost of your dinner by half.

Moreover, you can get the UNiDAYS app that will allow you to buy things such as tech products at a 20% discount. 

Cons of Studying in Germany

Too much self-study. A student is responsible for their studies. Most of the learning materials have to be processed independently. I found it hard at first.

No mid-term evaluation. Your final exam score is your first and only grade in a course. That’s why you need to study really hard to nail it. If there is something you failed to get during classes or you have questions on the learning materials, don’t hesitate to ask your professor for help during revision sessions.

What’s Good About Living in Germany

Thriving cultural and nightlife. In Berlin, for example, there are plenty of markets with street food, museums, galleries, theaters, and nightclubs. You can try the Eventbrite app to find out about the upcoming events in any German city.

Environmental consciousness. Environmental protection is a highly sensitive issue in Germany. For example, people don’t throw away plastic bottles. When you buy a drink, you pay a deposit of 25 cents for the bottle. Once the bottle is empty, you return it for recycling and get your deposit back. Besides, people separate waste at home. I have separate dustbins for biowaste, plastic packages, as well as paper and cardboard.

Health insurance. Health insurance is mandatory in Germany. It covers doctor visits and full or partial drug costs. A student pays around 90 € per month for health insurance. When I got a minor meniscus tear, my insurance covered all the treatment costs, including ten physical therapy sessions, a knee brace, and orthopedic insoles. All these things would cost me around 450 € without insurance.

Open mindset. German people are open-minded, friendly, understanding, and tolerant. Once, my boss helped me move to another place and transport my stuff using his car. Germans are very tolerant towards foreigners, especially in Berlin, because there are plenty of them here.

Job security. It’s not easy to fire an employee in Germany. An employer will have to provide solid evidence that you are failing to do your job. If you are fired anyway, you will get financial support from the state. The monthly unemployment payment depends on your last year’s income and is generally around 60% of the monthly salary.

Ensuring personal data protection for each citizen. German people strongly believe the personal data of every citizen should be respected. For example, all staff members in our company have to complete training on how to deal with our clients’ data. Also, anyone in Germany has every right to ask a stranger in the street to stop taking pictures or a video if they feel that they are being on camera. Once I was checking my GoPro camera on the subway. Suddenly a guy came up to me and politely requested that I show him a video I had taken. After I did, he asked me to delete it.

What's Not so Good About Living in Germany

Heavy taxes. Income tax can reach up to 45%, depending on a person’s tax class. Today, the German standard VAT rate is 19%.

High-priced dental care. 7.3% of your salary will go to health insurance. However, it does not include dental care. For example, a filling would cost from 100 to 800 €. Having your teeth cleaned, which costs from 80 to 120 €, is not covered by health insurance either. The insurance only covers one annual dental check-up.

Excessive bureaucracy. Germans are big fans of bureaucracy. For example, I had to move several times. Each time, I sent a signed letter with my new address to the bank, health insurance department, and Internet service provider’s office. All the agencies require your handwritten signature, that’s the rule. Otherwise, they won’t update your address.

Costly Internet. I pay 10 € for a 3GB data plan on my phone and 70 € per month for home Internet (1000 Mbps). When living in a residence hall, Internet costs are usually included in your room fee. If that's not the case for you, just keep these prices in mind as the average ones.

The tricky process of getting a SIM card. If you need to buy a SIM card in Germany, there are two options. You can go to your mobile service provider’s office, pick a package, and sign an agreement. The duration period is usually two years. If you don’t annul it after two years, the agreement will be automatically prolonged for the same time.

The second option is to buy a SIM card in a store. However, activating it is going to be a challenge. I had to go to a post office and show my passport to have my card registered. Then I had to wait for a whole day before it was finally activated.

Long waiting time for a doctor’s appointment. Unless it’s an urgent situation, one has to wait for at least one month to get to a highly specialized doctor. I had to wait for three months to undergo a knee MRI test. Of course, German hospitals do provide urgent care, but the priority of emergency treatment is determined depending on the severity of the condition. You won’t have to wait for a month in an emergency department, but it will still take a couple of hours before you are invited to the doctor.

By Valentina Yakupova

 

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