So you want to work in Germany: Do you have to learn German?

In short, the answer is: Jein. Last week Jane wrote about the latest news on the abolition of university fees in Germany. I’m not sure how quickly non-German wannabe students will be flocking over here, but it is certainly a good deal! In recent months, I have encountered a number of expats living in Germany, some of whom speak German and some of whom don’t. So the question is, do you absolutely HAVE to speak German fluently in order to live and work here?

marktwain

Source: amazon.de

Of course you don’t have to do anything. I know a number of people who have been living here for more than five years who really don’t speak much German. They are doing just fine. However, I think there are a number of factors to consider and questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge and move to Germany without speaking German.

  • How comfortable are you going through your daily life not understanding what is being said around you?
  • Are you okay with not being understood by everyone?
  • Do you have the confidence to get the information you need, and are you ready to have to fight for it?
  • If you are looking for work, do you have skills that no one else has? Skills that will get you hired even without German?

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Free College Degrees in Germany

Get ‘em while they’re hot. If you are a German-related news junkie like we all are at the German Way, you might have seen your Facebook or Twitter feeds filled with headlines like these, “Free Tuition in Germany for All American Students” earlier this month.

While it is true, Americans along with all other non-Germans, can study in Germany tuition free, this isn’t actually new news. A sudden lifting of tuition for American students has not just occurred; it’s just that Lower Saxony, the last German federal state to have charged tuition, dropped their fees to create this attention-grabbing headline.

So if you are now wondering what the catch is, since there’s no free lunch, especially in a land that isn’t known for giving out smiles for free, you might be disappointed. There isn’t any real catch or hidden deal of indentured servitude, but an American considering taking up Germany on its offer for a free Bachelor’s should weigh the differences in outcome and expectations before making a decision. Read more »

Racing in the Right (or Wrong) Direction

This post came about because I happened to see a photograph of a German horse race, similar to the photo below. It reminded me that horses usually gallop around a German race track in a clockwise direction, while in the United States they run counterclockwise. It made me curious about this custom and how the direction of a race can vary from sport to sport or from country to country, or even from place to place in a country. For instance, NASCAR races in America always go counterclockwise around the speedway, but Formula One races in Europe and elsewhere almost always run clockwise.

home straight

Are these horses racing the wrong way? The Hoppegarten Race Track (Rennbahn), Berlin.
PHOTO: Winfried Veil, Flickr

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Tag der Deutschen Einheit: a view of Berlin 24 years on

As I sat looking out over the tourist boats on the Spree, drinking up the soft autumn sunshine, I had a flickering insight that this moment encapsulated much of modern Berlin. How fitting, I thought, for the occasion, and returned my mind to the conversation. This was last Friday (3rd October) – Tag der Deutschen Einheit - and 24 years since reunification. As the history of this national holiday has been written about in excellent detail elsewhere on this blog and website, I shall stay in the present. So what was striking about this relatively commonplace scene for a Hauptstadt dweller?  Read more »

Prenatal Courses in Germany

antenatal in Berlin

Prenatal Courses in Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

Do I look a little tired here? That’s because I am. Last week was baby week. After 35 weeks of pregnancy, we were cramming hospital registration, one of our last doctor visits (plus ultrasound) and 2 long nights of prenatal courses into just a few days.

My dad politely asked if we weren’t a bit behind as he remembered taking courses before breaching the 9 month mark. He gave me an out, saying maybe this was just a difference in countries’ standards or that they took their courses 30 years ago. Erm – nope. We were just late.

After being all gung-ho to get started on classes, find a Hebamme (midwife) and generally be prepared early in the pregnancy, life had simply caught up with us. All the decisions that come after the relatively breezy, “Sure, we are ready to have a kid!” and just after the “OMG. We are having a kid!” have been daunting. Trying not to make a false move, we now find ourselves in the position of being the typical Americans in German, half-cocked, only partially ready and surrounded by people who know better.

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Don’t Mention the War. Read About It.

One facet of German culture that continues to impress me is how they have dealt with their WWII history. German authors have written extensively about it from the “inside” of German perspective, although I have yet to delve into their works. As an outsider, it is easier for me to identify with stories written by English-speaking authors, and there are a number of novels I have read that give insight into life as a German during those difficult times. We are all familiar with the Diary of Anne Frank, and many movies and TV series have made this horrific period of history painfully real. Literature remains one of the most powerful ways to represent the multitude of stories of that age, and as a self-confessed bookworm, I have collected many books set in the time period.

By no means exhaustive, nor in order of greatness, here are a number of my recommendations: Read more »