Resist the Ramen: Financing your Student Life in Germany

So you’ve heard the good news: you can get your university degree for free in Germany. It almost seems too good to be true, an education from a highly-respected institution of higher learning, the opportunity to learn and grow without the stress of thousands of dollars in student debt awaiting you upon graduation. But while the terror of tuition no longer mars the pristine German university landscape, that doesn’t mean your study experience will be free; you still need to pony up for food, rent and recreation. Here are a few ways that you can cover your living expenses as a student in Germany.

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Holiday tips on the Baltic Sea

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The beach at Glöwe on Rügen

We’ve just come back from a wonderful trip to Rügen, a windswept island in the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) just off the north east coast of Germany. You don’t have to say it … Are we crazy? The Baltic in February? These were exactly my thoughts when my husband suggested it a few weeks earlier, visions of ice chunks floating in the sea. But we went and it was brilliant and I thought I’d share why it was just so good.

First of all – convenience. Rügen is only 3.5 hours drive from Berlin and as an expat family with two young children this is a big factor. We fly so frequently to visit friends and family, so we’d rather not for short breaks, nor do we want to spend hours sitting in the car. For convenient holiday destinations from Berlin, the Baltic coast is a winner. Read more »

Learning to Appreciate German Toilets

Disclaimer: This post – as indicated in the title – is about toilets. Though there are no stories detailing dirty business, it is implied. If you prefer more heart-warming topics, why not consider my posts about my favorite Berliner and having a baby in Germany.

Behold! A German Toilet Photo: Erin Porter

Behold! A German Toilet
Photo: Erin Porter

Today is Rosenmontag (Rose Monday of Fasching/Karneval) which means there will be much drunken celebration, parading and some toilet hugging for those that overindulge. Is that a roundabout way to acknowledge the holiday and write about what I really want to talk about? Yes. Just go with me here.

As heathen Berlin doesn’t do much to recognize the Catholic holiday I have no first-hand knowledge of Karneval – but I do know toilets. Or “die Toilette auf Deutsch. I use one every day and have sampled facilities across Germany. I would consider myself an expert.

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Bis Bald: 10 Things I Love About Germans

For my last official post as part of the regular writing crew here at The German Way, I’d like to be typically American and end on a positive note. Here are 10 things I love about Germans:

1. Their honesty. You will never doubt the sincerity of a compliment that comes from a German. In my first job in Germany, my boss’ comment at my mid-year review was “I have no complaints.” I am on the cusp of generation-feedback-junkie, and was a little underwhelmed at his comment. He then went on to explain that this was a typically German way of telling me I was doing my job well. Okaaaaay… so when they really compliment you, they must really mean it.

2. Their precision. This goes for all manner of things: conversation, instructions, engineering, … The list is quite possibly endless. Being out of the country, I miss the precision of engineering and design in German appliances. I am lucky to benefit from the engineering and design of the German car I drive. This precision extends to verbal and written instructions, all of which will be conveyed to you when you purchase anything. They care about things working properly, which is good. Read more »

Being “Normal”

Tonight I had dinner with a friend who has been living here in Germany for about as long as I have. We first met virtually through a Facebook post of a mutual friend and discovered we were both in Heidelberg. The commonalities continued when we talked on the phone for the first time. She was pregnant with twins and basically immobile, so we had time to chat. She had spent her high school years in my home town, went to the rival high school, attended the same university I did at the same time, and studied at the same university in England at the same time as my best friend. She also had a German husband and her son was close to Olivia’s age. Whenever we meet up, which due to our busy lives is not as often as I would like, it feels a bit like I found someone who “gets” me. After years and years abroad you tend to forget what it is like to talk to someone with the same or similar background to you, not only in the sense of being American, but also speaking to someone who grew up around the same time and has the same pop cultural references, for example. K. gets the jokes about Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock. She knows what a Trapper Keeper is. These may seem like small things, but no matter how long you live in a particular country, you will never have that same history with the people who grew up there.  Read more »

January 2015 in Germany: New Year, New Laws, New Rules

2015 ushered in new laws and regulations in Germany. Our overview of new things that expats and travelers need to know also reveals a lot about daily life and customs in Germany.

If you drive a car, use public transportation, rent a place, watch TV, take out the trash, get paid in euros, or use the post office in Germany, there are changes that can affect all expats and travelers. We’ll start with one of the more bizarre things that the new year introduced to German law and life (and it’s not the precipitous fall of the euro). Read more »