Once you’re halfway through your first semester at a German university, you may forget that you’re studying in a foreign country. You drink the same coffee, go to the library, sit in class and, at the end of the day, relax with friends and Netflix (although your reverie may be disturbed by the disquieting lack of selection). But there are a few (slightly annoying) quirks about studying in Germany that will inevitably bring you back to reality.
Book bags are banned in libraries
No backpacks in the library! Are you kidding me? Are student stealing so many books that this is necessary? Most every library in Germany has areas at the front of the library for students to leave their backpacks, usually requiring a euro or two as a deposit. Once you drop off your bag, you use one of their grocery-store-style plastic baskets to carry books in or out. Some universities even take it one step further, with an employee whose singular task is check your basket and make sure you aren’t stealing books. Now as ridiculous as this seems, it tells you something about university culture here. Library books are taken seriously. We may joke about 20 year overdue fines in the States, but it’s no joke in Germany.
Everything closes early
Most American universities are guaranteed to have at least one place on campus that is 24/7. Even if the main library closes for a few hours, you can post up in the student union, or find a niche coffee shop when you’re desperate for somewhere to work at an ungodly hour. At most German universities, this is just not the case. Sometimes, cafés are open until seven or so in the evening, and you” be hard-pressed to find a university café open at eleven at night to crank out those papers. Libraries are similarly unreliable; many even close extra early on Sunday evenings. This can be frustrating at first, but after a semester, most people learn to either plan their time better or find a way to study at home.
Coffee shops aren’t student sanctuaries
Coffee shops in Germany may be similar to their American counterparts in many ways. The Starbucks here has the same weird names for small, medium, and large, the same overpriced lattes, and, strangely, many of the same American baristas. But many coffee shops in Germany lack what poor students are most in need of: free, reliable WiFi. Starbucks has it, and so do a few of the German chains, but smaller coffee shops and cafes often don’t. This looks set to change soon, but for now, it’s another quirk that makes student life a bit frustrating here sometimes.