Germany is world-renowned for its rich cultural history, festive celebrations, vibrant arts scene, and historic sites. It is a front runner in the fields of renewable energy and conservation, stretching from flat farming country in the north, to rolling hills in the centre, and the Alps in the south. Germans are well-known for their precision, and highly value punctuality. They enjoy a high standard of living, as well as political, cultural, and environmental debates.
People & Culture
Germans are generally straight talkers, valuing honesty and openness. In German culture, direct and honest communication is common and appreciated, and stating your own opinion is important. Germany is a country where punctuality is very important, so make sure you are always on time – not too early and not too late! And you know those fairy tales you grew up with? Think Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Rapunzel, for example – they are German!
Climate and Geography
Germany is surrounded by no less than 9 neighboring countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic and Denmark. It has the largest population in Europe after Russia, but that doesn’t mean it’s all big cities. Rather, there are a lot of small cities and towns and you can find many different and charming landscapes in Germany: from flat farming country in the north, to the rolling hills in the heart of the country, to the magnificent Alps in the south. Temperatures in Germany are different from winter to summer, in winter thetemperature can be between -1°C to 8°C and in summer more than 18.5°C but summers are becoming warmer each year. So, you need to be prepared for a cold winter and warm summer if you are going for a year!
German cuisine is often rich and differs depending on the region. Red meat, poultry or fish served with potatoes, dumplings, noodles or rice, and vegetables are popular. Germany is famous for its many types of bread and cakes like the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) and coffee. They also have around 1000 varieties of sausage! Before a meal, your host family might say, “Guten Appetit,” which invites you to enjoy your meal. A hot meal is usually served once a day. Meals are served at specific hours, and all family members are expected to dine together and be on time.
German is the official language in Germany, of course, but depending on where you are, there are different dialects. Behind Russian, German is the second most spoken language in Europe; you will find native German speakers in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Austria. So, if you were thinking that learningGerman is not worth it be cause you can only speak it in Germany, you are wrong – this can help you to go to many countries in Europe!
You’ll most likely attend a college prep school called a Gymnasium, but you could also be enrolled in a Realschule (which only goes up to grade 10), Gesamtschule (a comprehensive public school), or Stadtteilschulen. In Germany, students usually go to school Monday through Friday, though in some areas they also go to school on Saturdays. High school in Germany usually begins around 7:30 or 8:30 am and ends by 2 pm. The relationship between students and their teachers is usually both friendly and respectful in Germany. Even if the teachers are casual they will expect you to be there on time, to do your homework and to participate in class.
You’re most likely to be hosted in a small town or rural area. Family life and social order are important in Germany, but so is independence. You can count on the support of your host parents while also getting the chance to explore on your own. Like anywhere in the world, all families in Germany are different. Most are industrious, thrifty and organized. Many Germans like to discuss politics, sports, culture, philosophy or the environment, so you should be prepared to share your opinion. Deep and wide ranging intellectual conversations are generally preferred over small talk. And again, direct and honest communication is common and appreciated. Be open with your host family and you should learn a lot and find a respectful mutual understanding.
Germany offers an active youth culture, and a wide range of activities to choose from. German teenagers generally devote weekdays to studying and leave community organized activities, sports and hanging out for the weekends. Top sports include soccer, hiking and cycling. Germany offers teenagers the chance to be a bit more independent than some other countries. Young people are encouraged to care for their own affairs. Because most German students don’t attend high school in the afternoon, many teenagers are involved in local sports clubs (Verein) or music lessons.
Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure
AFS provides comprehensive orientation for all students and families before, during and after your exchange – AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you the whole way through! In-person orientation camps in New Zealand and your host country are supplemented by our world-leading online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to develop essential global skills, learn intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact. This journey will help you maximise your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community, and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad and as you return to your home country. Find out more about our educational expertise here!