As a citizen of a developing state who has studied in four different countries, I have had the opportunity to travel and live in diverse cities. Each place comes with its own pros and cons and while some places may be tougher than others, I would do it all over again in the blink of an eye because each experience has taught me a life lesson which I am very grateful for.
Living and studying in Germany have been no different. A country with a rich culture, intense history and interesting people, Germany has helped me grow both as a person and a professional. Here, I share the 10 – of the million – things I have learnt as an international student in Germany.
Environment is precious; it needs to be taken care of and every single person can play their role starting with sorting trash. Streets are lined with at least four (sometimes even more) types of trash bins and garbage is sorted and disposed of in appropriate bins. It took me some time but now I have learnt what trash goes into which bin: blue for paper, yellow for plastic, brown for bio and black for everything else.
The pedestrian infrastructure in the country is high-class and getting from one place to another on foot is actually a very convenient activity. With continuous and wide pavements, and functional zebra-crossings, walking is often a pleasurable task; unlike in some countries where being a pedestrian is sometime outright dangerous.
Traffic rules are often followed even when it is late at night and there’s no car or another human being in the vicinity. The sense of responsibility towards rules is strong among those who live in Germany and that’s what helps the society run as smoothly as it does in this country.
People can drink a liter of beer with no problem. Germans are fond of their beer and are allowed to consume it as early as 16 years of age – which may have some health disadvantages (the brain is still developing at this time) but works pretty well for social reasons as young people learn to handle their alcohol earlier than people in most countries.
Everything closes at 8pm; be it supermarkets, bookstores or hardware shops. This means you have to know you tasks and get them done while you can. This strict timing is beneficial for both employees and general public; while shopkeepers can wind up their work early and have time for their personal life, shoppers are also encouraged to be more organised with their errands.
Similarly, Sunday is for rest, which again ‘forces’ people to spend their time doing something more productive than shopping for hours. Having a completely free day allows people to explore their city, meet family and friends or just be with themselves for some quality me time. While some newcomers may be initially annoyed and find it inconvenient, getting used to it over time reveals the benefits of a stress-free day.
Germans are known for their punctuality and their trains are legendary in other parts of the world. But, well, the truth is that even German trains can be delayed. While the system works 9 out of 10 times, the trains are sometimes late which often have a ripple effect because as people don’t expect these trains to be late, they often don’t have buffer time in their schedules. This means a 10-minute late S-bahn could lead to missing an inter-city bus which could result in arriving at an event later than planned.
A good public transport system can be life changing. Most people may not realise this because a smooth-functioning public transport system is a regular part of urban life but as someone coming from an over-populated, ill-equipped city, getting from one place to another in an affordable and reliable manner is a luxury not everyone has. Living in Germany and enjoying its excellent bus-train system has allowed me to move freely, making me more independent.
There’s no concept of air-conditioning or ceiling fans. The weather throughout the year is mostly pleasant and it rarely gets unbearably hot in Germany. This allows the country to not have to waste their energy on running ACs and fans on hot days.
Germany is the inventor of most important products. Take for example, the car; a magical vehicle which completely changed how we move. It was invented in Stuttgart. The world renowned car companies – BMW and Mercedes Benz – are both Germans. But ‘Made in Germany’ is prevalent not just for big brands; it is stamped on even simple things, like the famous stationery brand Faber Castell; the food and beverage company Knorr; or the skincare company Nivea.