You can do all kinds of things when you have free time: you can chill, meet up with friends, do sport, go on an excursion or watch a film. Or you can enjoy the wide range of high-class art and culture on offer in Germany.
Germany is not only a leading centre for science and research, but also a country of culture. Though famous of course for the big names of the past – like Arendt, Beethoven and Schumann, or Dürer, Lasker-Schüler and Schiller – it is also home to an extremely vibrant cultural scene today.
Take theatre, for example: Germany has internationally renowned theatres in its major cities, such as the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg or the Deutsches Theater in Munich. However, there is also a lively theatre scene in very many smaller towns, with opera houses, state and municipal theatres and independent companies, some of which stage spectacular and internationally significant productions. Go and find out for yourself!
Germans love to read, so it’s no surprise that the country, as well as offering countless libraries and bookshops, also stages all kinds of readings, organised for example by book stores or cultural initiatives.
Spending a relaxed Sunday strolling around a museum is good for the soul. Alongside some world-class international art centres, Germany is also home to around 7,000 museums and exhibition houses all over the country – their excellent permanent exhibitions are always worth a visit, and make sure not to miss out on the special exhibitions that are frequently held.
Concerts are also a must: there is something to suit every taste, from classical music and jazz to rock, pop and rap, and from major international events to small club sessions. Most cities publish calendars of events and display posters with information about art exhibitions and concerts. And of course you can find anything you are interested in online.
Your student ID will often get you discounted admission to places like cinemas, museums or theatres.
Many things are more fun when enjoyed together. And it shouldn’t really be a problem to find new friends at university: there are countless groups of students who share the same interests or hobbies – be it amateur dramatics, karaoke, quiz evenings, a band project or a political student group.
You can usually find out from the Studierendenvertretung (student representation) what is going on at your university, as well as which parties and events are coming up.
Special freshers events are held where you can meet lots of nice people
The university’s religious communities are also well represented and networked. They not only take care of spiritual needs but arrange joint recreational and social activities. They also see themselves as a point of contact for international students.
The international clubs at higher education institutions arrange get-togethers where you can meet new people and organise city tours, film evenings or museum visits.
The Erasmus Student Network is an international student network that isn’t only for Erasmus scholarship holders.
Inviting friends home is very popular in Germany: for a birthday celebration, brunch, dinner or Sunday afternoon coffee and cake. It’s also fun to get together with friends for an evening of games – either at home or at a nice pub.
One of the most widespread recreational activities in Germany is having a barbecue – again, people often invite their friends to join them. This may be on the balcony at home, in the garden or at a public BBQ area in a park.
Germans enjoy going out for a bite to eat or a drink with friends, chatting over a coffee or relaxing in a beer garden outside in the summer – and the country’s university cities in particular boast a lively pub and restaurant culture.
Breakfast cafés are especially popular at weekends – they offer a wide selection of tasty breakfast and brunch choices plus homemade cakes and biscuits, usually until well into the afternoon. Coffee culture is important in Germany, too, and there is hardly a café or bistro that doesn’t have specialities like espresso, cappuccino, latte macchiato and caffe latte on the menu.
In cities, you will find many restaurants serving different national cuisines. Italian and Greek restaurants are particularly popular and widespread, alongside a broad range of Asian specialities. Sushi restaurants are especially en vogue. At fast-food outlets you can enjoy classic German delights such as Bratwurst (sausage) with fries, or Turkish specialities like doner kebabs and Turkish pizza (“lahmacun”).
In the evenings, people like to meet in pubs, some of which – especially in university towns – are geared particularly to students. If you like to party, dance and listen to music, you will find clubs like Berlin’s famous Berghain or the Bootshaus in Cologne – though the club scene in Germany has suffered terribly from the pandemic containment measures.
If you like team sports, you will love Germany’s sports scene with all its clubs and associations. Germans like most of all to join a club to do sport. More than a quarter of all Germans are members of one or other of the country’s 88,000 or so sports clubs. The extremely popular football clubs have the most members. Other favourite sports people like to do in a club include gymnastics and tennis, while hiking and climbing enthusiasts join the German Alpine Club.
However, you will probably find that the easiest way to get involved in sport is to sign up with your university’s sports association. Generally, a comprehensive range of sporting activities is available for all the university’s members, from aerobics to Zumba.
200 universities have a sports association
Of course, it can be just as much fun to watch sport, especially with lots of other people. Germans really like to get together to watch football – either in the stadium, in a pub or, when major events like the World or UEFA Cup is on, on a big screen at a public viewing event.
Berlin offers the biggest fan festival event in Germany. Starting in front of the Brandenburg Gate, it is nearly two kilometres long.
Besides commercial television and radio stations, Germany also has public service broadcasters that show a wide range of information and cultural programmes, including regional offerings, in addition to films and series that can be accessed via cable, satellite, antenna or the internet. Public service broadcasters are funded by a licence fee that every household has to pay. This allows you not only to watch TV, however, but also to enjoy the online and streaming services on offer from the ARD and the ZDF in their Mediathek (media library). The ARD and the ZDF jointly organise the funk (only in German) content network that provides information and entertainment for young people on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok, as well as on funk.net.
Every household in Germany must pay a monthly TV and radio licence fee. This also applies to students
Of course, even more films and series, plus certain sporting events, are also available in Germany from well-known streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney or Dazn. Which streaming service is right for you will depend on your tastes. Subscribe to one of them on a monthly basis online and then access the service via an app or your browser.
To watch films on the big screen, visit one of the numerous multiplex cinemas or go to a small arthouse cinema to enjoy selected screenings of more sophisticated films. Open-air cinema events in the summer make for a pleasant change: films are regularly screened – sometimes all summer long – in parks or other public spaces and can be enjoyed with friends outdoors.
Many cinemas offer student discounts or special ticket prices on certain days.
While you’re in Germany you should definitely see more than just your own university town. Germany is a beautiful country with forests and mountains, valleys and lakes – and yes, even a coastline. The North Sea and the Baltic may not be the Pacific, but they have no shortage of waves, beaches and wind. Southern Germany borders the Alps, the highest mountains in Central and Southern Europe.
The largest cohesive area of woodland is the Palatinate Forest, which accounts for around 180,000 hectares of the Franco-German Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve.
This is a great place to hike and go mountain biking, or to climb on bizarre rock formations. Another place you can do this is in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains that form the Saxon Switzerland National Park in the east of Germany, which is one of the most popular hiking areas in Germany.
After so much nature, maybe you’ll be in the mood for a city break: whether you are keen to hit the shops or soak up some culture, just want to sniff some big city air or get a sense of history in a mediaeval town, you will find whatever you are looking for in Germany. And no matter where you are headed – be it Berlin, Dresden or Rothenburg ob der Tauber – you won’t need a car to get there, as the train will take you.
The 51 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany are definitely worth a mention – and a visit: they include architectural monuments, city ensembles, important industrial plants and extraordinary natural landscapes.
You can find the most beautiful routes to the World Heritage Sites on the German World Heritage website.
Though there are no formal rules of etiquette when it comes to having a night out in Germany, you should be aware of some general dos and don’ts when you head out with friends. You may already have heard that Germans attach quite a lot of importance to punctuality. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is quite widespread, and being on time is seen as a sign of appreciation and respect.
Smoking is not prohibited, but it isn’t permitted in public buildings, on public transport, or in restaurants and pubs. In some cases there may be special smoking areas. It’s normally not a problem to smoke outside, on the other hand, though people don’t like to see cigarette ends being simply chucked onto the ground. So it’s a good idea to dispose of them properly.
Another thing you should know when it comes to going out for the evening: if you are out with friends or acquaintances, people tend to split the bill. In other words, each person pays only for what they ordered – and it is customary to give a small tip to the waiter or waitress. If it is somebody’s birthday, however, you may find that they pay for everyone.
“Find people who share the same interests as you: when doing sport, at a museum or at a party. That will be a good start you can then build on.”
Daryna Bogdanova, 21, from Ukraine is in the sixth semester of a degree in media studies and communication management at HTWK Leipzig.
“Generally speaking, people in Germany are very nice in the way they act towards others. I wouldn’t say it is particularly difficult to meet new people, but you do have to make the first move.”
More infos: www.study-in-germany.de.