Living in Germany
Germany is situated in the heart of Europe and shares its borders with more neighbouring countries than any European state - namely 9 in total. Indeed, you are sure to notice this when you walk, ride or drive along its streets and roads. People from all the countries of the world live here. Of the 82 million or so inhabitants, some 7.2 million come from abroad, i.e. almost 9 per cent of the population is of foreign origin. This has naturally left its mark on the culinary landscape. Italian pizza houses, Spanish bodegas, Greek taverns and Turkish kebab stands, as well as Chinese restaurants have become part of everyday city life. Germany is a many-sided and colourful, as well as a relatively safe country.
Germany is a country blessed with an extremely efficient industry and possesses an education system which not only needs to meet the requirements of this industry but has an ethical commitment, too. The country's history is thrilling and ever present, the landscape is varied, and the range of cultural offerings unparalleled in Europe. In Western Europe, German is the mother tongue of almost 100 million people. Germany's very powerful industry and the increasing global activities of companies are lending more and more weight to the German language, even at international level. The manifold leisure activities organised at the universities are supplemented by endless possibilities outside the academic sphere. Sports, cultural events, or simply friendly get-togethers - there is doubtless something for everyone.
It is obvious that there are many good reasons for spending some time in Germany!
Links to Living in Germany
The World Wide Web offers everything you need to know about Germany. Therefore, we would like to invite you to surf the "German Internet"! To help you find your way around the massive and sometimes confusing online world, we have selected some useful websites with relevance to "Living in Germany".
entdecke-deutschland.de ("discover-germany.de") is the Federal Republic of Germany's official website which offers a representative collection of essential references to German information on the internet. You can use this service to find your way around and gain immediate access to the most important websites. Topics covered include education, health, culture, media, sports, state, tourism, economy, science and more.
Facts About Germany is an illustrated handbook of reliable, up to date information on the Federal Republic of Germany. In the latest edition, you'll find information and statistics on the people, government, social life, and economy of Germany and its 16 federal states.
This book can be ordered via one of the German Diplomatic and Consular Representations in Australia .
This 'Common Statistics Portal' aims to provide central access to basic statistical information on Germany. The information offered through the portal consists of a multitude of retrievable data tables containing information on the Federal Republic of Germany and its Länder as well as free online access to two statistical databases.
"Study in Germany - Land of Ideas" is the motto of this website with heaps of detailed information on cities, daily life, celebrating, culture, clothes, flirting, gays and lesbians, and much more.
Goethe-Institut Australien: The Information Services of the Goethe-Institutes in Sydney and Melbourne offer information on Germany on topics like city websites, holidays, train timetables, newspapers and magazines, white pages, yellow pages, post codes, online dictionaries and many more.
"Don't compromise - Germanize" is the slogan of this website, operated by Deutsche Welle:
A flash-based test will help you to find out if you got all the necessary skills to go native ;-)
Living in Germany - Getting settled
In today's world, international relations and academic exchange are more important than ever.
A study visit or research stay in Germany will surely not only push your academic career significantly but will also change the way you see the world.
However, the decision to live in a foreign country always involves breaking new ground and means being prepared to face the unknown.
In order to help you with your preparations, this section 'Getting settled' concentrates on practical aspects of life in Germany, such as finding accomodation, opening a bank account, how to use public transport etc.
Leaving Australia - Entering Germany
Before Entering Germany
You are not only going to study in Germany, but you are also going to live there. Therefore, these pages deal with life in Germany, including aspects peculiar to the country, and those which might prove difficult.
When still at home you should prepare and obtain
- the notification of admission or confirmation of application
- a passport valid for the entire period to be spent in Germany
- proof of financial resources
- visa (not a tourist visa), if applicable
- possibly confirmation of health insurance cover
- book of vaccination certificates, if you have one. Check at the German missions whether you need any vaccinations
- possibly an international driving license
- recent passport photographs (at least 6)
Entry and Residence Regulations
Foreign students wishing to enter the Federal Republic of Germany require a residence permit visa for educational purposes (= Aufenthaltserlaubnis in der Form des Sichtvermerks) issued by a diplomatic representation of the Federal Republic of Germany in the student’s country of origin and entered into the passport. This regulation does not apply to study applicants and students from EU countries and from countries with whom Germany has agreed different regulations, which currently applies to Australia and New Zealand.
When Arriving in Germany
When planning your journey you should try to ensure that you do not arrive at the weekend because banks and public administrative offices are closed from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. Shops usually shut about 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoons and on Sundays nothing opens. You should also make sure that you do not only have Euro banknotes in large denominations in your pocket as they might be difficult to change. The Exchange at the airport or main station is open in the evenings and at the weekend, too. Here you can change foreign currency and travellers' cheques. Banks and savings banks open Monday to Friday from 9 to 4 and on Thursdays to 5.30 or 6.30. You are allowed to import as much German and foreign currency in which ever form you like, but you should enquire about currency regulations in your own country.
If you arrive by airplane or train it is advisable to take your luggage to the left luggage office or put it in a locker and make your way to the Foreign Student Office. Here you will get all the information you need for getting through the next few days.
The First Few Nights
If you arrive when the Foreign Student Office is closed (opening hours: usually Monday to Friday, from 9 to 12) and do not have anywhere to stay you should take a room in a hotel, guest-house or youth hostel for the first few days. Go to the Tourist Information Office (Verkehrsamt), which is usually in or near the station or airport. For a small fee, or even free of charge, they will provide you with a map of the town and a leaflet containing the main tourist attractions.
Prices in hotels and guest-houses vary from place to place. In exhibition centres like Frankfurt, Düsseldorf or Munich they are very high, and when exhibitions are running they are always fully-booked. As a rule you have to expect to pay 30 to 60 Euros for an overnight stay. A warning about telephoning: it might be vastly more expensive from a hotel phone! In Germany there are about 750 youth hostels which are well-run and clean. A night in a youth hostel will cost students up to the age of 27 from 8 to 20 Euros. With the exception of Bavaria, people over the age of 27 can stay in youth hostels, too, for a slightly higher price. You will need an International Youth Hostel Card which you can even get in Germany at the youth hostel itself. You can only stay at the same youth hostel for a limited period; officially not more than 3 days in a row. Should it transpire that you do not have anywhere to stay on the first night you can turn to Student Services at your institution of higher education who might be able to organise emergency accommodation.
In order to help foreign students come to terms as they commence with their everyday student life, the Studentenwerk organisations have developed a Service Package.
Registering in Germany
The first few days in Germany probably will not be the ones you will look back on fondly later, as you will have to spend a great deal of time on formalities. If it is any consolation, it is the same for everybody. Unlike in Australia, it is compulsory to register with the local authorities. During the first ten days you have to register at the relevant Residents Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) and you will need your passport and visa (if extant) to do so. If you do not have a permanent abode you will possibly have to give the address of the hotel. As soon as you do have somewhere permanent to live you have to inform the Residents Registration Office of your new address within a week. You should observe this deadline or you may incur a fine. In larger towns, where residential areas are sub-divided, the respective District Office (Bezirksamt) is responsible for registration. If you move within the same town during your stay you have to re-register with the local District Office or Residents Registration Office within a week. If you move somewhere else you have to give notice of your departure in your previous area and produce the notification of end of residence (Abmeldebescheinigung) at the Residents Registration Office in your new place of residence.
Anyone who does not have a German passport and intends to spend more than 3 months in Germany has to apply for a residence permit at the Aliens Registration Authority responsible for his or her place of residence. A visa is merely a "temporary residence permit" (vorläufige Aufenthaltsgenehmigung). If you enter Germany without a visa you will also need a "temporary residence permit". Your application will only be considered when you can produce the residents's registration document (Anmeldebestätigung) from the Residents Registration Office. You will need your passport, 2 passport photographs, and either the certificate of registration, or the notification of admission, or the confirmation of application from the institution of higher education. On top of this, you must present proof of adequate financial resources showing that you will be able to support yourself financially during your stay in Germany; this might be the letter awarding you a scholarship, for example. At the present time you need about € 700 per month to live on in the old Länder and about € 510 per month in the new Länder.
Last, but not least, you need health insurance cover, if you are not exempt from compulsory insurance. If you do not come from a country in the European Union and have only received the type of residence permit called an Aufenthaltsbewilligung you will have to be prepared for the Aliens Registration Authority to make enquiries at your institution whether you are pursuing your studies seriously when you apply for an extension. Under certain circumstances residence permits may be withdrawn. You can get the address and opening hours of the Aliens Registration Authority at the local municipal and communal authority (Stadt- und Gemeindeverwaltung). In larger towns it can usually be found together with the Residents Registration Office in the responsible District Office. If you move during your stay in Germany you will have to register with the new Aliens Registration Authority, too.
Dealing with the German authorities is not always easy. If civil servants send you from one place to another or are unfriendly, do not despair. Stay calm and friendly, but determined, and ask the person for his or her name. Then they will know that when you get to the next room you will say "Herr/Frau Müller sent me to you ..." and will almost certainly make a greater effort.
There is no campus system at German institutions of higher education. Students have to look for their own accommodation in the vicinity. Finding a room or flat is probably the biggest hurdle you will have to surmount during your stay in Germany because living space in most German towns is both expensive and can be hard to come by. There might be not enough places in student residences, but you can also look for private rooms which are quite cheap.
The Foreign Student Office
The Foreign Student Office at the place where you will be studying can tell you about vacancies in student residences and application procedures. Get yourself put on the waiting list for an apartment in a guest house belonging to the institution, although the waiting list may take anything up to a year and there is no guarantee that you will get a place at all. Some Foreign Student Offices are able to put you in contact with private landlords if students have passed on the name and address at the end of their research period. If you are satisfied with your own accommodation you are kindly requested to do so, too, when you return home.
Student Services and AStA
Student Services and AStA at some insitutions have produced brochures containing advice for flat-hunters in the respective towns. Get this sent to you. Student Services and the AStA social section are also responsible for allocating places in student residences. Get in your application early and get your name on the waiting-list! Student Services also have addresses of private residences. A room in a student residence costs between € 50 (but only in the new states) and € 230 per month. Some residences offer a restricted number of places for families. On the whole they offer single and double rooms with several students sharing a kitchen and possibly bathroom facilities, too. In the new states rooms are often shared by several students. Some foundations have their own guest houses. If you have received a scholarship enquire at the foundation.
Student Accommodation Agencies
At some institutions Student Services and AStA have organised accommodation agencies. Those searching are given about 3 addresses to contact. Any one address will not be given to more than 3 people on any one day, so your chances are not too bad. You have to pay a deposit for the addresses which will be returned to you next day when you bring them back and report whether you have decided on one of them.
House-sharing agencies ("Mitwohnzentralen")
In many towns with institutions of higher education there are agencies letting furnished or unfurnished rooms to private tenants for a period of days, weeks or months. They also offer rooms in shared-housing ("Wohngemeinschaften"), occasionally for longer periods. You do have to pay a commission if you find somewhere but the tenancy agreements are checked by lawyers and offer you an initial degree of legal security so that you can study the housing situation in the vicinity of your institution in peace.
What is highly recommendable is the first international house-sharing agency for students in Germany, "Livin", which organises student accommodation exchange in various countries. In comparison with other house-sharing agencies "Livin" has the major advantage that private landlords know in advance that their tenants will be foreign students only staying a certain period of time. The charges are well below those of other agencies. Commission is charged on the basis of the length of stay and the size of the rent and ranges from € 55 (1 month) to € 230 (from 6 months). Other agencies, on the other hand, charge a sum of between one third of one month's rent and 1.5 months' rent according to the duration of the stay. If you offer your accommodation at home for someone else to live in you will receive a rebate. "Livin" is based in Münster but arranges accommodation all over the Federal Republic. Contact Eva Vielmo, Horst 63b, 48720 Rosendahl, Tel.: +49-(0)2566-96669, Fax.: +49-(0)2566-96668. Business hours: Monday to Wednesday, 10 to 3.
Other agencies can be contacted anywhere in the country via the Ring Europäischer Mitwohnzentralen (REM) by dialling the local code followed by the telephone number 19430. The German law of agency forbids agencies and brokers from charging commission until a legally-binding tenancy agreement has been signed. So never ever pay any charges in advance. Have an "accommodation request" (Vermittlungsauftrag) sent to you which you can fill in and return. After this, you should enquire at regular intervals. You usually have to provide a copy of your identity card and, as a student, a parental guarantee with a copy of their EC- or credit card. Scholarship-holders should provide a copy of their award certificate if it cites the amount of the monthly stipend.
Looking for accommodation on the spot
If you have not been successful finding somewhere to live via the channels mentioned above you will have to look on the spot for accomodation. Please be aware that making use of the services of a estate agent is expensive - you rather establish contact with your future landlord by yourself. Unlike in Australia, landlords like to meet the future tenants and get to know them.
Try the following local channels to find a flat:
AstA and Student Services put up large notice boards where notices searching for or offering accommodation, selling items etc. can be posted. You will also find notice boards in the department and the Mensa but these are usually covered with notices searching for rooms. Watch out for notice boards outside the institution, in supermarkets, student cafés and meeting places. Ask other students or AStA where you should look.
Once or twice a week local newspapers print advertisements, including accommodation. Competition is fierce and it is not enough to know which day the advertisements appear. You have to be alert and get hold of the paper as early as possible. Enquire at the newspaper offices when accommodation adverts are included. As soon as you have selected potential adverts, ring the landlord and try to arrange a viewing appointment.
It cannot do any harm to place an advertisement yourself. If you are prepared to take a room in shared accommodation ("WG") it might be worth putting an advertisment in the local town magazine.
This channel is certainly the most expensive. Agents are allowed to charge 1 to 2.5 times the monthly rent for finding you somewhere to live and the fee is paid by the tenant. If you wish to use an agent please check that he or she is a member of one of the professional organisations (RDM, VDM, WOGE). Do not make any payments until the tenancy agreement has been signed.
Most landlords ask for a bond of between 1 and 3 months' rent which will be refunded to you when you move out. However, should any damage have been done to your accommodation the landlord is allowed to withhold the sum required to repair the damage from the bond. The landlord must ensure that you receive the current rate of interest for the whole period.
Before signing a tenancy agreement you should read it carefully. Standard tenancy agreements can be purchased in stationers' shops or downloaded at http://www.formblitz.de.
Take one with you when you are due to sign a contract. Tenancy agreements tend to be unlimited and can be terminated by the tenant or the landlord with a three month notice. Apart from the amount of rent, the bond (and interest due) should be cited and it must be clearly stated whether you are responsible for re-decoration when you move in or when you move out (otherwise you may have to re-decorate twice). The amount for extra costs should be quoted as well as the conditions for increasing the rent. In the case of furnished accommodation there should be an inventory which you should go through in the presense of the landlord when you move in. If you find any defects or damage draw up "the minutes of the transfer" (Übernahmeprotokoll) together with the landlord, registering these defects. The landlord should sign the minutes but they remain in your possession. The general house rules contained in the agreement stipulate whether and when you have to clean certain parts of the building (staircase, entrance hall, cellar) and whether you are responsible for any repairs.
If you need help with the tenancy agreement, contact the German Tenants' Association (Deutscher Mieterbund, DMB). They can provide you with a similar standard agreement as well as various brochures on accommodation:
Deutscher Mieterbund e.V.
Aachener Straße 313
Tel.: +49-(0)221-94 07 70
Banks and Money Matters
All banks, even private ones, are subject to state control. The major banks are the Volksbank and Sparkassen; further look out for Postbank, Commerzbank, the Deutsche Bank and the Dresdner Bank. The terms and conditions of business in Germany vary from one bank to another. It is worthwhile comparing charges and other offers carefully. As a rule banks open from 9 to 4 and on Thursdays to 5.30 or 6.30. Smaller branches shut at lunchtime from 1 to 2.30.
Banks, savings banks and postal banks offer more or less the same service, but the charges you have to pay for keeping an account in Germany differ. As a student you are exempt from account management charges (Kontoführungsgebühren) but this is not automatic. You have to submit an application to your bank yourself. As an account-holder you can carry out monetary transactions at any branch and you can get money from your account from a cash point at any time. In order to open the account you will need your passport or identity card.
In Germany, by contrast to Australia, it is not usual to send cheques to people by post (eg. the rent to your landlord)! There are various ways of conducting monetary transactions:
- Transfer (Überweisung) is used to transfer money from one account to the other. You have to fill in a transfer form and hand it in at your bank or savings bank.
- Standing order (Dauerauftrag): if you have regularly recurring payments of a set sum, such as the rent, it is recommendable to arrange for a standing order so that the set sum can be deducted automatically from your account on an agreed date and transferred to the account of the recipient. The bank will provide you with the necessary form.
- Direct debit (Lastschrift): this is a practical method of payment if you have recurring sums which vary in size, such as the telephone bill or health insurance. You give the recipient a direct debit authorization (Einzugsermächtigung) which authorises them to deduct the respective amounts from your account. Of course, you can always cancel the authorization and stop the direct debit. This method of payment may be new to you and you may be suspicious that it could be open to abuse. However, all direct debits are registered on your bank statement so that you can check them and revoke any incorrect debits.
With Eurocheque Cards you can pay anywhere in Europe. You have to apply for the card and it usually takes about a week before you get it. On the application form you will have to prove that money will be arriving on your account on a regular basis. The Eurocheque Card should not be confused with the Eurocard. The Eurocard is a credit card, allied to the Master-Card system and valid all over the world.
In shops and hotels you can often pay by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Diners' Club) but it is not so common in smaller restaurants and guest houses. Your bank or savings bank will also give you advice on credit cards and savings accounts. Apart from this, you can get credit cards from various other sources, eg. in combination with a rail card (BahnCard) When you open a current account you will usually be awarded overdraft facilities (Dispositionskredit) allowing you to overdraw your account to a certain agreed limit. Please note that interest is very high, about 11% depending on the bank. It gets even more expensive if you go beyond the agreed limit; you will then pay interest of more than 15% per month on your overdraft.
If you lose your cheque card: you will be given a secret pin-number together with your cheque card. However, this will not necessarily protect you from abuse of your card as the user is not required to quote the pin-number at the cash desk, merely to provide a signature. Should you lose your cheque card, or any other bank cards, ring your bank immediately so that your card can be frozen. Outside normal banking hours there is a telephone service for reporting losses and freezing accounts.
Traffic and Transportation
In order to drive a car in Germany you have to have a full driving license. Apart from a German driving license, "full" driving licenses include EU-driving licenses, national licenses issued in Australia (in many cases a German translation is required) and international driving licenses issued in Australia. The translation of national driving licenses has to be done by a German diplomatic mission or a national automobile association or the German Automobile Association (ADAC). Rather than having your national license translated you are recommended to get an international driving license as this is generally known and recognized.
Important Information: Foreign and international driving licenses are only valid for six months. Even just one day longer and you have to have a German license if you want to continue driving. You are liable to very high fines if you are caught driving without one. Thus you are strongly advised to apply to the driving license issuing section of your local Road Traffic Licensing Department (Ordnungs- und Straßenverkehrsamt) 3 months before your own license runs out as processing sometimes takes considerable time. Enquire in advance which documents you should take with you.
Germans are passionate drivers and often ignore the recommended top speed of 130 km/h on German motorways. When it comes to traffic regulations, however, they are taken very seriously and observed. Traffic offenses are punished with high fines, penalty points and even loss of license. If there are no signs to the contrary, top speed in towns is 50 km/h, on main roads outside towns, 100 km/h. You should definitely respect any speed restrictions in force on certain stretches of the motorway as there are often radar traps.
Drinking and Driving
If you have only drunk very little alcohol you are still considered capable of driving. The blood alcohol limit in Germany is 0.08 percent and if you are over the limit your license is in jeopardy. The limit for cyclists is 0.15 percent and if you are over this limit you might lose your license, too.
When driving a motor vehicle you are legally required to carry your driving license and car papers with you.
There is a dearth of places to park in Germans towns and incorrect parking can be very expensive. A parking ticket (Knolle or Knöllchen, derived from Protokoll) for incorrect parking currently costs anything up to € 40 and if your car has been towed away you usually have to get to the other end of town to "release" it. This will cost a further € 130 or even more. So it is better to use a multi-storey car-park. In most car-parks there are spaces specially reserved for women drivers close to the entrance.
The first time you visit your German institution of higher education you will probably be surprised by the number of bicycles. Germans and students in particular, are very fond of using bicycles as a means of transport. In smaller towns you can get everywhere by bicycle. So do consider getting hold of a second-hand bicycle while you are here. You can always sell it again when you leave. There are second-hand bicycle shops in many towns or you can look at advertisements in the newspaper.
Germany has a very good system of public transport. On public transport you can travel by train ("Deutsche Bahn AG"), by city-rail ("S-Bahn"), by tram, by underground, by bus, or by taxi. The easiest thing is to get hold of a town plan as soon as you arrive. This will include a map showing the city-rail, tram and underground connections. An overview of bus routes and a bus and rail time-table can be obtained from the ticket kiosks located at major stops in the town centers.
You can get a German Rail time-table at the station on the Internet (http://www.bahn.de) or you can ring for information on departure times and rail connections. You will find the number in the telephone directory under Deutsche Bahn AG. Please note that not all trains travel on all days. You can find out which by consulting the appended abbreviations which are explained in the key. There are a large number of price reductions depending on when you travel, the number of people travelling, their age and various other factors, which you should enquire about. If you travel at night you should consider paying extra to reserve a couchette or berth in a sleeper. At peak traveling times it is certainly advisable to reserve a seat. There is an extra charge to use Intercity (IC) and Eurocity (EC) trains which you pay when you purchase your ticket at the station. You can buy a first- or second-class ticket in a smoking or non-smoking compartment. Large items of luggage or bicycles can be handed-in before departure (usually a day or two in advance) and collected at your destination at the luggage delivery section on presentation of the luggage ticket.
Tickets on Local Transport
If you are lucky enough to have a semester ticket or a Monatsticket (monthly pass) you can get on any bus or tram you like in the town where you are studying. If not, before each journey you will have to consult the tables attached to the ticket machines to work out in which zone your destination is situated. But you have not necessarily finished when you purchase a ticket in the correct price category; you usually have to stamp the ticket in another machine on the platform or in the bus or tram itself. If you want to take a bus you will not always find a ticket machine at the bus stop. In this case you can buy the ticket from the driver or from a machine inside the bus. If you are caught without a valid ticket by a ticket inspector it can be very unpleasant and the fine is very costly, too.
Some institutions of higher education have come to special agreements with the municipal transport companies and introduced the so-called "semester ticket". Particularly in large cities the object is to reduce the number of cars and ease the parking situation which is often dramatic, especially around the institution. Students get their ticket at registration. The charge varies from one town to another, from € 30 at the lower end to € 107 in Hamburg! The semester ticket allows you to use any local public transport for the entire semester free of charge. It is not transferable and thus only valid in combination with an identity card including a photograph. If there are no semester tickets at the place where you are studying the transport companies or public utilities offer students special rates; you just have to ask. There are also special concessions for dependents even if they are not registered students. Children up to a certain age are free or only pay a reduced rate.
At some institutions of higher education there is a so-called car-sharing notice-board (Mitfahrerbrett) where you can look and see whether you can find what you need. This is the cheapest means of transport. In all the larger towns there are also car-sharing centres (Mitfahrzentralen) offering a wide range of car-sharing arrangements. The combined cost of the journey (according to destination) and the centre's service fee is usually well below what you would have to pay on public transport. If you yourself are intending to drive somewhere you can reduce your expenses by taking one or more people with you. The telephone number of the car-sharing centres can be found in town magazines or the Yellow Pages under Mitfahrvermittlung (car-sharing arrangements). Just ring and ask whether there is a car-sharing arrangement to the place you want to go on the day you want to travel or offer to take people with you in your car if you are driving yourself. The centre will write down the amount to be paid or received. As a passenger you are not required to contribute to any other costs. Furthermore, the centre will also tell you what sort of car is being used for the journey. Last of all, the driver and passenger are put in touch with each other and arrange how and where to meet on the day.
The airlines offer special rates and concessions to students, in some cases up to the age of 35 (eg. Lufthansa's "Up and Away"). Enquire at a travel agency. The travel agencies near the institution of higher education usually specialize in student travel and make advantageous agreements with the airlines. Airports tend to be out of town and can usually be reached by airport bus or rail transfer. You can get details from the travel agency, too, or consult the airport section of the Yellow Pages. Here you will also find the telephone numbers of the airlines and a lot of other useful information.
Mail and Telephone
In Germany the postal and telephone services are not run by the state any more but have been privatized. The Deutsche Post is responsible for letters and parcels, Deutsche Telekom for telephones and cable television, and DeTeMobil for mobile communications. Finally, the Postbank administrates the postal banking service. Ever more companies are entering the market and these sectors will undoubtedly see a lot of changes in the coming years.
You can recognise a post-office and mail-box by the yellow sign with a black post-horn. Post-offices always have the same opening hours, usually from 8 or 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening. Many close at midday. The main post-offices in large towns maintain a service at night, at the weekend and on public holidays. Within Europe you pay € 0.55 for a standard letter up to 20 grams and € 0.45 for a postcard. Overseas post is sent airmail. You can find out what other letters and parcels cost by asking at the counter or reading the brochures available at the post-office providing an overview of charges (Gebührenübersicht). Or visit http://www.deutschepost.de.
Parcels are handed in at the parcel counter. Within Germany postal-codes can be found in the Postleitzahlenbuch (Directory of Postal-Codes) produced by the German Federal Post-Office.
You can ring any number you like in Germany or abroad from any telephone box. However, to some countries there is no direct dialling, you have to ring the exchange first under 0010 and ask to be connected. In most public telephone boxes it is also possible to be rung back; there should be a sign with the number. A local call from a public call box during the day costs € 0.12 for 1 1/2 minutes. Tariffs for calls abroad vary according to distance and time of day. Payphones have become fairly rare, most public call boxes are card-phones. You can buy a card for € 6 or € 25 at the post-office. The Telekom's Weltkarte (T-card) or the postal-bank cards with integrated telephone chips enable you to ring within Germany and to 50 other countries; the charges will be debited from your account directly. In larger post-offices you will find copies of all the telephone directories for all the regions of Germany. But you can also ring directory enquiries any time to find out numbers in Germany and abroad: for national enquiries dial 01188, and for international enquiries 00118. In the Yellow Pages you can find the numbers of doctors and other occupational groups, while on the first few sides there are numerous important telephone numbers of institutions (listed under Rat und Hilfe - Advice and Help). Important telephone numbers: Emergency: 110 (police), Fire Brigade: 112 (emergency medical services and ambulance).
A new connection always involves waiting, so it is advisable to take over the telephone from the previous tenant when you move in somewhere. You can get both the relevant application forms at the post-office or in the Telekom's telephone shops in your town. The connection entitles you to an annual edition of the telephone directory, the Yellow Pages, the dialling code directory, the directory of charges and a one-off copy of the directory of postal-codes. Apart from the charges for telephoning you have to pay a standing charge per month according to the type of telephone you have (with or without a charge metre etc.). The easiest way is to have your monthly telephone bill on direct debit from your account. So far telephone bills are not itemised in the way they are in some other countries. If you need proof of a call you want to make you will have to make it at the post-office and register it with the staff there.
Germany has one of the best medical and health care systems in the world. The public health system is built on a broad and sound social basis; almost 90 per cent of the population have statutory or voluntary health insurance. The statutory health insurance companies pay for medical and dental treatment, for drugs and medicines, hospital treatment (inpatient and outpatient) as well as for many other cures, treatments and preventive measures. If not exempted from the additional (prescription) charges, insured persons contribute a basic charge towards the cost of medication (prescription charge) and some other treatments. The only costs which your health insurance will not cover in full are those for dentures, orthodontic treatment, and glasses; in such cases, the health insurance will contribute a fixed payment, however.
Further information on health insurance in Germany can be found in the chapter on "The Social Security System".
Doctors, physicians and medical practitioners
Besides general practitioners, you will also find specialists (eye specialists/ophthalmologists, skin specialists/dermatologists, etc.). In most cases, you must make an appointment. However, if you are in acute pain, you must be treated immediately or at least in the course of the same day. The names, addresses and phone numbers of doctors can be found in the classified directory/Yellow Pages, where they are arranged by specialisms. You are free to choose which doctor you wish to go to.
Hospitals and clinics
Germany has state-maintained (public) hospitals, charitable/non-profit hospitals (mainly run by the churches) and private hospitals. A university clinic will be found in practically every university town to which you can go for outpatient treatment. If you are admitted to hospital, your health insurance will cover the costs of that stay. However, you will be expected to pay a small day rate for up to the first 14 days (fortnight) of your stay.
Emergency service and emergency call
If you need urgent medical treatment at night or over the weekend, you can call the hospital outpatient unit (Ambulanz) or an emergency doctor (Notarzt). The addresses of the doctors are listed in daily newspapers under the heading of emergency medical service (Ärztlicher Notdienst). Or just call any doctor - the answering machine will automatically tell you the number of the emergency doctor.
Emergency call 112
112 is the free-of-charge phone number with which you can call an ambulance (Krankenwagen). Should you experience the emergency while travelling on a major road (motorway, highway, secondary road), please check the white kilometer stones or posts. These have arrows pointing in the direction of the nearest emergency telephone.
Alternative cures and treatments
Many registered doctors (specialists/general practitioners) with their own practice have additionally specialised in natural (naturopathic) cures, remedies and treatments. Health insurance companies have recognised the efficacy of treatments, such as acupuncture, ozone therapy or homoeopathy and cover part of the costs of such treatment when it is carried out by a registered doctor. It is worthwhile comparing the services offered by various health insurance companies, since they differ in the extent to which they support alternative medicine. We would certainly recommend that you contact your health insurance company before you start the treatment to ask whether and, if so, how much of the cost is actually covered.
In Germany you can only get medicines from dispensing chemists/pharmacies (Apotheke). These should not be confused with drugstores (Drogerie) where, at most, you can get some cough syrup or other weak drugs. There are two types of medication: freely-available drugs and prescription only medicines. You can only get the latter if a doctor has prescribed them. The German Medical Preparations Act is very strict. Some medicines, which may be available without prescription in Australia (antibiotics, for example), always have to be prescribed by a doctor. You will have to pay for non-prescription drugs yourself and will have to contribute to the cost of prescription only drugs and medicines, unless you have been exempted from the mandatory prescription charge (Zuzahlungspflicht). If you have private health insurance, you will first pay for your medication yourself and then submit the receipts to claim the costs back from your health insurance company.
Opening hours: Weekdays 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (18.30); some chemists are closed Wednesday afternoons, depending on the region; Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (13.00), very rarely until 4 p.m. (16.00).
Emergency service of Dispensing chemists/pharmacies: Chemists operate a rota system to ensure that some chemists are on call at all times of the day and night. In very small places, you might sometimes have to travel to the next village or town. The addresses are printed in the newspaper under the heading of emergency chemists (Apothekennotdienst), and every chemist has the duty rota posted to show which chemists are open.
The Social Security System
If you live in Germany, you will be integrated into a social security system which protects individual citizens against risks which can endanger that citizen's existence. Social security provides the insured person with a legally-founded right to certain payments and services. This right is acquired by paying social security contributions.
Social security covers
• Health insurance (Krankenversicherung)
• Nursing care insurance (Pflegeversicherung)
• Accident insurance (Unfallversicherung)
• Pension insurance (Rentenversicherung)
• Unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung)
The following text will describe how you, as a student, are integrated into this social security system and which types of insurance are relevant to you.
Health insurance during your studies
All students in Germany are obliged to have health insurance (statutory health insurance), which means that you will have to provide proof of your health insurance in Germany before you can register at your university or college. If you do not have this proof, you will not be able to study. In principle, students can use a special Student Health Insurance Scheme which offers particularly favourable rates. In addition to this, everybody who has health insurance in Germany must also have nursing care insurance. This statutory nursing care insurance aims to provide social security against the risk of becoming dependent on nursing care and attention, which may arise as a consequence of serious accidents, illness, disease or in old age. The statutory nursing care insurance is taken out with the same company which provides the health insurance.
The law stipulates that all students who are registered at a state-recognised higher education are obliged to have health insurance (statutory health insurance), unless, exceptionally, they have been exempted from the insurance obligation. Health insurance cover begins with the start of the semester, at the earliest, though, on the day of registration or re-registration at the university or college. This statutory health insurance requirement continues until completion of the 14th full study semester (Fachsemester) - or until the student turns 30, whichever may occur first. Once this obligation comes to an end, the student can opt to take out voluntary insurance. Your health insurance company will advise you on the conditions and on possible exceptions to this principle.
If members of your family (spouse, child(ren)) come with you to Germany, they may, under certain circumstances, be insured with you at no extra cost. To benefit from this arrangement, the family members must have their first (or customary) place of residence in Germany, must not themselves be subject to the statutory health insurance requirement, and must not exceed certain income ceilings.
Even if you are over 30 years of age or have already completed your 14th full semester, you will still be well serviced by a statutory health insurance company. Students with their place of residence in Germany and who are no longer covered by statutory health insurance can opt to take out voluntary insurance with the health insurance company. To do this, they must present proof of their previous health insuranc periods (Vorversicherung) with a German insurance company. The requirement is that insurance cover had been held either for 24 months over the past 5 years or for at least 1 year (12 months) without interruptions immediately prior to registration.
As a student, you are covered by statutory accident insurance at your higher education institution and on your way between home and the institution. You should inquire at the International Office, for example, to find out about additional (personal) accident insurance which offers extended insurance cover. If you have been awarded a scholarship or grant, please read the conditions and arrangements for the award carefully.
The health insurance card
To be able to benefit from all the medical care, treatment and preventive measures offered by the health insurance system, simply present your doctor or dentist your health insurance card and you no longer have to worry about how the account will be settled.
Exemption from additional (prescription) charges (Zuzahlung)
Insured people whose gross monthly income is below a certain level which has been set by the legislator will be exempted from the need to pay additional (prescription) charges. This exemption applies, for example, to medicines and drugs, bandages and plasters, remedies and cures, dentures, hospital stays, and rehabilitation measures.
Leisure Time Activities
State-maintained opera houses, theatres and museums as well as many private theatres and cinemas allow students concessionary tickets on production of a student identity card. Adult education centers and other educational establishments also offer students special rates for courses and lectures.
In some towns there is a so-called Studentenviertel. This is an area where a lot of students live, giving the cafés, wine bars and night clubs a particular character. And such areas often have a long tradition. Right back as far as Goethe and Schiller students met at particular wine bars and inns to talk, philosophize and analyze, in good German manner, or simply to drink! Current day studentville often has a film theatre (Programmkino) showing classic and other films outside mainstream cinema. In towns where there is no Studentenviertel there are always certain cafés, wine bars and discos frequented by students. Town magazines, town guides or, best of all, other students you meet will tell you who goes where for which happenings.
The choice of restaurants in Germany is broad and varied. In the new Länder in particular lots of new restaurants have opened in the last few years. What have become popular and very common are take-aways delivering pizzas, Chinese and Mexican food to your home. In the cities you can find restaurants representing nearly all the countries in the world, but even in smaller towns you are sure to find Italian, Greek, Turkish and Chinese cuisine. When you are in the country you are more likely to come across a Gasthof, Gasthaus, Gaststube, or Gastwirtschaft serving German food. Restaurants usually hang up a menu with prices outside, allowing you to decide in advance whether you want to eat there or not.
The prices cited include 15% value added tax and 10-15% service charge. Nevertheless, it is usual to leave a tip in restaurants, cafés and other places where your bill is brought to your table. The rule of thumb is as follows: if a bill is under € 5 you round the sum up to the next full euro or next but one; if it is over € 5 you allow 5% for a tip. If you were especially satisfied with the service you can give a little more and if you were dissatisfied, complain and do not give any tip. Incidentally, students tend to enjoy a special status: nobody expects large tips from them because they know they do not have much money anyway.
In times past waiters were addressed as Herr Ober and waitresses as Fräulein. However, today, these forms of address are out of date. If you want to order or pay you make a sign with your hand (but do not click your fingers, this is considered rude) and say something along the lines of "May I order, please" (Kann ich bestellen, bitte) or "I'd like to pay, please" (Ich möchte bitte zahlen).
A classic German breakfast is hearty and comprises bread, butter, cheese, cold meats, jam etc. Traditionally, the main hot meal in Germany is lunch (Mittagessen), eaten between 1 and 2 o'clock. Before starting eating people wish each other Guten Appetit. As the name in German suggests the evening meal or Abendbrot is essentially composed of bread and butter with cold meats and cheese. Once again, traditionally it is served earlier than in many other countries, about 6 o'clock. However, these traditional habits are no longer observed by everyone. Lots of Germans eat different things for breakfast, or nothing at all, only have a snack at lunchtime, and eat a hot meal sometime in the evening.
In Germany you hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right hand during the entire meal. If you do not need to use your left hand (while eating soup or dessert) you keep in on the table, but only supported at the wrist, elbows do not belong on the table! If someone speaks to you or you want to say something, finish chewing and swallow first; talking with your mouth full is considered very vulgar. If the food is standing on the table or the buffet is calling you, you have to wait until the hostess or host have given the signal before eating. These basic table manners are taken very seriously.
Most shops open between 8.30 and 9.00 in the morning and close between 6.00 and 6.30 in the evening. (After a new law entered in force, they can remain open until 8.00 during the week and until 6.00 on Saturdays). They are only open longer on Thursdays (mainly in the centre of town), until 8.30. If you run out of fresh milk on Sunday, it is your bad luck. You will have to go to the station or airport where fresh goods can be sold on Sundays. At petrol stations and kiosks you will find durable items such as long-life milk, cold drinks, sweets etc. Flower shops usually open for a couple of hours around lunchtime on Sundays and cake shops (Konditoreien) are allowed to ensure that everyone can have a piece of fresh gateau at the Sunday afternoon "coffee and cake" session.
Do not worry - you will not be forced to survive on cold meats alone during your stay in Germany! It is true that Germans love hot and cold meats in every conceivable form and nearly every region has developed its own particular specialties. But the choice of food in Germany is so vast that you (and, indeed, many Germans, too) can avoid meat altogether. In the last few decades foreign residents have contributed significantly to making German food more varied and today no one could imagine what it would be like without the many restaurants and shops from all over the world. In the countryside foreign produce is not so common but in the larger towns you can literally find everything your heart desires.
It is always worth comparing prices carefully. What you can assume is: delicatessens are the most expensive, while specialist shops (bakers, butchers etc.) are not necessarily more expensive than supermarkets. What are considerably cheaper are discount shops (at least 20%) but the choice is smaller, the shops are simpler and there are less people to serve you. Highly recommendable are the popular weekly markets where you can buy fresh products from the region. By contrast with many other countries it is usual to weigh your fruit and vegetables yourself in German supermarkets. You simply put them on the scales, press the button with a picture of the product and stick the price tag on the plastic bag. Germans are very ecologically-minded and hence many shops charge about € 0.10 for a plastic carrier bag. Furthermore, you have to pay a deposit of between € 10 and 35 on most bottles which will be refunded to you when you return the bottles. If you shop at the market you must take a bag or basket with you as your purchases will usually be filled into your bag loose or wrapped up in paper which is bound to tear before you get home.
With regard to other goods you can also assume: specialist shops are not necessarily more expensive than stores - compare prices before purchase. In specialist shops you will often get better advice, but you should not let yourself be pushed into buying anything. In the summer and winter sales (Sommer-/Winterschlußverkauf - SSV/WSV) you can get particularly good bargains. Strictly the sales only begin on the last Monday in July and the last Monday in January, selling goods left over from the previous season at considerably reduced rates. However, most shops start offering reduced-price articles and special offers long before the official date so that all that is left on the shelves when the real SSV or WSV begins are sub-standard goods specially manufactured for the sales.
In Germany you can spend a fortune on clothes but you can also look great for very little money. As well as ordinary shops every town with an institution of higher education has second-hand shops selling clean, undamaged, used clothing at cheap prices. Some second-hand shops have specialized in babies' and children's clothes and equipment, others in household equipment and furniture. You should look out for the free advertising newspapers in your town in which private individuals offer used cars, bicycles, furniture, clothing etc. for sale. Apart from this, you can visit flea markets where you can find used clothing and household goods at very cheap rates. Dates and locations can be found in local papers and town magazines.
On principle you can exchange goods you have purchased within a week, providing they have not been used and you can still produce the receipt. Goods which cannot be exchanged include swimming costumes, underwear and reduced goods and articles from the summer and winter sales.
The Do's and Don'ts
How to greet people
As in all countries there are certain norms of behavior and politeness in Germany which you should observe if you do not want to put your foot in it. Students are more informal so it is advisable to take note of both behavioral codes. The standard formulas for greeting people are "Guten Morgen" (good morning) until about midday, "Guten Tag" (good afternoon) until about 5 o'clock and then "Guten Abend" (good evening). In certain parts of the country there are regional differences. In Bavaria, for example, instead of "Guten Tag" you say "Grüß Gott". When you leave you usually say "Aufwiedersehen" (goodbye) or "Gute Nacht" (good night) if you take your leave in the late evening. Apart from these official formulas there are numerous less formal greetings. Students usually greet each other without shaking hands saying "Hallo", "Grüß Dich" or "Servus" (in Bavaria) and leave saying "Tschüs", "Bis bald" (see you soon) "Adé" (in Swabia) etc.
By contrast to Australia the question "Wie geht es Ihnen?" (How are you?) is a very private question in Germany, addressed to friends and acquaintances or used in informal situations. If the person asked is keen to answer he or she will give you a detailed run-down on his or her precise state of health. If the question is considered a formality you will receive a rather curt "Danke, gut" (Fine, thank you).
If you are introduced to someone, shake hands and say "Guten Tag" or "Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen" (Pleased to meet you). If you are introduced to another student "Hallo" will usually do. If you yourself are introducing people to each other you use the formula "Darf ich vorstellen? - Herr Müller - Frau Meier" (May I introduce you? - Herr Müller - Frau Meier), upon which they greet each other. In certain situations it is a habit in Germany to greet people you meet in passing. If you are working at an institution of higher education or in a large firm you should greet all your colleagues. If you see someone you know in the street you should at least say hello in passing. In certain situations you should also greet people you do not know, for example when you get into a lift or when you meet people on the stairs of a private building or office. Greet people when you enter the waiting-room at the doctor's, and if you should happen to come out of your house just as the dustmen are clearing the rubbish or the postman is delivering the mail they are due for a greeting, too.
When people meet or take their leave in Germany they usually shake hands briefly. If you say hello to someone in passing it is not necessary to shake hands. Students do not usually bother at all and friends frequently greet each other in Southern European style with a kiss on the left cheek and a kiss on the right.
Formal and Informal Address
As a rule all adults initially address each other in the formal Sie-form as Herr or Frau plus surname and possibly even title. By contrast with Australia you also use this formal mode with colleagues at work you see every day. Germans only abandon their formal attitude and use the informal Du-form with their friends, and even this is only possible after it has been formally offered. However, students usually use the Du-form all the time amongst themselves, so when you address a fellow-student feel free to say Du.
Titles are very important in Germany. If someone has a doctorate it is usual to address them as Herr Doktor Meier or Frau Doktor Müller. Professors are usually addressed as Professor plus surname. There are doctors and professors who prefer their titles not to be used; they will soon let you know if this is the case.
It cannot be denied that Germans place a lot of emphasis on punctuality. If you have an appointment with your professor there is one thing you should certainly not do - keep him or her waiting! This is true for all other arrangements you make. If you have made an appointment you should arrive on the dot but if you have been invited privately the "academic quarter" comes into play: das akademische Viertel, which you will come across in academic life, too, means that a lecture or seminar only begins 15 minutes after the full hour ("c.t." = cum tempore). If you have been invited to someone's home it is not usual to stand ringing the doorbell exactly on the minute but to arrive sometime within the academic quarter, though certainly not later.
Germans are often rather reticent with invitations to begin with. Only good friends can just drop in on each other unannounced. When you are invited somewhere with a more official character, like to your professor's or boss's for example, you should take a bunch of flowers with you for the hostess and send a brief note the following week thanking them for the invitation. When you are invited to share a pan of spaghetti with other students in their "WG" you do not need to take flowers with you, but a bottle of wine or a home-made dessert will certainly be welcome. And it is quite sufficient to say thank you for the invitation when you leave.
Arrangements Are Taken Seriously
If someone tells you you should definitely come and visit him or her sometime, then you can assume it was meant seriously and that you will soon receive an invitation. If you accept the invitation you must appear at the appointed time otherwise this will have been your first and last invitation. And vice versa: if you have extended an invitation at an agreed time you must be there because your guest will certainly come. And if you simply say to someone, "Just pop in sometime" you have to be prepared for him or her to do so.
Please! Thank You! Excuse Me!
At the beginning you might be a bit confused and unsure when Germans use these various polite formulas. Indeed, it is not so easy and not particularly logical. "Bitte", "Bitte sehr" is what you say when you give something to somebody, when you hold the door open for somebody, when you ask for something or make a request, for example: "Kann ich zahlen, bitte?" ("May I have the bill, please?") or "Wo bitte ist der Bahnhof?" ("Where is the station, please?"). If you have done someone a favor and he or she thanks you, you then say, "Bitte, gern geschehen" (roughly: "You're welcome" or "Don't mention it"). If you accept something offered to you at table you answer with "Bitte": "Möchten Sie noch etwas trinken?" ("Would you like anything else to drink?") - "Ja, bitte" ("Yes, please"). However, if you accept other offers you usually say "Ja, danke" (also "Yes, please"), for example: "Möchten Sie mit uns fahren?" ("Would you like a lift?") - "Ja gerne, danke" (roughly: "Yes please, thank you"). On top of this, "Danke" or "Vielen Dank" is used when someone passes something to you, gives you information, or opens a door for you. Furthermore, you also say thank you for an offer you turn down: "Möchten Sie noch etwas trinken?" ("Would you like anything else to drink?") - "Nein, vielen Dank" ("No, thank you very much").
If you have trodden on someone's toe or bumped into somebody you say "Verzeihung" or "Entschuldigung" ("I'm sorry"). If you want to ask someone something in the street you introduce your question with "Verzeihung, können Sie mir sagen ..." ("Excuse me, could you tell me ..."). If people are standing in your way you can get through by saying "Entschuldigen Sie, bitte ..." ("Excuse me, please..."). And if you have interrupted somebody or want to make a point you also say "Verzeihen Sie" or "Verzeihung, dürfte ich Sie kurz unterbrechen?" ("Excuse me, could I interrupt you a minute?").
What to Wear
On the whole there are no strict rules about what to wear: you wear what you like, but it should be neat and clean! People working in German administrations quite often wear jeans and women can certainly wear trousers, but ripped-off buttons and stained blouses, on the other hand, will not be tolerated. Even if no one says anything to you directly, you can be sure that such matters will be noted immediately and to your disadvantage.
Students wear whatever they like, but perhaps you should consider leaving your favorite slashed jeans at home when consulting your professor.
Relations Between The Sexes
Even within a single culture relations between the sexes are often very complex; in the intercultural context huge misunderstandings and barriers can arise from differing backgrounds. As in many other countries since the beginning of the Seventies women's emancipation has meant that both the traditional image of the woman and traditional role patterns have been abandoned. German women have won equal rights for themselves on many levels and conquered new realms of activity. They are more self-assured than ever before and know that they are equal to men. They expect respect and recognition. They do not allow themselves to be dictated to. The very least a man must have understood is that when a woman says "no" to something, "no" is what she means. It is not usual to wolf-whistle women in Germany or to talk suggestively. Depending on which culture you come from you might be shocked by Germans' liberality with regard to dress and attitudes towards sexuality. Flimsy clothing and nude beaches in summer are common in Germany. The "wave of sexual liberation" in the Sixties has meant that many men and women have gained experience. A lot of women will not wait to be asked but take the initiative themselves. Homosexuals live ever more openly; homosexuality has long since ceased to be a taboo, although many homosexuals still experience discrimination. AIDS is a problem in Germany, too, and it is absolutely essential to take the requisite precautions.
All electrical power points in Germany are designed for 220 volts, 50 Hz. AC and two-point plugs. Any adapters you may need can be bought in electrical shops.
To a much greater extent than in other countries Germany practices the re-cycling of waste products. A "throw-away mentality" (Wegwerfmentalität) is frowned upon and people are informed by brochures produced by the municipal authorities how to sort their rubbish, ie. put different kinds of material into different dustbins. Consequently there are dustbins and containers for used paper, glass (sorted according to color), packaging material, organic waste, and residual waste.
Radio and Television License Fees
If you have a radio or a television you have to pay licence fees to the central fees office (GEZ) of the public broadcasting corporations. Those on small incomes can apply to the municipal authorites to be exempted from paying licence fees. Scholarship-holders and other students who do not have lucrative part-time jobs are usually exempt. The authorities check on your full income; you have to provide a detailed run-down of your income and your fixed monthly expenditure. You can get hold of the necessary forms at your local District Office (Bezirksamt) or Local Government Authority (Gemeindeverwaltung). If you do have to pay licence fees do not forget to cancel them when you return home to your own country.
Child Allowance and Day-Care
Only foreign students and academics with valid residence permits of the types called Aufenthaltserlaubnis or Aufenthaltsberechtigung (not Aufenthaltsbewilligung) are entitled to apply for child allowance. As a rule this means academics from the EU and those married to Germans. In order to be eligible the children have to live in Germany during your period of research. Child allowance is € 154 for the first three children respectively and increases to € 179 for the fouth an following. You have to apply for child allowance in writing to the child allowance section (Kindergeldstelle) of the Employment Office (Arbeitsamt) in the town or district where you are staying. In order to enable students with children to concentrate on their studies many institutions of higher education have set-up day-care centres. Ask at Student Services. A fee is charged for nursery school and day-care facilities which varies according to Federal State and income.