Bachelor Degree in Germany

Bachelor Degree Germany
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So you’ve looked at our previous articles on studying in Germany, and you want to do your Bachelor’s degree at a German institution. But how?

We have already covered some of the documents you’ll need, such as getting your passport in order as well as making sure your educational documents are translated and verified. But aside from that, the Bachelor in Germany degree depends on the university – and if you plan to study in English or in German.
But here are three general tips that may make things a bit easier!

1. Get applications/documents in on time.

Like with universities in your home country, looking at deadlines is one of the most important things you have to do. Please check with the universities you are interested in to find out their application deadlines. For example, Freie Universität Berlin lists their major deadlines for upcoming semesters on this page.

2. Check the language skill requirements for your Bachelor program of study.

Generally, proof of German language proficiency is required, except for certain programs of study taught in English. It is useful to check the student admissions or student center of the university you are interested in applying, to get the most up to date information on what is required. If your native language is neither German nor English, make extremely sure you have language proficiencies documented and recorded! For example, five years of English instruction at school may be enough for some programs, OR a certain score on the IELTS or the TOEFL tests. Please make sure to check!

3. Please make sure you have enough funding to make it through your Bachelor degree.

This is required in order to apply for an entry visa or a residence permit for studying within Germany. For a Bachelor degree in Germany, normally a tuition fee is not charged. However, living expenses still incur for you, and so it is recommended you have approximately 600 – 800 Euros (or equivalent) per MONTH at your disposal to take care of these expenses such as housing, groceries, clothes, and more while you are in Germany. This amount must be independent of any job you take. We will discuss funding in more detail in the next article.

Hope this helps you!

What to do when your passport gets stolen?

What to Do if Your Passport Gets Lost or Stolen
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To add to the already stressful situation of losing your passport, you may not know what to do when you lose it in another country. Admittedly, there is some variance based on what your country of origin is, and where you may have lost your documents (or had it stolen), but these are some tips you can follow.

In any case, it is a good practice – even if you still have your passport! – to retain a photocopy of the first page of your passport for your records. Store this copy in a safe place. This way, if your passport does get lost or stolen, you can more easily replace it (see Step 3).

First: Inform local Authorities, if possible.

Second: Inform your nearest Embassy/Consulate of your Country of Origin.

For the second step, obviously this depends on your country of origin, but the procedure for nationals and permanent residents of the United States of America is outlined here  and the government of the United Kingdom encourages people to cancel their passport at once to avoid identity fraud.

Third: Go through the Process to replace your Passport.

This process may vary, but the embassy/consulate you contacted in Step 2 will be able to help you. For US citizens, the documents you might need in order to replace a lost or stolen passport might include:

  • Police report, if available
  • Evidence of US citizenship (birth certificate, copy of existing passport)
  • Identification
  • Travel itinerary, if relevant

These are just some of the documents you may need, but because of these, it is a good plan to keep photocopies of important identification documents in a safe place in case a situation like this does arise. If you are a UK citizen in Germany, you may also want to check this page.

If you are a member of armed forces abroad, special requirements and procedures may apply. Again, check with your embassy/consulate, and also the branch of the armed forces to which you belong, for assistance.

German Traditions – Christmas in Germany

Christmas in Germany
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There are a few similarities between American traditions, at the least, and German traditions for Christmas. However, even though in both the United States and in Germany Christmas is a commercial season, the season looks a bit different in Germany!
When I grew up (in the US), we had a glass pickle ornament on our Christmas tree, and we were told it was because of an old German tradition. As my family could easily trace their ancestry back only a generation or two from Germany, they took it to be fact.
Unfortunately, while these glass ornaments are often made in Germany (as are many glass ornaments for Christmas), the pickle ornament has never been a tradition in Germany by natives.


The Christmas tree, however, is!

While evergreen plants have been used to represent life eternal in human imagination for centuries, the tradition of the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) has been carried over from Germany to other parts of Europe and also the Americas. It is said that during the Christianization of the Germanic tribes, St Boniface used the connection between renewal and everlasting life to dedicate the fir tree (Tannenbaum) to the Christ Child, which eventually displaced the oak tree which had been sacred to Odin. However, we can trace the use of the Tannenbaum  – raising it in rooms and decorating it – to around the 1550s due to looking at carols from the time.


Christmas markets

Germany has other major traditions for Christmas too, though, that sometimes we do not see as easily in the United States. The tradition of the Christmas market (Weihnachtmarkt; also known by other names) in Germany stemmed from winter markets to help people get through the cold winter months, and nowadays any town of moderate size in Germany will boast at least one of these markets. In the United States we only see these markets in larger cities, especially the cities that have a large German-American population; I do see them in other cities in Europe however, such as in Guildford, in England. These markets generally start when Advent starts (though some start as early as late November!) and run for about three to four weeks. You can buy food at these markets, too – everything from currywurst to cookies to cider. These markets can be found in other places across Europe, but the market in Dresden has the strongest claim for being the oldest Christmas market (1434) as far as we can tell!


The Christmas season

As stated, this means Christmas has a lot of commercialism to it, but instead of going to big stores, it has a bit more local flavor in Germany. Christmas itself is its own season, with German traditions incorporating Advent (the four weeks before Christmas Day) as well as “the twelve days of Christmas” between December 25th and January 6th – that is, between Christmas Day and Epiphany, the day in which the three wise men are supposed to come from the east to visit the newly born Christ child (as per the gospel of Luke in Christian scripture). While the gift-giving date has changed over the years from the festival of St Nicholas himself (December 6-7) to Epiphany (January 6th) to the more common Christmas Eve (Germans don’t tend to open presents on Christmas Day!), the idea of Christmas as an anticipated, joyous season to combat the dreary, cold days of winter has a long history in Germany.
What’s your favorite part of Christmas – or do you not celebrate Christmas at all? Let us know!

How to address a German properly – Sie or Du

Duzen or Siezen? Photo via Pixabay / Unsplash

Talking to German People Properly: Formal and Informal Speech

In English, “you” is just “you” – whether formal or informal. It’s great for when you don’t know your relative social status or want to make a point of equality; however, a lot of languages make a distinction between people, and encode social status and considerations into the language itself. German is one of these languages. Here are two of the most important examples:

Sie and du

Sie or du? Both mean “you”, but du is for your friends and family – and also children and pets. Sie is for everyone else – at least until you make friends with them! And even then, if you’re speaking to them in their professional capacity (such as talking to a professor or a teacher, lawyer or doctor), please use Sie.

How do you know when to change from Sie to du?

It used to be that people would have get-togethers over schnapps to celebrate moving from Sie formalities to using du with each other. It was a sign of intimacy – not necessarily the intimacy between married couples, but the intimacy of friendship, of knowing a person well. In fact, if you look in literature and in plays, the transition between Sie to du becomes a key plot point.

With social media being as popular as it is, though, do not be surprised if you see people using du on Twitter or on Facebook. That seems to be the trend across different languages – whether it is a function of the Internet or an influence from other languages, such as English, remains to be seen.


Even though aristocracy ended in the German speaking areas in the early 1900s, the idea of respecting authority and social hierarchy still persists. Therefore, if the person you are speaking to has earned a professional title, it is good German manners to address them using that title. Your Dr Schmidt is still going to be Dr Schmidt – she earned the doctorate or medical degree and has a degree of authority and knowledge in society. To English speakers, this can seem overly formal, but it is just a way to respect the person who received that title. This goes when you are studying in Germany also – when in doubt of their official title, ask them what you should call them. Academic ranks in Germany are very different than in the United States (or even the United Kingdom) and a professorship is a major career milestone: by law, depending on the area of Germany, it takes up to 5 years of service before an academic can use Professor as a title.

Financing your Studies in Germany

Financiny your Studies in Germany
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This is one of the trickiest things to figure out – even in your home country, finding out how to best finance postsecondary studies can be confusing! So let us help you with some information. As stated previously, normally at German institutions, there are no tuition fees. Students are required to pay for certain fees and contributions, such as to student unions/governments, enrollment fees, and so on, and these charges can vary per semester. Please check the universities you are interested in for further information on these charges.

Which Expenses do You need to cover?

Of course, the main expense you will have as a student will be living expenses; housing, for example, as well as food and clothing. As such, it is recommended that you find a way to have at your disposal 600 – 800 Euros (or the equivalent) PER MONTH to take care of these expenses. You will need to verify that you have sufficient funds in order to apply for an entry visa or a residence permit for studying at a German institution, so how do you make sure you get the funds?
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a wealth of tips and information in English, including information on how you might be able to work within Germany (if you are able to do so, such as if you are from a EU member country).

Looking for Scholarships

If you are from the United States of America, keep in mind that looking for financial aid may take up to 12 months in advance. However, it can be done. Websites such as help in finding financing opportunities for international study. Also, do not forget that organizations and professional associations may be able to give you grants or scholarship monies – please check any associations to which you or your family may belong in case there may be opportunities there. Checking professional associations or organizations is good advice even if you are outside the United States!

Get help from the Bank

Finally, there is the option to take out loans. This should be used as a last resort, but thankfully, since German educational institutions do not charge tuition fees, this may be a way to gain a cosmopolitan education at a lower cost than in your home country.

Documents that may be needed for university

What documents do you need to study in Germany?
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Transcripts, Translations, and More: Documents For Studying in Germany

So you’ve decided to study in Germany, and have read up on the basic information; you’re in the process of getting your government-sponsored identification (such as a passport) if you do not already have one, and want to find out what else you may need to apply!

As the required documentation can take time to research, acquire, and get approved, this is the next step for you.

The following information is very dependent on where your home country is. Please make sure to research universities on your own as well, as specific instructions vary by university.

However, as a general rule, please have the following documentation ready:

  •  Proof of graduation from secondary education (such as from high school in the United States of America
  • If you have taken any postsecondary certification courses or university classes, provide transcripts or certifications of those as well
  • Include information on the grading system used by the educational institution
  • All documents must be officially authenticated by the educational institution as well (such as sealed/stamped by the university, with a school seal, notarized, etc).

The tricky part for documentation is this next one: All documents must have a sworn translation form with them. This means finding a German translator and getting the translation officially recognized, either through a notary or a translation service specializing in overseas applications.

Language Skills and Tests

You might also have to prove your language skills are at a particular level, depending on the course you have chosen to study and the university at which you plan to study. Again, please check with the university, but as a general rule:

If you are taking a course of study taught in English, English-language proficiency is required. Please look into the ToEFL, the IELTS, or confirm that your secondary education (and/or any postsecondary studies) was taught in the English language, to help with proof of English-language proficiency.

If you are taking a course of study taught in German, of course a certain level of German language proficiency is to be expected. As such, please look into the following:

  • The DSH (Deustche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang)
  • TestDaF (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache)

If your language skills or qualifications are not enough for entrance into a German university, you may have the choice of enrolling in a Studienkolleg. A Studienkolleg, such as the one used by Freie Universität Berlin and more, helps prepare you for studies in German and has an assessment test.  For information on what Studienkolleg is like, please watch this site as well.

Language Levels for the German Language

Lerning language
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When looking into studying the German language, you may come across the abbreviations of A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. But what do they mean?
These abbreviations indicate levels of the Common European Reference Framework (CEFR), a way to standardize language learning and teaching across Europe, no matter which language. According to the Framework, the principles behind this is to “improve the quality of communication among Europeans of different language and cultural backgrounds… this is because better communication leads to freer mobility and more direct contact, which in turn leads to better understanding and closer co-operation” See more here

The three different language levels: A, B and C

According to the guidelines put forth in the Framework, these language levels can be broken down to three categories: the A level represents a “basic user” of a language, able to answer simple and direct questions put to them such as what time it is, introduce themselves and talk about their family in a basic manner, and so on. This level generally assumes that the user of the language will regularly need help or prompting from native speakers. The B level represents an intermediate or independent user of a language – this kind of user might not need as much prompting from native speakers, and can give reasons and explanations in the language they are trying to use, but might still need correction on the finer points of grammar, idiomatic usage, slang, and regional variation. A C level user is marked with proficiency in both spoken and written forms of a language, recognize implicit meanings, and can express ideas spontaneously, even if on a topic they are not already interested in.

Different tests, students and requirements

Different organizations provide different estimates on how long reaching each level would take assuming regular instruction in a language. Attaining A1 level (from a point of no previous knowledge of a particular language) has been estimated to take between 60 – 80 hours of instruction by both Deutsche Welle and Alliance Française.
While language courses and institutions try to standardize their goals and proficiency markers to align with the CEFR, the CEFR itself provides no particular methodology for attaining these levels of proficiency. In this way it is similar to test-based evaluations of language learning such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) – while there are certainly study guides and classes specializing in trying to get you to reach a certain level of recognized proficiency, it also depends on the student learning those languages, their own resources (how much money they can spend at language institutions or traveling abroad to study, a tutor, books, etc) and other factors.
The TestDaF (Test Deutsch auf Fremdsprache) corresponds loosely to the CERF levels of B2 and C1, as the test is meant to assess whether a student has the German language skills necessary for academic study in Germany, and is thus not suited for beginners. Meanwhile, the Goethe-Institut has adapted their certificates and levels to match the CERF levels.
For people studying German in the United States, please make sure that the CERF levels are being used or that your language institution has equivalency tables: at universities in which German courses are offered, your German teacher or head of the languages department may be better able to offer advice.

Greetings in German

Greetings in German
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Greetings. We all use them in some form or another – whether it’s a polite formality or an enthusiastic meeting with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. In German classes, it’s common to learn phrases like “Guten Tag” or “Guten Abend” right off the bat: but these words can sound formal or old-fashioned, so know when to use them! (Hint: if you would feel comfortable calling the person sir or ma’am, that’s probably a good time to say Guten Abend.)

Here are some other greetings in German that you should be aware of.

Borrowed German Greetings

• Hallo!
This is used often and is great for any situation. “Hi!” is also used in Germany, but just like using it in English, try to use it among people you’re already familiar with.

You’ll not only hear this in Italy, but in various areas across Europe now too. It’s used as a greeting and as a goodbye, especially in the larger, more metropolitan cities.

Back to German: Formal and casual Greetings

• Wie geht es dir? / Wie geht es Ihnen?
Translating to “How are you?” in English, “Wie geht es dir” is the form used for close friends while “Wie geht es Ihnen” is the form you would use for people in authority (Read more about addressing a German: Sie / du). However, this is not used exactly the same as “how are you” is in English; while in English, “how are you” is said to anyone and everyone, “Wie geht es dir” (and “es Ihnen”) tends to be said around people you already know.

• Alles klar?
Literally translating to “is everything alright?”, this greeting reminds me of the Japanese greeting “daijoubu desu ka?” – while it can be used to ask after someone, it is usually used like “how’s it going”. The meaning changes whether the speaker’s tone sounds worried or not. However, because of that very versatility, this phrase is essential to know.

Regional Greetings in German

• Moin Moin!
Now we’re getting into regional variations. For most of its history Germany was not a united region: it was a loose federation of states, and because of that history, there are a lot of regional differences – from the north to the south, and from the west to the east. “Moin Moin!” is considered an all-day greeting in northern areas like Hamburg and East Frisia.

• Grüß Gott!

This one’s from southern Germany; invoking God, this way of greeting in German can sound old-fashioned to those in the north, but is still heard in the south where it means “hello”.

• Servus!
Another one from the south, this one is my particular favorite greeting. It comes from the Latin.

German Easter Traditions

german easter traditions
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The Importance of Easter in Germany

In countries with a Christian history, Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year. Combining ancient pagan symbols for fertility and life (the egg and the bunny) with the message of hope and renewal, Easter also marks the solid turn from winter firmly into spring. If you live in the United States or other countries, and see traditions like the Easter egg or decorating grasses/branches, those traditions may have come from Germany.

First, a note: Easter is a variable-date holiday, which means that its date changes from one year to the next! Germany uses the Western Christian reckoning but make sure to consult a calendar for exact dates if you are making plans.
There are spring parades that occur some three weeks before Easter. These are called Sommertagszug (Summer Day Parade) and are basically a time when people tell winter that it’s time to leave.

Also, leading up to Easter, there are Easter-season markets held around various parts of Germany, selling things like decorated eggs, wreaths, spring themed ornaments, chocolates shaped like eggs or bunnies or all sorts of other shapes, and other crafts. These are called Ostermarkt (Easter markets) and can be quite fun to go to! A note for the families, however: many of the chocolates in Germany around this time may contain alcohol, so be careful when giving chocolates to young children.

Ostereier – Easter Eggs

Now about Easter eggs. Easter eggs are a major part of the Easter tradition in Germany: notably, hanging the decorated eggs up in bushes or in trees. These trees are called Ostereierbaum (literally: Easter egg tree) and a notable one, decorated since 1965, was the Saalfeld Eierbaum. 2015 was its last year open to the public, but you can still see its website here (English version)
You might also see, in some areas, city wells or fountains decorated with evergreens and with eggs also. This is a newer tradition, developed in the 20th century, though it uses old symbols of life – the idea of decorating or “dressing” a well exists in other countries, where it is seen as honoring water (as water is necessary for continued life) and the life and well-being of the community (by going to a communal well).

Easter Traditions

For Easter itself, the observances properly start on the Friday before Easter (Good Friday). Historically, people ate fish on this Friday – this was because of a pun on the Greek word for fish, which was used to signify Jesus Christ in early Christianity. Within churches, the crucifix or cross may be covered in a shroud, representing the story of Jesus being condemned to death and dying via crucifixion on a Friday.

On Saturday or Sunday (depending on the tradition) there are vigil services and Easter bonfires. Bonfires help bring the community together again, and are again a symbol not only of the Christian idea of overcoming sin and death, but also signifying previous traditions signifying warmth and fertility.

On Easter Sunday, many relax with their families and friends. They may go to church or they may not; however it is a time where people visit each other, and children may hunt for Easter eggs or get given some decorated eggs and candy. An Easter meal is consumed – particularly during brunch or lunch time. This Easter meal historically has made use of lamb (again, because of Christian symbolism: the idea that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb of God). There may be more chocolates and pastries than usual at the Easter meal – after all, it’s meant to be a festive meal, so people tend to concentrate on the desserts.

Decorations put up for Easter often last through the week, ending roughly a week after Easter Sunday.

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