Life in Germany


Life in 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.

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. 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.


Finding Accommodation

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.

Health care

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.

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.