Information about Germany

Geography, Flora, Fauna

In Germany, you will find different landscapes ranging from flat seaside areas to hilly or even mountaineous areas, fields or woods, densely populated with many cities, towns or small villages. Pleasant surroundings invite people to go for walks, hike or cycle. Private property is expressly marked as such. Sometimes, dangerous agricultural work is carried out, e.g. cutting down timber. In that case the paths are closed to the public. Respect the environment, especially in nature parks and reserves: Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints. Leaving the footpaths or making noise is not encouraged, as wild animals are disturbed; dogs must be walked on a leash. There are no dangerous or poisonous animals (unless careless pet owners abandon their exotic pets). However, plants are a different matter: avoid touching and eating unknown plants, as this can cause an unpleasant rash and there are poisenous plants.

Climate

In summer, the temperature is generally around 20°C and can rise even to 35°C. Winter has temperatures around 0°C and rarely drop below -10°C. Due to its location in the Rhine plain, Karlsruhe has  rather mild, snowless winters and a humid summers. It does rain sometimes, but dangerous storms are very rare. The weather forecasts on the radio, TV or internet are pretty reliable, so take the rare warnings of sudden ice storms or heavy storms seriously and stay home.

Society

Language

German. It is obligatory for young people to learn English at school, some also learn French. Therefore, if your German fails you it should be possible to communicate in these languages – but do not take this for granted: Especially people outside campus might not remember their schooldays well enough and might have as many problems talking English as you have talking German.

Immigration

German society does not only consist of Germans – 9% are foreigners and 10% of Germans have an immigrant background, the major immigrant groups being Turks, Greek, Italians, Poles, Russians, Serbs, Croatians and Spaniards.

Politics

Germany is a democracy, with the President (head of state); the Chancellor (head of government); the Parliament (made up at present of elected representatives of different political parties: CDU/CSU, SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Die Linke); the Federal Council (states’ representatives). The capital is Berlin. Germany is made up of 16 federal states (Länder). The federal governments are responsible for specifically-defined areas of public competence. Public holidays and some laws or regulations, including those touching on university or educational matters (application procedure, tuition fees), may differ from one state to another. Karlsruhe is located in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.

Religion

Religious freedom is granted by the constitution. The predominant religion is Christianism (Catholic and Protestant). Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Orthodox Christians also live in Germany.

Dos and Don’ts

Contact: Eye contact is considered polite during conversation, it expresses attention.

Punctuality: Make sure to be punctual for appointments and meet deadlines. If you realize that you cannot make it, contact the responsible person and try to arrange for an alternative instead of ignoring matters! It is always more complicated to solve the problems resulting from a missed deadline, instead of obtaining an extension.

Environment: It is a great issue in Germany to consider the impact of your actions on the environment. Disposing rubbish in the appropriate bins for recycling (paper, plastics, biodegradable rubbish, bottlebanks, central yards for the disposal of old electrical appliances and problematic waste) is expected from the citizens. Do not drop rubbish in the street – some cities, such as Karlsruhe, fine this behaviour!

Openness: Do not be surprised or offended when Germans express their opinion openly, even if this sounds like criticism to you. Similarly, do not hesitate to voice your opinion equally openly because your interlocutor might not take the time to analyse your opinion for tactfully hidden meanings. Talking openly is considered a sign of confidence and wish to cooperate or help – after all, potential problems are tackled and solutions are worked out, the German shows you that he / she takes time to evaluate the situation.

Smoking: In the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, smoking is not allowed in restaurants or where food is consumed, in public transport and in public buildings.

Money

Together with 15 other members of the Eurozone, Germany uses the Euro as its currency. 100 cent = 1 Euro. Available are:

Banknotes:
500 Euro, 200 Euro, 100 Euro, 50 Euro, 20 Euro, 10 Euro, 5 Euro

Coins:
2 Euro, 1 Euro, 50 cent, 20 cent, 10 cent, 5 cent, 2 cent, 1 cent

Do not be surprised if you find coins with different motives: the Euro notes and coins are freely interchangeable in the Eurozone countries (Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Vatican City). Overviews with pictures can be found at Wikipedia under “Euro banknotes”, “Euro coins” and “German euro coins”.

Please also see the information about budgets, financial assistance, and earning money.

Further valuable information is available at Study in Germany, a website by the German Academic Exchange Service specially for international students.