Advice and Tips
Germany is a country with a long history and a few peculiarities. If you know these, nothing will stand in the way of a successful start. We have therefore put together a few tips to make your fresh start easier.
In Germany it is a legal requirement to pay charges for public TV. As of 1 January 2013, the so-called 'Beitragsservice' collects TV licence charges, with each household currently paying €17.50 a month. It doesn't matter which or how many appliances are, or are used, in a household. For every additional apartment, like second homes or holiday cottages, a further €17.50 is due for each house.
What are the regulations for flat shares? The charge must be paid once, regardless of the number of people living in the flat share.
Students who receive BAföG payments can be exempted from the TV licence fee upon presentation of suitable evidence.
You can find the most important and detailed questions and answers regarding the TV licence here.
Communication is everything
The official address is 'Sie'. This is the address you must use at all official occasions, for example in a registration office, in the student office or in the library. Never use the first name of the person you are speaking to. Instead, always use the last name according to gender, e.g. Frau Meyer or Herr Schmidt. Titles are also held in high value in Germany, so you address a male professor as 'Herr Professor Schmidt' and a female professor as 'Frau Professor Meyer'. The same applies to doctors: if a person has a title as a doctor, then you address a woman as 'Frau Doktor Meyer' and a man as 'Herr Doktor Schmidt'.
Important: 'du' is usually used amongst students or friends. Everyone uses first names in these situations. If you're not sure how to address someone, then your safest best is the Sie-form. If the person you are speaking to doesn't think that using Sie is needed, they will tell you. It's always better to be more polite than to give a bad first impression.
Most people greet each other with a short, strong handshake or a quick nod of the head. If the person you are speaking to offers to shake your hand, you must accept, as rejecting a handshake is seen as very impolite.
Important: hugs or kisses on the cheek are only used amongst very close friends.
In halls of residence run by the Heidelberg student union, there are caretakers who are responsible for small repairs in your flat or house. You can find the caretaker's telephone number on the blackboards in your halls. It's always a good idea to introduce yourself to the caretaker as a new student - that way, you both know each other. But don't feel pressured to do so.
Whether you live in halls, a flat share or your own apartment, you must sign a rental contract. The rental contract stipulates important information like monthly payments and the services included (utility costs).
Rental contracts stipulate the following:
- Rent excluding service charges
- Service charges (or utility costs)
- Heating costs
- Water costs
- Electricity costs
- Cancellation policy
- House rules
Sorting rubbish is very important in Germany. Rubbish is sorted mainly for environmental reasons, as sorted rubbish can be easily recycled. Rubbish is not only sorted in halls and flat shares, but also around the whole university or higher education institute or in public buildings like train stations or airports. Please be aware of how to sort your rubbish in your halls.
It is customary in Germany to introduce yourself to your neighbour when you first move in. That way, you get to know people very quickly, But don't feel pressured to do so.
If you require urgent medical help in the night or during weekends then you can go to the Accident and Emergency department of the local hospital, or call an emergency doctor. To call an emergency doctor, dial 112.
You can call the police in Germany by dialing the number 110.
There is a saying in Germany: 'time is money' - so be on time! Whether it's meeting up with friends, going to a doctor's appointment or sitting an exam: in Germany, being punctual is extremely important. If you are running late or won't be able to make a deadline/appointment, you should let people know as soon as possible. If you turn up just a couple of minutes late, then usually a quick apology is enough. If you are going to be late for an appointment at an official office or at the doctor's without giving notice or rescheduling a new appointment, you could see yourself having to pay financial compensation. Flexibility is not one of the Germans' strong points, so take appointments seriously! And another point to consider: if you do not turn up to an exam and cannot give a valid excuse for your lateness, then the exam is regarded as failed.
Small talk in German
You ought to know that Germans concentrate almost completely on what is being said, i.e. what is said. They are less attentive to form, i.e. how something is said. On the one hand, this means that people in Germany are, in general, a little more reserved - they don't like talking about their private life, and this makes them seem cold and calculating. On the other hand, their direct way of speaking often comes across as confrontational, so you shouldn't feel attacked or be afraid of acting in the same way. In fact, it's the opposite - that's what's expected of you.
As a student in particular, you will often experience the opposite: most people at the university are open and friendly. You'll receive a warm welcome and you can talk to your classmates about everything without feeling like you're getting dragged into a conflict.
Nevertheless, if you don't know someone that well, you should choose to speak about general topics like their degree or university events. Don't talk about topics like politics or religion when you first meet someone. Money is also a taboo theme and many Germans prefer not to answer questions about it. You should also try not to give too many compliments so that you don't come across as pushy. The general rule is this: be polite, but don't exaggerate.
Most shops like supermarkets or department stores are always closed on Sundays, but if you do need something, you can buy food in train stations or at petrol stations. However, food there will cost a lot more than in the supermarket. Florists have extra opening times on certain bank holidays.
Saying what you want
In Germany you're encouraged to express yourself directly and precisely, without leaving too much room for interpretation. It's not for nothing that the Germans say: 'we mean what we say and we say what we mean' - unless you're playing poker. Say what you want, need, what's on your mind and what you think precisely in clear and lucid words. avoid being too reserved - instead, try to be clear but polite. Say 'no' if you don't want something or if you don't agree with something, and make sure people understand what you want.
What do I have to be aware of as a student if I want to work in Germany? The answer to this question is: it depends what job you do and for how long. You can find details about the topic 'working as a student' here.
You can access the Heidelberg student union online job portal here.
Tuition fees for international students
Starting in the winter semester 2017/18, international students from non-EU (European Union) and non-EEA (European Economic Area - Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway) countries with a foreign university entrance qualification will be required to pay a tuition fee of EUR 1500 per semester for Bachelor’s/Staatsexamen and consecutive Master’s degree programmes at all institutions of higher education in Baden-Württemberg (Germany).
Students from EU and EEA member states, as well as international students with a German university entrance qualification are exempt from these tuition fees.
Furthermore, this regulation only applies to students who intend to start their degree programme in the winter semester 2017/18 or those who intend to change their (entire) degree programme or institution of higher education. Students who were already enrolled at Heidelberg University in the summer semester 2017, and intend to continue in the same degree programme in the winter semester 2017/18 are exempt from these tuition fees. In this case, the grandfather clause will apply. A component of the previous degree programme may be changed once without incurring an obligation to pay tuition fees.
International students who come to Heidelberg University from a different institution of higher education will be subject to tuition fees at Heidelberg University.
Exceptions for payment obligation
In a small number of cases, the law on tuition fees for international students provides for certain exceptions. All details and contact data can be found here.
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