international students in Germany
Institutional Studies

Challenges international students in Germany faced in 2020

Moving abroad has its fair share of challenges. Find out what international students went through once they arrived in Germany!

Thoughts about studying in Germany may have crossed your mind, if so, you might already be aware of a few challenges you can expect. You would be in a foreign land, experience some culture shock here, and language barriers there. Searching for accommodation would definitely be one of your top priorities once you arrive. Getting acquainted with the transport system, making friends because no man is an island and the possibility of facing prejudice may also be in your mind before taking the big leap. You may have even visited Germany before and loved it so much that you decided to relocate, even that comes with some unforeseen challenges as visiting a country and living in it is not the same. However, some challenges do not outweigh the benefits that come with relocating abroad, especially to Germany.

We, in partnership with DeGiS, Germany’s greatest network of international students, sent out a survey to international students living in Germany. They were asked about the biggest challenges they experienced once they arrived in Germany. The top three were: language barrier, finding accommodation and dealing with German bureaucracy. Other challenges included finding new friends, opening a current account, and experiencing cultural differences.

Check out the details for the top challenges:

Language Barrier

If you have moved to Germany, you might agree with this one. 36% of the students mentioned that the language barrier was their biggest challenge. Having German-speaking Uber drivers transport one from the airport after arrival seems to be a minor challenge as technology, keywords, and Google Maps bridge the communication gap. However, bigger issues have been encountered by some international students as they have had to read and fill out some important paperwork in German or deal with officials using German as the main form of communication. Nevertheless, there are cases where officials either switch to speaking English or they get English-speaking officials to assist. Universities also offer a lot of support to students with paperwork and clarifying requirements. 

Finding Accommodation

The second hurdle that internationals faced in Germany was finding where to live. Their pressure to find accommodation was heightened by the need to register an apartment (Anmeldung), which can only be done once a medium to long term contract has been signed. Without the apartment registration certificate which serves as proof of an address, the students were not able to get a residence permit and also couldn’t open a current account. As we aim to accompany you throughout your relocation journey, we have made it easier for you to find accommodation through a partnership with HousingAnywhere. Have a look at some more tips for searching for an apartment.

German Bureaucracy

If you ask anyone in Germany about the amount of post mail they receive, they wouldn't hesitate to acknowledge that it can be excessive. For some students, dealing with German bureaucracy was the biggest challenge. The unpleasant bureaucratic experiences were described further. The top five issues encountered were;

  • Analog processes that are inefficient, therefore, slow. An example of this is the heavy use of postal mail to communicate with service providers and to send and receive important documents
  • Language barriers they faced when having to deal with the bureaucracy
  • The appointment system used for services such as visa extensions and registration of an address takes long as these need to be booked in advance. If the students needed the services urgently, they had to go to the offices in the early hours of the day to queue.
  • The students were often confused with what they were required to do since the information provided was unclear and the requirements were inconsistent
  • The students have had unpleasant experiences with unfriendly officials. They felt that the officials were not being patient with them despite the fact that they didn't fully understand instructions and requirements.

If you are interested to know more about the bureaucratic challenges that internationals faced, click here.

Apart from the challenges mentioned, the students also felt that to have a better overall experience in Germany, one should make efforts to join social groups or communities. This helped them with easily integrating into German society. With that, the majority of them managed to integrate easily even though some mentioned that they felt like going back home at some point. Besides feeling homesick, other reasons for wanting to go back home included the language barrier and cultural differences.

Although there were some challenges, most students mentioned that they do not take away the fact that Germany is a great place to be. The majority of the students even confirmed that they will remain in Germany after their studies to pursue a career, study further or even start a business. To make your relocation and settling more of a smoother process, have a look at at the tips provided by DeGiS and Expatrio for getting through your first few weeks in Germany.

To view the full insights report about relocating to and living in Germany, click here.