The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Germany

Symbolic picture for the article. The link opens the image in a large view.
(Foto: Gorodenkoff/

Our internationals help you get settled in Germany

After time spent on trains and planes and cars you’ve made it – welcome to Germany! Many things will be different, but there’s no need to worry. Our experienced international students are here to give advice. With their help, you’ll find it easy to adapt.

Welcome to Germany, where probably everything is a bit different from your home country. In case you feel a bit overwhelmed starting your studies at FAU and life in Germany in general, we asked international students how things work around here: Chandana from India and Nikolas from Greece, who both study Medical Engineering, and Javiera from Chile, who studies The Americas/Las Americas, give you an insight into life in Germany. You’ll also find the most important information for a successful start on our website.


Join a university club!

Portrait der Studentin Chandana
(Foto: FAU/ Katrin Piecha)

At FAU, FSI (short for ‘Fachschaftsinitiativen’) are well known for helping students with any issues from exams, via lecture notes, to organising parties for meetups. They are student associations of a specific subject. Additionally, there are many student initiatives to choose from, such as the FabLab, sports clubs, the ARENA… of the young ARTS, EcoCar, etc. In particular, FabLab is useful for repairing bikes together with volunteers to help out in case you need it. Look here for more information (German).

Finding accommodation can be like a casting session

You can choose from various types of student accommodation, such as dorms, shared apartments and studio apartments. You need to apply for a place in a dorm as they are subject to vacancy. The shared apartment scenario is quite different: it´s just like a casting session. While writing to get a room in a shared apartment with new people, be aware that they prefer someone who is like them. So drop a message telling them about yourself, your hobbies and interests. Later, when invited for a house visit – along with many other applicants – you can get in touch with the other residents. Brace yourself to make a good first impression and get a place! You can also have a good time with your future roomies. Several websites help you to find shared apartments where you can choose from wide options in different parts of the city depending on your budget.

Check out this video in which our student vlogger Ani gives advice on accommodation options

Ride your bike!

It is easier to go to different parts of Erlangen at your convenience by bike. Check ‘Suche/Biete’ on Social Media to learn about people selling their bikes at reasonable prices. Bicycle auctions and flea markets are also good options to find a used bike. For repairs, use FabLab at the university. Here you can use the repair tools for free and fill up on air. You can also repair your bike for free at the E-Werk in Erlangen city center.


Learn German – it’s useful for everyday life

Portrait der Studentin Javiera
(Foto: FAU/ Katrin Piecha)

Almost everyone speaks English in Germany. Key word: almost. In the small towns you might visit, or in some stores, not everyone is used to tourists, so I really recommend that people learn some German. It’s easier to move around train stations or supermarkets, too. Also, in restaurants some waiters or waitresses find it cute when you try and order food in German, and they‘ll be extra helpful! The University offers free German courses every semester, at every level, and intensive courses over the Summer and Winter breaks as well. Although the intensive courses are not free, they‘re worth every cent, as they enable you to spend several hours immersed in the language.

Be aware of shop opening hours

Oh, the opening hours at the supermarkets … if you are hungry after 20:00 on a weekday, or ever run out of food on a Sunday, your best option is to go to the nearest gas station and get a bag of crisps! Supermarkets close very early in Bavaria, and every worker gets a day of rest on Sundays. I learned to deal with this by planning my weekly menu ahead. For example, I roughly plan that I’ll be eating pasta on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, salad on Wednesday, and get everything I need in time. Also, the freezer is now my best friend. I freeze my leftovers and vegetables – this might be useful if it’s 05:00 on a Friday night! Also: remember to take your own bags to the supermarket, as you need to pay for the ones they offer.


Lots to discover in your free time

Portrait des Studenten Nikolas
(Foto: FAU/ Katrin Piecha)

FAU has a lot to offer, such as trips to neighbouring cities, beer hikes, screenings of football matches and movies. Every city has parks, cafes, beer gardens, pubs for hanging out with friends. The beer festival, known locally as the ‘Berg’ in Erlangen, and Volksfest in Nuremberg are huge events which are a must to attend, and to try the different beers brewed in the nearby areas and the authentic German food. You get to see the locals wearing dirndls and lederhosen and can enjoy the rides. There is a huge variety of street foods from different cuisines – which is great news for all you foodies! Every weekend you can explore the market which sells fresh vegetables, fruits and a huge selection of cheese.

Don’t be afraid of bars

Bars in Germany are not necessarily what you think they are: a place to get drunk. On the contrary, bars in Germany are a great place to meet up. It’s the place the locals prefer to hang out in the evenings. In particular, the breweries leading to the ‘Berg’ area are a fun visit for everyone. It’s common to have group meet ups at a bar and being internationals, I recommend attending such meetings to get to know fellow students.