My name is Jason Stewart and I’m studying business at the University of Mannheim for the fall semester. Here I’ll talk about my experiences in Germany and some of the cultural differences I come across.
I arrived at Frankfurt airport on Sunday and was greeted by some family members that I have living in Heidelberg. They gave me a ride to Mannheim where I picked up my dorm keys and then moved all my stuff into my room. I stayed at my relatives’ place in Heidelberg that night because I had never seen their house before. The next day I took an S-bahn (slow train) back to Mannheim where I met up with some of my suitemates to begin completing all the bureaucratic things Germany and the University required me to do. Germany is very regimented and they have rules for everything. When you first move into a city you must register with the government at the Buergerdienst (Registration Office). People from outside the EU must also register with at the Auslaenderbehoerde (Foreigner’s Registration Office). I also had to open a bank account, enroll at the school, get my ID card, and purchase a Semesterticket, which allows you to use public transportation for free.
The first cultural difference I came across occurred when I was registering at the Registration Office. In Germany, when writing sevens the Germans always put a line across the vertical part of the seven. I don’t and I don’t believe most Americans do either. So when the woman asked me if I lived in room 104, I told her that I lived in 704 and she quickly added the horizontal line to the seven. As for fellow international students, I have met many students from other countries, but only one other American. I live with people from Wales, Finland, Japan, China, Hungary, South Korea, and Germany. All of them speak at least some English, so its easy for me to communicate things if my German isn’t good enough. However, the girl from Hungary doesn’t speak English very well so it forces me to struggle through using German. I have tried using my German in as many interactions as I can, but my vocabulary isn’t good enough to hold a very long conversation. Hopefully, as time passes, I will learn more words and become good enough to quickly form sentences in my head.
Another interesting part of the German culture that I have discovered is that all drinks are carbonated here. From water to all kinds of juices, it’s extremely difficult to find any drink that isn’t carbonated, except tap water. I’ve had a few orientations at the University so far and a tour of the palace, where the University is located, along with a reception for all international students. There’s also the first party of the semester, held by the student union, and I have heard that the parties at the University of Mannheim are excellent. I’ll tell you more about it later. The picture, by the way, is of the main entrance to the palace.