Modern Germany is progressive, friendly, and welcoming. The country is world-renowned for its rich cultural history, festive celebrations, and historic sites. Germany also has a vibrant arts scene and is a front runner in the fields of renewable energy and conservation.
Germany has a high standard of living, an active youth culture, and a wide range of activities to choose from. Sports are an important part of German life, especially soccer, and there are many sports clubs and youth groups.
Germany borders both the North and Baltic Seas and stretches from flat farming country in the north to rolling hills in the centre to the Alps in the south. Your German host family will most likely live in a small town or in the countryside. Family life is important, but Germany offers you a chance to learn how to live independently, as young people are considered to be full members of the family who take care of their own affairs.
German is the official language of Germany. Semester Program students must have at least one semester of German language study. Year Program participants do not have a language requirement, but we strongly suggest that you learn as much as possible prior to departure. Both Year and Semester participants will have an opportunity to take language lessons during the first 3-6 months of your time in Germany.
Host Family & Community
You could be placed anywhere in Germany, though most AFS students will be placed in small towns and rural areas.
Host families in Germany, like all AFS host families worldwide, are not paid. They open their homes to students in order to share their community and culture as well as to enrich their own family lives.
Germans are known for being industrious, thrifty, hardworking, orderly, and they value privacy and punctuality; most Germans keep appointments exactly at the time they agreed on. People value honesty and obedience to rules and regulations.
Germans like to gather together, debate, and eat well. Germans are keen to discuss politics, culture, environment, or sports. These discussions are direct, and your opinions will be challenged; this is not meant to be disrespectful, but rather it reflects a desire for open, honest conversation. Though they may appear reserved at first, Germans have warm hearts filled with real values of friendship and family.
Equality is valued not only in public life but at home too. The average family is small, and family structures are diverse. It’s possible that you’ll be hosted in a very traditional family where the mother stays at home and is responsible for the household, or you may be hosted by a family where both parents work and the housework is equally divided. Generally in German families, mothers and fathers share authority. You will do household chores side by side with your German host brothers or sisters, and boys are expected to help in the same way that girls are.
Many festivals are organised during the year in towns, communities or villages.
Teenagers generally devote their time to academics during the week. Because there is no school in the afternoon, school-based extracurricular activities are not commonly offered; instead, communities organise activities for teens.
German students tend to develop their own activities. Teens enjoy sports, hiking and bicycling, as well as watching TV and visiting friends. Soccer, taking walks, and cultural events like film festivals and holiday markets are particularly popular activities. On weekends, they like to get together in each others’ homes, go to cafés or to movies.
You will be expected to keep your host family informed of your whereabouts. If you plan something on your own, please inform your family as they may have already planned activities together.
German cooking is generally very good and often rich. In most families, red meat, poultry, or fish are served with potatoes, dumplings, noodles or rice, and vegetables. Germany is also famous for its many types of bread, and cakes and coffee are sometimes served on Sunday afternoons.
Germans are very aware of healthy eating, and the number of vegetarians is steadily increasing especially among young people.
Meals are served at regular hours, and all family members are expected to take part in them. Snacking and raiding the refrigerator are not done.
Breakfast usually consists of cold cereal or muesli (nuts and seeds with milk), toast with honey or marmalade, or bread (often dark), cheese, meat or sausage. Adults generally drink coffee or tea; teenagers like milk, hot chocolate or juice.
The main meal of the day is usually served around noon. Dinner is served between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and traditionally consists of sandwiches made with cheese, cold meat or sausage.
Most AFSers are placed in one of three types of German school, though most are placed in Gymnasium (college prep), a program that includes the classics, modern languages, maths, or the natural sciences. The other two types of school are Realschule, which leads up to 10th grade, and Gesamtschule, which is a comprehensive school.
You will probably be enrolled in grade 10 or 11. Lectures in class are interactive; students are expected to take part actively in the lesson by asking questions, commenting, and discussing the topics.
Orientations & Activities
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically, you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximize your AFS experience, prevent culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills and a global understanding.
You may have the opportunity to take part in a second mid-stay orientation for two weeks. Participation is optional, and the cost is approximately €200. During this orientation, you will have a chance to reflect on the first half of your stay. This orientation will also be dedicated to the exploration of a special topic, such as environmental issues, human rights or the reunification of East and West Germany. You will stay with a different host family in a different part of Germany away from your primary placement (for example, in the East if you have been living in the West).
Some local chapters will organise special events, activities and trips for your enjoyment, such as a Christmas party, or give you a chance to participate in local social activities.