Studying Abroad: Germany vs Canada
Which countries should I choose if I want to pursue my studies abroad? As I have experience doing my masters in business in both countries, I will do a little comparison.
While Canadian universities focus more on class interaction such as business case discussion in class, German universities have a stronger focus on getting the theories right. Therefore, to be successful in Canadian universities, one has to try to engage more. Often times I observe Asian students being more victim to this kind of education system because in Asia students tend to ask questions in private. However, it is a completely different approach to ace in German universities. First, it is crucial to point out that in Germany, most universities will only hold one final examination at the end of each semester, meaning all the materials throughout the semester is examined all at once. Thus, before final exams, it is common to see people queuing up for a spot in the library before it is even open. What comes after? Students start running as if they were shopping on Black Fridays!
Being a foreigner in any countries, it goes without saying that bureaucracy is everywhere. But personally, I think Germany really pushes it to the maximum. Even for foreigners who don’t speak a word in German, there is a high chance that he or she will learn “Termin”, appointment in German, first. From opening a bank account to applying for a visa at immigration office, without an appointment, you will get nothing done. So be aware of all the regulations beforehand. As for Canada, I feel that most governmental officers are very friendly, despite the occasionally long wait. You will be fine even by simply walking in.
Sometimes, even when booking a doctor’s appointment can be challenging in Germany. Many friends of mine have experience suffering from back pain or stomachache, but are only able to get an appointment several weeks later. In most cases, by the time the doctor has time for them, their illnesses have already gone away. My local friends told me to avoid situations like this, one should tell the hospital that the situation is urgent. Then, it is more likely to get the problem solved in time.
Luckily I didn’t have to go to the doctors too many times in Germany. However, I did pay a visit to the emergency room once after I had a bike accident. The doctors were very professional and friendly and I didn’t have to wait for long. Even the medical expenses were not too expensive with the EU insurance. I only had to pay for my medications. Nevertheless, my European friends told me that sometimes even ice-packs and bandages are not free. But I got them for free from my doctor.
Language and Culture
I think it shows the local people respect when foreigners learn the local language. Therefore, I would suggest people to learn German before going to Germany and English and/or French when deciding to go to Canada. Germans are very proud of their language, even to the extent that the immigration office will tell people that they can only speak German (in fact, they can speak English of course). Nevertheless, whether or not they feel like speaking depends on their feelings. Thus, for those who can’t speak German, it is a pain. They will either need to bring someone who can or learn the language.
In Canada, however, people are super chill and friendly. When I go grocery shopping, the cashier not only chats with me but also informs me of the days I can use my student discount to shop cheaper. You may argue, naja, but you are using English. So another example is that there was a time when I was on a trip in Quebec, my Airbnb host can’t speak any English and my French level is a poor A1. However, we managed to use Google Translate on her iPad to communicate. Yes, that is how friendly Canadians are in general.
That being written, I am still glad to have many German and EU friends. My observations are that Europeans are a little more difficult to blend in at first, but once becoming friends, the friendship is the one I will say very true-to-heart. Despite government officials not being friendly, the Germans I met at universities are very open-minded and nice. Some friends of mine come up with a theory to separate Germans by those who have never been abroad and those who have. The former will barely make an effort to make international friends, while the latter depends on each individuals but are more likely to accept foreign friends. I think this theory is somewhat true, so I would like to share it here.
The philosophy I live by when I was abroad is “when I received any invitations to join any events from my friends, I try to say yes as much as possible.” Therefore, I stepped out of my comfort zone and had lots of local experience. I wasn’t too conservative to only make friends with people from my country or those who I share the same mother tongue with.
If I were to sum up this section in one sentence, I would say “at least visit the Oktoberfest once in Germany and join the homecoming party in Canada.” When you are abroad, keep that curiosity as if you knew nothing about this world. That way, you will be more willing to explore.
Food is My Life!
I still remembered the first day I ate at the university Mensa (school canteen) in Germany. It was so salty, I started to wonder how one can finish them without having health issues. It felt as if the chef had a hand-slip and half-bag of salt fell into the dish. Nevertheless, after one semester of busy life studying at the library, I didn’t have time to prepare my lunch. That is when I got used to the mensa food and that salty level. I can even finish all the potatoes on my plate!!! One thing I also observed at the canteen is that people tend to finish their food and try not to waste them which I think is a very good habit. But in general, I think the German food really fits into the stereotype of having lots of meats, sausages, and potatoes. Not bad, but also not something most people will enjoy every single day, I suppose.
Cooking is the first skill I got once I am out of my home, as the food outside is more expensive and sometimes not so tasty. Maybe because I studied at a small city, the variety of restaurants is not as much as that in Canada. Maybe in the next article, I will share some of the food I find worth a try in my city. But even if the food outside is good, always eating outside may not be healthier than one preparing food for oneself. After all, you are the ones who know what kind of nutrient you need. Another thing about cooking is that if you live in a student dorm in Germany with a shared kitchen, then cooking is actually also a chance to socialize with other foreign flatmates. I recalled myself preparing my meal for 30 minutes in the kitchen and I managed to talk to all my flatmates during these 30 minutes, as they all tend to cook faster than me lolll. Below you will see the food from mensa vs my own cooking.
Now you know all about the cultural, language, educational, and food differences between Germany and Canada. Hope this article will help you a bit with your educational choices.