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10 words that perfectly sum up student life in Germany

Kathrin Thams
Kathrin Thams - [email protected]
10 words that perfectly sum up student life in Germany
Students taking a break between classes at the University of Tübingen on August 26th. Photo: DPA

A German university student lays out the top words and phrases you'll need to know in class - and in your free time.


Anwesenheitspflicht (Compulsory attendance)

At the beginning of the semester, the first thing that you ask the professor is if the course has mandatory attendance.

Students attending class at the University of Potsdam. Photo: DPA

If there is no required attendance, students most likely will not show up to class, but can still complete their course work through uploaded course work slides on the university server.


READ ALSO: Nine life-saving tips for university students in Germany

“Wie sieht es aus mit der Anwesenheitspflicht in diesem Kurs?“

"Is there a mandatory attendance for this course?"

(Kein) Bier vor Vier 

Many students love drinking, especially beer. It is popular because it's handy, cheap, and comes in dozens of varieties.

Two performing arts students at the University of Hanover take a beer break between classes. Photo: DPA

Although the German saying “Kein Bier vor Vier“ (No beer before four) recommends not drinking that early in the day, it has become quite common among young people to meet up after class to enjoy a beer and socialize.

These gatherings usually emerge when someone asks: “Wollen wir uns auf ein Bier treffen?“ "Do you want to meet up on a beer?"

Mensa (Cafeteria)

The “Mensa“  on an university campus serves quality food and drinks for a low price. Students and employees even receive additional discounts. You may choose from a variety of warm, cold, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free - and the list goes on - foods for every meal of the day.

Most cafeterias open before the first class and close late in the evening which allows students to eat, study or relax there with friends. 

“Wir treffen uns nach dem Unterricht in der Mensa. Magst du dazukommen?“ 

"We are meeting up at the cafeteria after class. Would you like to join us?"

Students inside of an all-vegan Mensa in Berlin, Photo: DPA

Öffis (Öffentliche Verkehrsmittel)

Public transportation is the number one reason for coming late to class - or not arriving at all. Especially in winter time you have to leave earlier in order to have a time buffer in case of a delay.

And when the train or bus eventually arrives, you will wish you would have walked to class because you will be crammed in there like sardines in a can. 

“Entschuldigen Sie die Verspätung. Die Öffis waren mal wieder spät.“

"Excuse me for being late. The public transportation was late once again."

Students waiting for the bus. Photo: DPA


Youtube has become increasingly popular among students because it offers learning videos on every imaginable subject.

For example, The Simple Club offers videos on topics ranging from overcoming test anxiety to the natural sciences which guide you step by step through help you study efficiently.

Practice your German, and learn more efficiently, with The Simple Club. Photo: DPA

Youtube also offers life hack videos that give advice on how to decorate your room, how to properly make a sandwich or how to throw a great Halloween party. These videos are very popular because they bring new ideas to the students.


“Schau dir mal das video auf Youtube an. Vielleicht verstehst du es dann besser.“

"Watch this video on Youtube. Maybe you will understand it better then."


Being eco-friendly has gained a great importance for students. For example buying bio products, avoiding plastic and using reusable containers instead of to-go mugs for beverages in order to act environmentally friendly.

Bamboo straws offer an 'öko' alternative to non-reusable plastic ones. Photo: DPA 

Many universities do not offer to-go cups anymore and even give a discount on bringing your own reusable mug. Being “öko (Ökologisch)” (ecological) is even considered trendy.

“Diese Plastik Strohhalme sind aber nicht sonderlich umweltfreundlich“.

"These plastic straws are not very eco-friendly."

Demos (Demonstrationen)

Students often attend demonstrations and support good causes regarding the climate, animal and human rights. Many universities have already altered their practices in order to provide equal rights among students.

For example, some toilets have changed into unisex toilets, and women are no longer excluded when using the word “Studenten*innen“(Students).

“Gehst du auf die Demo morgen?"

"Are you going to the demonstration tomorrow?"

Students participate in a Fridays for Future Demonstration. Photo: DPA


Ordering food is a great way to spend an evening after a long day. Lieferando is a common website where you can order food from dozens of restaurants.

A Lieferando deliverer bikes through the snow in Düsseldorf in January to deliver warm, fresh food. Photo: DPA

Ordered food offers an occasional alternative to eating canned food, since many students tend to be too busy or simply too lazy to cook, and do not have enough money to eat at a restaurant. 

“Ich habe gestern mal wieder Sushi beim Lieferservice bestellt.“

"Yesterday, I ordered sushi again with the delivery service."

Kommilitonen (fellow students)

“Kommilitonen“ is ironically is a word that most students do not know how to spell or pronounce. But you can avoid the word by using “Mitstudenten“ instead. 

“Fragen Sie doch Ihre Kommilitonen nach den Arbeitsblättern."

"Ask your fellow students for the worksheets."


The classic Club-Mate offers many students an alternative to coffee. Photo: DPA

This Club-Mate herb drink (served in a cooled bottle unlike the original maté originating from South America)  is considered an elixir of life for students - especially in Berlin.

Some people even prefer it over coffee because it is cool, fizzy, contains a good amount of caffeine, and is not very sweet, unlike coke for example.

There are several brands and flavors of Mate ranging from the classic Club-Mate to Banana Mio Mio Mate. But it is slightly more expensive than the usual soft drink.

“Hast du Lust auf eine Mate?“

"Do you want a Mate?"


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