A gap year in Germany has a lot to offer. You’ll need to be ready to throw out a few stereotypes though; for all their reputation for diligence and efficiency you’ll find that most Germans know how to enjoy life and laughter, too. Now it is true that trains are generally punctual and Germans do wait patiently at pedestrian crossings when no traffic is to be seen, but the image of a dull and rather conservative middle-class sort of country is but a slice of the real place.
After World War Two, Germany was divided into the communist East and the capitalist West until 1990. The economic prosperity of the West is still filtering through to the East, therefore travelling across Germany will expose you to many cultures, ways of life and histories. That’s what a gap year is all about though, isn’t it? Seeing a country for what it really is, and understanding the country through your own eyes, not through the pages of a book.
For many on a gap year in Germany, the great attraction is Berlin. Many stay for weeks or even months working, in order to spend time living in a place that is steeped in history but also has a youthful vibe. In the east, Leipzig is a city with a great reputation for the arts and education and to the south, Munich is the centre of Bavarian life, a great city in an area very much in touch with its rural roots and the mountains and forests around. To the south west is the Rhineland, Germany’s industrial heartland and also the impossibly romantic Rhine valley, the Mosel wine region, the Black Forest and the ancient university town of Nuremberg.
Working in Germany
For your German gap year, there are many opportunities for long and short-term work. Bar work is one of the most popular: it is hard but Germans are good tippers! The prize is a spot at Munich’s Oktoberfest in September and October each year. In Berlin, English speaking tour-guides are in demand, while in rural areas farm and vineyard work offers a chance to earn or at least to work on an all-found basis. English language assistants are employed by many schools for those wanting a long-term stay and sweet factories provide a monotonous but reliable source of income for many. If you have some money saved, intern work in a Berlin start-up business is a great way to see why Germany continues to prosper. English is widely spoken but a little German will go a long way.
Germany is at the heart of Europe. Denmark and Scandinavia lie to the north; Poland and the Czech Republic to the east; Austria and Switzerland to the south; while France and the Benelux countries are on its western borders. So, should you fancy moving on, there is plenty of choice. You may not want to.