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How to choose between the USA and Germany for studying abroad?

Objective criteria by which living in Germany is better:

  • Much safer
  • Healthier lifestyle (yes lifestyle is a personal choice but in the US it’s much harder for me to live as healthily as I do over here, and the reverse is true, too)
  • Legally guaranteed 24 days of vacation – in practice you often get more
  • Working less hours and being more productive
  • Poor and medium-income people can afford more
  • Less unemployment (varies widely by region though)
  • Free education (including universities, including for foreigners)
  • Great public transport (in comparison)
  • More privacy
  • People read more books and pay more attention to the news
  • Less money in politics (it’s embarrassing that German politicians won’t sign an anti-corruption law, but at least they are forced to resign when it becomes known they took money from corporations or lobbies; also campaigns are publicly financed)

Objective criteria by which it’s worse:

  • Smaller houses
  • Less variety in climates and terrains
  • Less racial diversity
  • Higher taxes
  • (For someone who isn’t yet living here:) Immigration is usually more difficult

Worse for Republicans, better for Liberals: 

  • Very little mention of religion in public; the average German is either a non-church-going progressive Christian or agnostic; having an atheist chancellor would not be a big deal
  • Widespread acceptance of LGBT people
  • Rich people are less rich; also some high-income jobs yield less income (and less insane hours)
  • Much stricter gun control
  • Universal health care
  • More / More comprehensive social services
  • Obama plugged Germany’s manufacturing sector and vocational training as a model for America
  • Environmentalism
  • The entire political spectrum is shifted to the left; Democrats would be considered right-wing here
  • In the media: more nudity, less violence
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Some other differences that you may or may not embrace:

  • Restriction of hate speech
  • People are more frank with you
  • Much less patriotism
  • Less respect for the military
  • Almost all schools are public and non-profit, meaning that the level of education is comparable everywhere and school rankings make little sense. Since Germany trains its teachers much longer and pays them nearly double the salary as the US, this comes out to a very good average education, but it isn’t as good as the ivy league schools for example.
  • Social ranking by education/sophistication as opposed to wealth or family
  • People pay more attention to their & other people’s appearance
  • More consumer rights but worse level of service
  • You cannot easily sue or get sued
  • Anti-nuclear power
  • Fewer chain restaurants and chain stores, more family-owned places
  • Different business culture: http://www.atlantic-times.com/ar…
  • Almost no shops are open on Sundays. The flip side is that it’s also very unlikely you’ll be asked to work Sundays.
  • Lower drinking age: 16 for beer/wine (14 if accompanied by a parent); 18 for harder alcohol
  • Must be 18 to get a driver’s license and it requires a lot of training and is quite expensive

And then there are a million things that may well make a difference to you but that depend too much on personal preferences to list here, e. g. that each country has sports that you can’t play or watch in the other, that each country has foods that are hard to find in the other, and so on.

Which of the things mentioned above would affect your life or affect how happy you’d be in this society? Which are totally irrelevant to you? Nobody can answer this question for another person.

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Author: Judith Meyer (Answered on Quora)


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