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Germany from the Outside

The place, the people and academic life: after their stay, Humboldt Fellows complete an evaluation sheet. Read about the marks they award Germany.

If you are granted a Humboldt Fellowship and spend time working on research in Germany, you are bound to form an opinion about the way academia works at German universities and research institutes, and you will also get to know the country and its people: How open and tolerant are Germans towards their guests? What about their sense of humour? Are people here progressive, bureaucratic, hospitable? How well-equipped are the labs and the libraries? And what about working hours, childcare and junior researchers’ career prospects?

These are the questions the Humboldt Foundation asks its sponsorship recipients at the end of their fellowship. Researchers from all over the world assess how they and their families have experienced the 18 months the average fellow spends here during their research stay. The survey invites open comments, not least on how Germany compares with the fellow’s own country.

The evaluation “Germany from the outside” collates the results of the surveys conducted in the last six years from 2013 to 2018 and evaluates the responses of a total of more than 1,800 Humboldt visiting researchers from over 140 countries. The results show that Germany and its science system are largely perceived very positively and also hold their own internationally. Depending on where the respondents come from, however, there are points of criticism

Germany: Pro science, progressive, tolerant and even humorous. If only it weren’t for the bureaucracy.

The participants evaluated what they associate with Germany on a scale from +5 to -5. The light-blue base shows the mean value for evaluations from all regions. The coloured bars show the ratings by region.

Research: Quality and financing: top! But who takes care of young talents?

In comparison with other parts of the world, Germany is largely rated positively – with clear differences in some cases depending on whether the respondents come from Africa or North America, for instance. Despite these divergencies, everyone is agreed on the fields in which Germany is strong, such as infrastructure, and weak, such as dual career opportunities and promoting junior researchers.

Careers and workload: A question of perspective

The answers to this question differ enormously depending on the country of comparison. Japanese and American researchers think working hours are better than at home. French and British researchers consider professional opportunities to be worse here whilst their Chinese and Italian colleagues think they are better. All in all, Germany largely performs favourably, although there is room for improvement in comparison with certain countries.

„Deutsche Bahn is the best in the world!”

From food and culture via local transport and rents to the atmosphere in society and at universities: what the survey respondents particularly wanted to express. A selection.

Well cared-for: Germany is comparatively child-friendly

There is a shortage of places in nurseries and day-care centres. Plenty of parents in Germany could write a book about it, but in comparison with other countries, childcare provision seems a lot better. Especially Scandinavians think German childcare provision could be upgraded.

Individual points of criticism: Language barriers and bureaucracy are the most annoying.

Fellows were asked to comment freely on any aspects or describe personal experiences they perceived negatively. Out of 1,803 respondents, 1,277 answered the open question “What were the negative aspects of your stay in Germany?” appropriately. The most frequent points of criticism were language barriers and bureaucracy.

Author: Geort Scholl, Infographis: VisualDriven 

This article was originally published in Humboldt Kosmos 110/2019.

Humboldt Kosmos is the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's magazine.

How was your stay in Germany?

In terms of place, people and academic life: how would you rate your stay in Germany? Write a comment and tell other alumni about your experiences!

October 2019


Malfred Moolela
17 October 2019

Germany was my first European country to stay and study in. In terms of my personal and proffessional development, it serves and will continue to serve as my baseline international career development centre. Authough my asymilation of information was hampered by the fact that most of lectures were in German language my proficiency in German language was not the best. However, even the fact that I had the opportunity to learn German as a foreign language and be able to sit in class at a German University asymilate the little knowledge I think I did asymilate can only be a huge achievement. On the German people, I would say they are reserved people, not so open before you know them but very good when you get to them. They wont come to you, you have to get to them and it is a challenge at first because they appear to mind their own business most of the time. At work, they are top concentrators on the detail. It is no wonder German products are a symbol of quality. Overall, I loved my stay and I will, definitely, be back their soon, I hope.

Muhammad Ali Kamran
16 October 2019

I am excited to interact with German peoples and want to know their psychology of livings and culture but unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to meet with them, how ever I have friend in Germany who have wishes for me to visit Germany. I am trying my level best to make friendship with German girls if some in this social circle who help me to teach German to me and helping me out findings good then it will be highly appreciated, looking to see some once helping each other for better understanding and change the world .

Satakshie sharma
16 October 2019

Germany, I would say most systematic, advanced, competent and legislative country. I found German education system, the most friendly in the World in terms of no tuition Fee, wide opportunities and advanced level studies . And so the faculty, professors and people around. Though language is the only barrier for new comers but all universities provide German language courses free of cost to the international students. They help you in adjusting and understanding the culture, language and people. I believe Germany is the preferred country for students Internationally.

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