Migrating to another country is a costly adventure. Not so much because the cost of living might be higher, but because there are so many initial expenses: You need to buy a flight ticket, find an apartment, pay the deposit for the apartment, buy furniture and everyday things you need to live, translate your documents, buy a bike or a public transportation ticket, drive to job interviews,… Often there is more money going out at the beginning than coming in. And you start feeling like you can’t afford any fun things like doing sports, meeting other people, going the movies, buying books, or just enjoy life in Germany.
But – as I will show in this post – there are a huge amount of cost free (or really, really cheap) fun things you can do so that you can enjoy life in Germany and be part of the society without spending much money.
Enjoy life in Germany I: The Stadtbibliothek
Do you like reading? Can you forget time and space while sitting over a book? Or do you love learning? Always want to know more? Do you like biking or hiking? Journeys to faraway places? Cooking? Playing games? Listening to music?
All of this is possible in your public city library (Stadtbibliothek or Öffentliche Bücherei). Every bigger German town and even some smaller places have a place like this where books, games, DVDs, CDs, maps, travel guides, etc. are waiting to be borrowed. The fee, which is usually a monthly, quarterly or yearly membership fee, is very small. In Berlin’s city library for instance the yearly membership fee is only 10 €. Borrowing things is for free (as long as you return them on time…).
Enjoy life in Germany II: The Volkshochschule
Another of my favorite free-time hacks is the VHS (Volkshochschule). Volkshochschule translated means: School for the people. If you have done your German course there, I know that you might think: NOT AGAIN the VHS! But believe me, once you are past the German course, the VHS has lots of things to offer: Drawing and painting classes, woodworking, pottery, all sorts of language classes, hiking trips, gardening, music lessons,… And all of this for very little money. One semester of Brazilian Portuguese classes for instance costs only 90 € at the VHS Köln. Besides being able to learn new things, the VHS is also a great opportunity to meet and mingle with Germans. After class, people often go to a nearby pub and enjoy a beer together. Don’t be shy, go with them.
Enjoy life in Germany III: The Vereine
Free-time activities can be major money consumers. Concerts and (movie) theaters, fitness studios, shopping, etc. However there are really great ways to do fun stuff in your free-time and not pay much money for it. The key to this is called: Vereine. Historically German Associations go back to the 18th century when society started changing and traditional structures dissolved. This made space for new structures which were created through interest groups or Vereine. Nowadays you can find soccer, volleyball, (table) tennis, gymnastics, reading, singing, orchestra Vereine, which usually include guided instructions and weekly training sessions. The fees vary, but are usually low because the associations and training sessions are organized by volunteers.
So what do you need to do to be able to participate and benefit from these three tips:
Action Tip 1
Do a google search „Stadtbibliothek + name of your city“ and I can almost promise that you will find a library in your city one. Once you found out where the library is, just go there and become a member.
Action Tip 2
Figure out where your local VHS is and visit it either online or in person. They usually have a printed Semesterprogramm where you can find everything that is offered.
Action Tip 3
Do another google search looking for „your favorite free-time activity + Verein + location“. I’m pretty sure something will come up. Also do a Facebook search. There might be something interesting nearby. If the activity doesn’t necessarily require a fixed setting or training and is more of a do-it-yourself activity, you can also try adding the suffix -treff to your favorite activity (as in Lauftreff). It’s German for meeting. Once you find something, just call them. Vereine are usually always looking for new members.
So this way you don’t spend much money and still participate in a full course of activities. I think it’s fabulous. Let me know in the comments which free-time activities you are looking for. Or if you already made any experiences with these suggestions. I’m curious to hear if they work for you as well.