Our Top German School Culture Shocks as Americans

From kids walking to school by themselves, to choosing whether or not they want to attend college at the age of ten, we have had many German school culture shocks as Americans living in Germany.

As you know, we have four children, and we’ve experienced many culture shocks since moving from the USA to Germany in February 2021. The biggest and probably most significant changes have been from our kids attending school in a foreign country. In this video, we share our top 10 biggest German school culture shocks.

top german school culture shocks as americans

School is Surprisingly Different between the USA & Germany

Our four American kids have gone through a year and a half in German public schools, and now we are sharing our top school culture shocks! There are quite a few differences, many of which we didn’t expect before arriving. Things like how lunchtime is done, different teaching methods, school supplies, desks and lockers, and more!

Here are Our Top 10 German School Culture Shocks as Americans

  1. Totally Different School Supplies & Gear Needed – we have a whole video just on this topic! See it here. This section also includes, Hauschuhe (house shoes), outdoor gear, Federmappchen, Brotzeits and Fountain pens.
  2. Big Emphasis on Neatness is much stronger in Germany than the USA
  3. Kids Go to School On their Own – HUGE culture shock for Americans! Kids will walk, ride their scooters or bicycles, or take public transport to get to school – for the most part.
  4. The German 3 School System – Gymnasium, Real Schule & Mittleschule, Arbitur – It took us many months to wrap our heads around the different system and how to work it for our family. It was a lot of work to figure out where to send our kids for Gymnasium.
  5. Kindergarten – Much different concept than in the USA – not much focus on academics until the last year when they become a Vorschulkind (ages 5-6). We have another separate video just on this topic as well! See it here.
  6. Big Emphasis on Engineering and Math – you can really how they’re raising engineers in Germany by the way math is taught from Grundschule (elementary school) and on. The engineering concepts begin early. We have a video on this topic as well – see it here.
  7. Different Teaching Methods – they use a lot of colouring to teach, and worksheets.
  8. Most Schools do not Have a Cafeteria for Lunch – kids have to bring a snack and only eat lunch at the school if they stay in the after school program (Sort). This does depend on the school, but for the most part, Germany schools do not have cafeterias.
  9. Our Kids Can’t Leave Books in their Desks at School – so book bags are HUGE and then they have to walk home with their heavy backpacks. In some schools, you can rent lockers, but in the US, it’s common for all middle & high schoolers to have lockers and you don’t have to rent them or pay extra for them.
  10. The Entire Process Has Been INTIMIDATING – not knowing the language or culture fully, the strict teachers and school staff can be very intimidating. We experienced a LOT of stress the first 6-8 months of living here as foreigners.
Our Top German School Culture Shocks as Americans | My Merry Messy German Life

Did You Know…

We have an entire section here on the blog and on our YouTube channel dedicated to the German school system and school cultural differences? Check it out here.

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