What will you have to watch out for?

            Cash versus Cards

            Car traffic

            Language German

            Travel by Foot

            Traveling underground



Cash Versus Cards

  • You will be able to pay with cash in every location in Germany.
  • Very many locations accept only cash.
  • Only few places accept credit cards, such as Visa or Master. Those may include large book stores, gas stations, some stores (but there may be very strict control mechanisms, such as being asked to pay a fee or to have them make a copy of the passport), more modern restaurants. Unfortunately, in the visited area, most restaurants will not accept credit cards.
  • You can use your ATM card at the ATM’s in Germany. These are called “ec Automat”, and will work in the same way as in the US, dispensing Euro currency. Your bank may charge a fee for the foreign transaction, and of course the card needs to be associated with a checking account with sufficient funds. Using a credit card to draw cash from an ATM is a quite expensive endeavor, and should be reserved for emergencies only.
  • Traveler’s Checks will be cashed by most banks, but often for a fee. While they offer some security in case of loss, it is not a great way to take a money supply. They will not be accepted anywhere but in banks.
  • Don’t take a lot of US currency with the goal to change it in the bank either. This just is impractical and risky.
  • Under the line: We recommend taking some Euro cash (maybe $100 worth) to have some cash initially. Take one or two ATM cards (store in different places), and use those at the ATMs in order to get cash for the cash purchases; those will probably the majority of your transactions. Have a credit card which you can use in places where feasible to lighten the stress on the cash. If it makes you feel more secure, take some travelers checks, but not too much – you loose a lot of fees if you end up not using them. Remember, they are not accepted in stores, only in banks.

Car Traffic

  • The traffic rules in Germany are very similar to the US, however, it appears that there are deviations from the written rules, which are maintained by a status quo of traffic participants.
  • Roads are narrow and curvy, maximum speed changes very often over distances of less than a mile, and cars move very fast. The stress level of driving 20 miles overland in Saxony equals the stress level of a 60-minute ride on I-494.
  • The status of a person is apparently directly linked to the car usage. Pedestrians do not go by car, therefore are lowest in the ranks. You will be a pedestrian.
  • Cars will not slow down for you, nor stop for you, even in pedestrian crossings.
  • Do not jaywalk – you would be playing Russian roulette (see above).
  • Watch out for yourself and do not trust the car drivers – then you will be okay.

-         Health Insurance

Language German

  • The local language in Freiberg, Chemnitz and Dresden is the Saxon dialect of German. It is characterized by the absence of hard consonants (“Tee” = “Deh”) and the over usage of sch sounds in places where your dictionary shows none (“die Wurst” = “de Wurscht” or “Leipzig” = “Leibtsch”).
  • As we go up into the mountains, the brand of German becomes what locals call “arzgebirgsch”, which stands for a collection of dialects distinct in every village and valley. Connoisseurs will find pleasure in determining the home town of the speaker from the usage of certain phrases – for us is important to know that it will be very hard to understand real “arzgebirgsch” even for native Germans.
  • Young people, say below 30, will be more than happy to use their English. English is taught in school, often from 5th grade on. In addition, there is a significant intrusion of English into the daily usage in German. Thus, you will find it often easy to communicate with the local population. Older people will often have more education in the Russian language, while only few words in English come easy to them. This may be difficult - but hands and feet can fill in where the tongue fails.
  • Most of the museums and technical monuments will have inscribes in German, often are very informative and relevant for the course. If English tours are available we will certainly take advantage of them, sometimes pamphlets or booklets in English can be found. If all else fails, one of your instructors will jump in and provide translation in her best ability.

Traveling by foot

  • You will walk a lot. Aside from city tours and museum walks, there are a couple of hikes in the program, as well as tour underground.
  • Bring good walking shoes.
  • Expect about 4-8 miles per day.
  • Bring a light pack which can be carried easily and can hold daily necessities, such as money, a writing tool, a camera and maybe a small water bottle.
  • Most walks will not take you far away from civilization, since this is virtually impossible with in a region with an average population density of 232 persons per square kilometer. So, a few Euros to stop in the next Eiscafe for a cool treat or some water is a better option than carrying a lot of survival gear.
  • Watch out for traffic – there is more aggression on the roads than in Minnesota or Iowa.
  • Going into mines (Einfahren) involves a lot of walking in cool temperatures (40 – 50ºF) – bring some warmer clothes that can stand some abuse.
  • Hiking in a forest in July can mean hot weather – bring some shorts for that.

Some notes for underground

  • The temperature in the mines is often around 45ºF, which means that we need to bring a sweatshirt and long pants, even if it is warm outside.
  • For most tours, you will receive a helmet and a cape, for the longer tours you may receive an overall and rubber boots.
  • In any case, comfortable shoes with laces are recommended. Avoid at all: sandals and high heels.
  • A little flash light is a great thing to have on you on these tours. There often is lighting installed, ot you will have a light on the front of the helmet.
  • The process of going into a mine is called “einfahren” in German, which translates as “driving in”. Various kinds of einfahrt are: elevator (vertical and inclined), mine train, walking and ladders. We will try basically all of them.
  • Some places, such as the elevators or the older parts of mines, may be tight. If you are claustrophobic, please let us know, and we try to warn you before we go into such a space.

Etiquette in Restaurants

  • The usual order of events is such: first you receive a menu, then the server comes back and asks about drinks and food. Food is served. You will have to indicate that you want the check (“Zahlen, bitte.”) and they will come with the bill and have you pay right then.
  • Tipping in Germany is voluntary, and often in the range 5-10%. The staff is paid, and tips are not considered part of the income.




The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.