Safety is a natural concern for anyone traveling to a foreign country for the first time. The MyGermanUniversity team members all have experienced being in a new place where you don’t know the language, and we understand that it can be overwhelming. Therefore, we have created this helpful guide to inform students about their safety in Germany.
While students can rest assured that Germany is a safe country for international students, having informed knowledge about safety and resources is even more reassuring for students and their families. This article will begin with facts and figures illustrating safety in Germany in comparison to other countries. We also include everyday safety tips for students to follow (no matter what country they are in) and have a section dedicated to discussing what Germany is doing systemically so that everyone feels safe.
We are aware that some students have different safety concerns than others. When creating this safety guide, we made sure to keep in mind the diverse experiences and worries which students may have. Therefore, the last section of this article includes an array of safety resources in Germany including websites and phone numbers where students can get help or more information.
How safe is Germany?
Germany has long been a highly sought out destination for international students. In addition to the quality education system, public universities in Germany generally do not charge tuition fees. This provides students from all backgrounds with the opportunity to pursue a degree in Germany. In 2019, more than 300,000 international students were studying at German universities. The top 5 countries of origin for international students were China, India, Syria, Austria, and Russia (DAAD/DZWH). Germany is a safe place for students to pursue an education, but you don’t have to take our word for it! This section addresses concerns that students may have about studying in Germany, along with some figures regarding safety in German on a global comparison.
Germany dealing with the past
In German, the word Vergangenheitsbewältigung means “dealing with the past.” This word has a special connotation and is used specifically to refer to how Germany deals with its dark past. The idea is that rather than ignore its Nazi history, it is better to shed light on what happened in order to move forward and ensure that such horrors never happen again. The rise of right-wing extremism around the world has created concern for students who wish to study in Germany and questions have arisen regarding Germany’s history. At MyGermanUniversity, we would like to honor Vergangenheitsbewältigung by addressing these issues directly to ensure international students know that Germany is committed to their safety. For this reason, we made sure to make students and parents know that we are aware of those concerns here in this section and provide facts and figures on how safe Germany is in the following section.
The 2020 Global Peace Index
The Global Peace Index is published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank. The IEP ranks 163 territories and independent states according to different factors such as conflict and safety, militarisation, societal safety, and more. The territories and states are then ranked by their “level of peacefulness” according to the IEP’s findings. On the IEP’s scale, the country that ranks on position 1 would be the most peaceful according to the IEP’s parameters. To illustrate the level of safety students have in Germany, we have listed some of the figures for Germany from the 2020 Global Peace Index:
- Germany ranks 16 out of 163 territories which were evaluated in the 2020 Global Peace Index.
- Germany ranked number 11 out of 36 European states.
- In “Societal Safety and Security,” Germany ranked in the top 20 on a global comparison.
Safety tips for international students
While Germany is a safe country, students should always follow some general safety protocol. Not only within Germany but also abroad when traveling and even in their home countries. Petty crimes like pick-pocketing can occur more in larger cities or large gatherings. We have noted a few safety tips for students to keep in mind whether they are in Germany or abroad, in order to maximize their safety.
- When traveling or in a new place, keep your belongings close by.
- Avoid walking around dark and empty areas alone.
- Be vigilant when using a cash machine or ATM to withdraw money, especially if you are alone.
- Avoid consuming alcohol alone, especially in a new place or large gatherings.
- When traveling alone, be sure to make copies of important documents (e.g. passport) in case they get lost or stolen.
- If you are traveling alone, give a friend your itinerary and update them along your trip.
- Carry items of value in separate places (e.g. passport in a travel bag, money in wallet in the pocket, phone in a separate bag, etc).
- Don’t be afraid of calling the police (110) if you feel unsafe.
- Use local safety resources to your disposal (e.g. the International Student Office at your local German university).
- Make a copy of emergency safety resources (last section of this article).
Germany combatting racism and discrimination
Racism is a difficult topic for many students to ask questions about when it comes to studying in Germany. We are aware that some students have concerns regarding racial discrimination and we believe it is important to address this issue so that students can feel safe in Germany. As safe and socially aware as the German community is of these issues, racist incidents can occur anywhere in the world and Germany is actively fighting against such violence.
German universities have anti-discrimination policies and offices where students can come forward to report incidents of discrimination. If an international student in Germany at any time suffers from discrimination, even in a university environment, they have campus resources at their disposal. On a national level, Germany has also created a specific agency that is in charge of addressing discrimination.
The German Anti-Discrimination Agency
Systemically, the German government has invested in the creation of a Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA). The FADA was established in 2006 following the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). The agency provides support to persons who have experienced discrimination on any grounds (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, etc). For issues of discrimination, they have the power to:
- provide information in legal claims of discrimination,
- outline legal action possibilities and legal provisions of protection against discrimination,
- issue referrals to counseling from other agencies,
- pursue a settlement by involved parties.
In addition to the aforementioned duties, the FADA also works toward progress on a national scale on the issue of discrimination by managing:
- public relations,
- measures to prevent discrimination,
- scientific studies,
- issuing reports to the German government at regular intervals regarding findings by the FADA and recommendations on avoiding and abolishing discrimination.
While Germany is, as demonstrated in the previous section, generally a safe country for its citizens and its international students, concerns regarding discrimination are valid no matter where in the world a student wishes to study. The establishment of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency can put students and parents at ease, knowing students are in a country committing to combatting discrimination.
The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency has published a Guide for Refugees and New Immigrants: Protection Against Discrimination in Germany which students and parents can consult for detailed resources and information. FADA can also provide confidential counseling to those who need it at no cost. Alternatively, they can help you find a counseling center closer to where you are located in Germany:
Click here to fill out a contact form to FADA for counseling.
Click here to search for a counseling center in Germany.
Civil society resources for counseling and support
If you experience racist violence in Germany or other forms of group-related, prejudiced violence in Germany, and if you feel like the threshold to contact a federal-state agency is too high, there are also a number of civil society organizations that provide counseling. In some cases, they can even provide medical and legal help to people who experience group-related misanthropy in Germany. The employees here are experts in dealing with such incidents, are focused on your perspective, and provide discreet and anonymous counseling if you wish.
The Amadeu-Antonio-Foundation is an important carrier of anti-racist work and support projects in Germany and on their website, they list civil society aid resources for people who experience discrimination for each region in Germany. The page that lists these organizations is available in German only, however, you can click on the link of the respective organization and their websites will typically provide you with information in English, French, Arabic, and/or other languages.
Safety resources in Germany
Germany is working to protect any individual from discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, origin, gender, disability, religion, age, or sexual orientation. In addition to the FADA which can be consulted at any time regarding cases of discrimination, there are various resources for students to keep in mind in case of an emergency or simply for a consultation regarding safety. Below are various resources students should keep in mind for help.
One important thing to remember is that your university in Germany will provide you with lots of resources on safety and wellbeing in Germany. Universities include anti-discrimination offices, and often, students self-organize to provide a platform for students with disabilities, queer students, or female students. Universities also offer mental health counseling to their students. Just ask your university’s international office for help and guidance through different services and initiatives that may advance your sense of safety, your well-being, and your feeling of being home.
Emergency phone numbers
Fire and medical emergency
0800 111 01 11
Violence against women hotline
08000 116 016
0180 331 94 11
Non-emergent medical assistance (doctor on call)
The German Federal Foreign Office’s country selection page can provide students with contact information to their local embassy or consulate. Once you have selected your country, select your preferred language, and search for their contact information.
Physical and mental health
German universities have a variety of resources to aid students throughout some of the stresses of student life. Whether it is a personal situation or stress from exams or writing papers, universities are equipped with psychological counseling centers for all students. Students can receive counseling, therapy, and help in finding a doctor or psychologist for long-term counseling. Consult your university website for their on-campus counseling center.
- Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZgA).
- The German AIDS Foundation (Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe): provides resources, advice, and information regarding HIV and AIDS. Also has 130 branches throughout Germany.
- Nightline - student self-organized crisis and counseling hotline. They have an open ear for studentile problems: Be it academic stress, loneliness, social anxiety, or other questions. Click here for contact info throughout Germany.
- Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency: offers counseling, advice, and information in cases of discrimination.
- Queer Refugees Deutschland: offers support, advice, and advises LGBTQI refugees in Germany as well as organizations working with them.
- Information on LGBTI rights protection in Germany and the EU.
- Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany (Lesben- und Schwulenverband Deutschlands, LSVD): offers counseling, support, and resources via their site or phone calls.
- Handbook Germany: LGBTQIA: Online resource guide sponsored by the German Commissioner of the Federal Government for Migration, Refugees, and Integration. Provides detailed resources for help and enumerates rights in Germany.
- MANEO Berlin Anti-Violence-Project: offers advice to victims of violence and records such acts to progress violence-prevention measures via public relations work.
Black and people of color
- Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency: offers counseling, advice, and information in cases of discrimination.
- Each One Teach One: offers advice to Black, African, and Afro-diasporic people in Berlin. Has resources regarding fighting racism and anti-discrimination law.
- ISD Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland: works for the advancement of people of African descent in Germany.
- Black German Cultural Society: a US-American organization that serves as a network to facilitate awareness of issues affecting Black Germans.
- Frauenhauskoordinierung e.V.: provides women with counseling and support in unsafe situations as well as an online search for women’s shelters in Germany.
- ADEFRA e.V. Schwarze Frauen in Deutschland: offers support for Black women living in Germany.
- Center for Intersectional Justice: a non-profit organization that engages in advocacy and policy research to make anti-discrimination policies more inclusive.
- Information on Germany’s commitment to equality and women’s rights.
Our team at MyGermanUniversity is made of diverse, warm-hearted individuals from different backgrounds who are located all around the globe. Our platform is dedicated to sharing useful information for international students and condemn any discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, or gender. Our team works to encourage all students to pursue their dream of studying in Germany. Should you have any further questions or like more information, feel free to also contact us at [email protected].