Unlike France or Italy, Germany doesn’t have a reputation for romance and glamour. The common stereotype is that of very direct people and of a language that sounds coarse and harsh to the uninitiated.

So why on earth move to Germany and learn the language?

Well, free tuition! Home to some of the world’s best universities, Germany has offered free tuition since 2014. With a rapidly aging population and a looming shortage of skilled workers, the country’s government is eager to create all the conditions to attract young talent. Apart from an average fee of €300 per semester to cover administrative costs and a city-wide transport card, German public universities charge both nationals and internationals nothing to attend classes.

Coupled with low living costs and a special visa allowing students 18 months to look for employment after graduation, this is a great incentive for foreign students to pursue higher education in the country. In fact, Germany is not just a good alternative for a high quality education at lower costs, it holds the number one spot in Europe according to Study.EU’s 2018 ranking of the best European countries for international students.

Chatterbug’s designer, Helena B., studies Art history and Philosophy at the Freie Universität Berlin. She shared her motivation for moving to Germany: “I was economically motivated to not be thousands of dollars in debt after university, as many of my peers who study in the US tended to be. It was especially important for me to have a debt free education because I wanted to study the humanities and the job prospects are not so promising for those with bachelor degrees.”

Do I have to learn German though?

Although German universities offer a good selection of graduate and postgraduate programs in English, these are still rare for undergraduate studies. You will need a C1 German proficiency to apply to a program taught in German, and more depending on your major.

And even if your studies are in English, you’ll want to be armed with a solid amount of vocabulary before you take on German bureaucracy. In big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, it’s so deceitfully easy to get by with English that you can be tempted to ditch German altogether. However, public officials are not required to provide services in any other language than German, and since you’ll be needing them for everything, from a city registration to visa-related matters, you might want to start picking up some Deutsch!

Did you say low living costs?

Yes! compared to its European neighbors, Germany is relatively affordable for students. In 2017, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) established that students in Germany live on an average of EUR 794 a month. By contrast, living costs in the UK, the second most attractive destination for internationals in Europe, hover around EUR 1,126 outside of London.

Helena, who lives in the capital, Berlin, and works part time for 20 hours a week, told us she’s managed to get by with relatively little money. “I have an extremely comfortable life which includes my own apartment, health care, convenient public transportation and a diet of fresh healthy food, for all under 800 euros a month. This would not be possible if I were studying in LA where I would probably still be living with my parents, would have to make expensive car payments, and wouldn’t be able to afford health care.”