Studying abroad can be abit like arriving late to the theater; if you only show up for Act III, you've missed out on everything that allows you to make sense of the plot. To bring yourself up to speed and fully appreciate your new surroundings, we strongly recommend that you read up on everyday life, culture and attitudes in Germany and the European Union before you leave for Munich. You may be surprised what you find out!
I'll admit that the recommendations below are based on my own bias. That's because I am a fan of many (but not all) things German, as well as a fan of many (but not all) things European. Of course there are books that advocate a different view, but I'll leave it up to someone else to put that list together.
If you only have the time to invest in two books, I'd highly recommend Greg Nees' Germany. Unraveling an Enigma. Despite its silly subtitle, and the fact that it's ten years old, Nees really does provide an excellent introduction into how Germans think about things and how those attitudes are reflected in everyday behavior. The second book I'd highly recommend is Europe's Promise by Steven Hill. At a time when "old Europe" bashing seems to be picking up steam again, this book may surprise you with its EU-US comparisons on such important topics as sustainable energy, universal health care, immigration, taxation, the social welfare state and pluralistic democracy. Happy Reading! — Mark Ferguson, JYM Program Director
The Atlantic Times - A Monthly Newspaper from Germany (highly recommended, and FREE to subscribers in the US and Canada!)
Guentzel, Ralph. Understanding "Old Europe" - An Introduction to the Culture, Politics, and History of France, Germany, and Austria. Marburg: Tectum Verlag, 2010. (a very nice read that places many aspects of contemporary German society within a larger historical context)
Flippo, Hyde. The German Way. Aspects of Behavior, Attitudes, and Customs in the German-Speaking World. Chicago: Passport Books, 1997.
Flippo, Hyde. When in Germany, Do as the Germans Do. The Clued-In Guide to German Life, Language, and Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
Nees, Greg. Germany. Unraveling an Enigma. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press, 2000. (excellent)
Randlesome, Collin. The Business Culture in Germany. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1994.
Coy, Jason. A Brief History of Germany. New York: Checkmark Books, 2011. (excellent - a very readable survey of German cultural history)
Ferguson, Mark. Study Abroad Europe: A Workbook of Need-to-Know Topics about the EU and the USA. 2013. More than 20 essential topics to compare Germany to the United States and the European Union. (highly recommended)
Hill, Steven. Europe's Promise. Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. (highly recommended)
Reid, T.R. The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy. New York: Penguin, 2004. (written in journalistic style and filled with enlightening comparisons)
Staab, Andreas. The European Union Explained. Institutions - Actors - Global Impact. Second Edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011. (very informative and very readable - excellent!)
Leonard, Dick. Guide to the European Union. The Definitive Guide to all Aspects of the EU. Tenth Edition. Profile Books: London, 2010. (best for those who like no stone unturned)
Hall, James. Hall's Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. London: John Murray, 1974.
Lucie-Smith, Edward. The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984.