Life in Germany 5 – High School

So earlier I posted how Molly is finding primary school in Germany, it’s about time I added some reflections about Jack at high school.

Four types of high school

When you are 10 or 11 years old, it’s time to choose which type of high school you will go to until you’re 17-18. There are three traditional types, in order of most academic to least: GymnasiumRealschule and Hauptschule. A few years ago you could only get the qualification you needed for university from Gymnasium. Nowadays, strictly speaking, you can get it from any of the three types.

OK, I haven’t conducted long interviews with German parents about their take on it, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any particular stigma if you go to Realschule or Hauptschule. Let’s be honest: most large New Zealand high schools do the same thing, just in the same school. So if there are seven Year 9 classes, they will be streamed either top to bottom, or maybe a top two or three, and it’s those kids that will eventually go on and do Scol. Amiright?

The fourth type of high school is called Gemeinschaftschule (Gemeinschaft = community) and it’s basically all three types of high school combined. “Like a New Zealand high school then?” Yes, pretty much.

School day

Our village isn’t big enough to have a high school, so Jack catches the bus 5km into Eppingen. Eppingen has three high schools (Gymnasium, Real and Haupt) but they are all together on one campus, just in separate buildings. Jack is at Gymnasium, mainly because that’s where we thought there would be more teachers who spoke English, and the principal was very, very accommodating so I guess (again) we got lucky there.

School starts at 7:45am, so Jack leaves the house around 7:15. Your class has a different timetable for each day of the week – not just with whether you start with maths or geography, but whether you will have any classes in the afternoon or not. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Jack finishes at 12:30, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays he finishes at 4:15. L next door, who is in the same year as Jack but a different class, has a different timetable.

The only benefit of afternoon school is Jack doesn’t get any homework those days.


The subjects are school are pretty normal, compared to New Zealand schools, maybe just a few more of them. Jack does English, maths, German, French, physics, biology, sport, geography and history. See what I mean? Pretty normal.

No uniform

Pretty much the only schools in Germany that have uniforms are private, preppy and probably slightly international schools, you know, the ones selling a sort of “British boarding school” product to parents.


On a long day, Jack buys lunch at the school canteen – the Mensa. And they have a faaancy website where you order your lunch on the morning before school, flash your student ID and collect your schnitzel and chips, meatloaf with roast potatoes, etc. There’s a vegetarian option every day, but it cracks me up because some days it’s basically a dessert – check out the screenshot below.

Field trip to… France?

Monday Jack’s class did a casual field trip – to France. They basically got a bus from Eppingen to Strasbourg at 7:45, went inside the cathedral, had a sort of treasure hunt around the streets and back home by 6pm. Now that is something you don’t get to do in NZ.

Jack and Molly celebrating their first day at school (back in September) with schnitzel with chips in Eppingen. And while we’re talking about food …


Here's a screenshot of Jack's school cafeteria (Mensa) order page for this week. I translated it using Chrome. When we first got here, I had to do a Google Images search for some of the items on the menu. "What's for lunch today?" "Um, Pfannkuchen". "What's that?" "Hold on... oh, ok, they're pancakes".
Here’s a screenshot of Jack’s school cafeteria (Mensa) order page for this week – and check out the vegetarian option for Tuesday! Dampfnudel* are soft white bready dumplings which are steamed but then fried just a little bit, and served with vanilla custard. Yes, it’s normally in German, I translated it for you using Chrome’s Google Translate. It does OK – clearly it can’t cope with “Sahnetomatensoße” (cream tomato sauce) and it thinks the Lentils will be served with string, but you get the idea. When we first got here, the only way Jack and I knew what he would be eating was to do a Google Images search for some of the items on the menu. “What’s for lunch today?” “Um, something called Pfannkuchen”. “What’s that?” “Hold on… oh, ok, they’re pancakes. Should be fine.”


* Dampfnudel is so far the ONLY German food I haven’t liked.

One thought on “Life in Germany 5 – High School

  1. We are really enjoying your insight into life in Germany.

    Such an amazing experience for you all but especially for the Kids.  Love Ellen

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

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