1. Germany is a country with a great research reputation
For centuries Germany has been a leading country in research and development. Especially in natural sciences and engineering, the target fields of this blog, German scientists and research institutions have intensively contributed in establishing the fundamental theories of chemistry and physics and defined the frontier of the research. Alone in Chemistry, Physics and Medicine, German scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize more than eighty times, the first one being the Physics Nobel Prize of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1901 .
2. Excellent research facilities
The excellent research reputation of Germany is based on the acceptance of research as a crucial prerequisite for continuous development by the society and the government, as well as the industry, which translates itself into good funding opportunities from the public and private sectors, and this more or less since the beginning of the industrial age. The outcome of this dedication is a rich research infrastructure, which is covering a broad range of topics, from the very fundamental aspects to product design. Universities and research institutions profit from the availability of adequate funds and are fully equipped with the state of the art research facilities.
3. High respect for science in the society
In Germany, even if your PhD topic is in the direction of product development in the industrial sector, your devotion is rightfully regarded as a valuable contribution to the public. The awareness and curiosity of the man on the street in science is pleasantly high. I am a strong believer that you can evaluate the average intellectual level of a country just by looking at what is running at prime-time on TV. German TV at prime-time, unlike many other countries, is governed by political talkshows on hot topics, some reality shows and lots of documentaries. It took me a while to become accustomed with this "documentary of the daliy life" style. One day it is the factory producing french fries, the other day a comparison of hand cremes of discounters and high-end cosmetic companies, then some documentary about how the Airbus parts are transported within Europe for assembly. In comparison to the soap opera dominated TV atmosphere in most countries, in Germany pop-science is really well appreciated. This reflects itself in the small talk on the train, at the bakery and in shocking moments when my landlady congratulates me for my PhD after googling me to find my work phone, and apologises for being so late.
What I want to arrive at after this much of storytelling is that it is nice to live somewhere where people know that Dr. title does not necessarily mean that you are physician and yet still respect your ambitions... It is nice to live in a city, where taxi drivers ask whether you have an experiment running overnight, when you take a cab to the chemistry department at 3 am actually to pick up your USB stick for next day's meeting and are offered to pay the day-rate... It is small things which make the long working hours, the general stress etc. bearable after more than fifteen years of active education history, small things to keep you going. I believe Germany is one of the best choices you can make...
4. Great funding opportunities for PhD students and projects
In Germany, especially in natural sciences and engineering, it is extremely rare to be enrolled in PhD program without a project based salary or a scholarship. As a principle, every PhD student is connected to an active project. The system is based on careful planning, where the future need for students is determined in advance and proposals have to be submitted to assure an adequate financial support. Most of the time, these proposals also include the expenses for consumables, travel allowances and even in some cases a budget for new equipment.
5. The social infrastructure enabling a high life standard
The life in Germany has a certain order (I guess this is not very surprising), even if it is restrictive in some aspects, this order helps to organise the bureaucratic procedures in a way that you don't have to pay much attention to them anymore. If your contract is ending in some months, you get a notice from your health insurance as a warning. Similarly, if your visa is expiring the invitation for a new appointment at the foreigners' office appears in the mailbox well in advance. This prevents you from getting into trouble, especially in the beginning, when you are still not very accustomed to the rules and regulations.
Mercer's 2012 report gave high rankings to many big German cities in the "50 most livable cities" list . The federal government structure of Germany resulted in an even distribution of services within the whole country instead of creating oversized megacities. Especially in NRW (Nordrhein-Westfalen), cities like Dortmund, Bochum, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Köln, Bonn are separated by a twenty minute train ride. All are university cities and have additionally Max-Planck or Fraunhofer Institutes. Cities with twenty thousand population have swimming pools and hospitals. The train and highway networks provide excellent connections between the cities.