For a small city Weimar has quite a lot to offer. There are several cinemas, even art house and indy films in English. There's good shopping and good restaurants and cafes. Good museums, galleries, bars, actually lots of them. And nearby Erfurt and Jena also have lots to offer. My favourite thing about Weimar is the student community. I was there over the weekens and there are many things organised within the student body. Film screenings, exhibitions, parties, the international student group organises a programme of culture talks. The universities also attract an evening programme of lectures, performances and events featuring international artists. Actually, I would say that Weimar has more to offer than larger cities in the area because of its cultural prominance. It was named one of Europe's cultural capitals in the late nineties.
I would reccomend that you visit Weimar for a day, or a weekend, to make up you own mind.
I don't blame you for researching this, a PHD is a long undertaking and you want to be sure that you pick the right place. Myself, having studied in Weimar, I can say that the city is actually ideal for international students in many ways. Except for the fact that part-time work is hard to come by, and that it's equally far from most major German cities. My group of friends in Weimar included people from Iran, South America, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Africa, South Africa, Australia, China, Korea, and many other countries. International students are a very welcome group in Weimar, but don't expect to be able to speak English in shops, etc. Offerings of foreign cuisines can also be negligible. You might get some ignorant old biddy staring at you on the bus, but you'll get this anywhere in Germany. In terms of open racism, I never heard of student having any problems.
Nürnberg is a far, far, better place to live than Erlangen. If you move to Erlangen you will be looking to relocate to Nürnberg within 12 months, trust me. Except for one (great!) beer festival, there's really nothing in Erlangen. Charming, but very boring! In comparison, Nürnberg is a lively city with a lot going on. Gostenhof is a popular suburb for adidas employees, but with your salary you could easily find a great apartment in the altstadt or St. Johannes.
When I was working for adidas I cycled from Nürnberg to World of Sports and back each day. It's a lovely ride (23km) and adidas has great shower facilities, etc. If that's not your cup of tea, it's a piece of cake to find a car pool.
Hi there, I lived/studied in Weimar for two years so am well qualified to answer your questions.
1- Is it enough to survive as a student with 700 euros/month?
Yes you shouldn't have any trouble surviving on this amount. Rent is cheap in Weimar and costs are generally lower than in other University towns, particularly those in the western states.
2- How hard is it to find accommodation in Weimar?
No too hard. There are University dorms/residences which you only need to apply for. They are not the nicest, but good price and good community of fellow students. You can also quite possibly find a room in a flat share with other students.
3- is racism prevalent in Weimar? since my ethnicity is middle eastern.
There is a strong right-wing scene in Thuringia but generally the people are friendly and open to foreigners. There are many foreign students in Weimar and I have not heard of people having many problems. Keep your wits about you, just like you would in any other part of the world, and you'll be fine.
4- How hard is it to find a part time job in Weimar, preferably IT and programming related?
This, you can almost forget entirely. You could possibly find work in nearby Erfurt or Jena in the fields you mention, but with no German language skills you will not even be able to find a job cleaning toilets. Learn German and don't count on finding a job any time soon. After you have been in Weimar for a while and made some connections, you will find something.
5- My German skills are close to zero, how long does it take to learn the language? I am planning to take some courses at the university.
Learning the language can take a lifetime, to be honest. To learn the basics you'll need a good few months. Get started as soon as you can!
I'm guessing (aside from the Kindergeld) he's being supported by the goodwill of a community in Berlin who believe in what he is doing and that he is providing a return for this goodwill in various forms which are non-monetary. His message is relevant, he's in the right city to do it (cheap, firstly, and full of creative, alternative groups) and he obviously has the support of his cute little family.
For me the key issue is that the goodwill he is bartering to obtain and thereby support his family, has monetary roots; perhaps because the people who believe in supporting his activism are either not brave enough or alerady too deeply ingrained in the 'system' to even think of going without money theselves (read; mortages, car payments, student loans, penchant for Apple products). If there would already be such a community in Berlin that had freed itself from a cash-based society, then his bartering would be part of a much larger picture and there would be no grounds to call him or other members of the community, a sponge, as members of this forum are so quick to do. But of course, very few people would ever imagine an alternative to a cash-based society, and therefore, he has to go it alone to make his point.
The idea that the only way to do this is to go bush is, I find, about two hundred years too late. There are no frontiers left that can be comfortably tamed by your average Joe. Mostly they're parks or reserves and they're all owned by someone. The urban environment is the only place this kind of thing can work.
You seem to leave out the fact of what happened to the young man in this story: he died alone, curled over in pain, from eating poisonous berries ... not long after the fact. I've seen the film and the guy was a complete tool; no material posessions and also no clue of the outdoors.
Hey Cokeman, as a kiwi myself, I can tell you there's a lot more to miss than that ... plus the meat here is actually much cheaper, as well as almost everything else. But all in all, NZers need to get out and about and Germany is (in my mind) a much better and more interesting option than the classic UK or Canada choices.
Your options are very limited unless you get married or have a child together. Of course you have the 90 day visa when you arrive, during which time you could work your butt off trying to find an employer who will sponsor your visa application ... the odds are stacked against you but NZers are very popular here, so make sure to use this in your favor.
If I were you I would look into studying. It's the easiest Visa to get so long as you can find the right programme. Is this something that would interest you? Also, what is your industry, background?