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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Germans Abroad: Experienced Expats with Worrying Work Lives

Germans easily settle in to life abroad and have no problem adjusting to local languages, but they struggle to make local friends and find a good work-life balance.
  • 12% have lived in five or more countries
  • Nearly a third want to stay abroad forever
  • 28% have access to a household income of over 100k USD per year
  • 44% speak the local language(s) very well
  • More than two-fifths struggle to make local friends

Enjoying the Expat Experience

Nearly four-fifths of German expats (79%) claim to be satisfied with their life abroad in general. This may be because they very rarely feel unwelcome while overseas: two-thirds (67%) say they have never felt unwelcome because of their nationality, and nearly three-quarters (73%) have never felt this way because of their culture.

This comfortable international experience means that over three in ten (31%) possibly want to stay abroad forever, and two in five say that it’s unlikely that they will return home to Germany at some point in the future. It’s not only their current expat experience that Germans are so enamored with, but life abroad in general: over a tenth (12%) have lived in five or more countries prior to their current stay, compared to a global average of 8%.

Mixed Feelings towards Work

While many German expats move abroad for their partner’s job or for love, nearly one-fifth (18%) were sent abroad by their employer, making this the most popular reason for relocating. Germans working abroad tend to be employees (27%) or managers (19%). Of the latter, a third work in top management, which may be connected to German expats’ high wages: close to three in ten (28%) have access to an annual household income of over 100,000 USD.

In general, German expats are happy with their working lives, with just under two-thirds (66%) rating their job satisfaction positively. This may be because the most popular destination among German expats (11%), the US, is a country with a comparatively high happiness factor at work according to a recent study. It’s not all straightforward for German workers, however, as over one-fifth (22%) are unhappy with their work-life balance. Again, this may be connected to their countries of residence: the US and Switzerland (the second most popular expat destination for German expats) both rank in the lower half of the Work-Life Balance subcategory (48th and 37th out of 65 respectively). In fact, the US offers one of the worst work-life balances in the world — employees there devote just 14.5 hours a day to sleeping, personal care, and leisure, compared to a worldwide average of 15 hours. German expats in the country have picked up on this, with one expat describing the work-life balance as “unhealthy” and another complaining that “time off is hard to schedule”.

A Love of Language Learning

Germans abroad have no problem when it comes to language learning. Not including native speakers, over two-fifths (44%) claim that they can speak the local language(s) of their host country very well — an impressive 20 percentage points higher than the global average.

Germans’ ease with languages may be connected to where they’re living. Switzerland, where German is one of the official languages, is the second most popular destination among German expats. The US and the UK are the first and third most popular destinations among Germans moving abroad; since Germany ranks ninth in a list of countries with the highest English proficiency, it’s clear why 45% of German respondents find it easy to learn the local language.

Complicated Relationships

When it comes to both friendships and romantic relationships, Germans abroad aren’t entirely content. While 13% of German expats moved for their partner’s job or education, 12% relocated for love, making these the second and third most popular reasons for moving abroad. Following loved ones may lead to some resentment, however, as nearly one in ten (9%) are unhappy with their relationship.

Germans are even unhappier with making friends, with over one-quarter (26%) stating that they’re disappointed with this aspect. Respondents find it particularly hard to make local friends — over two-fifths (43%) think it’s difficult. This may be connected to the fact that over half of German respondents with predominantly expat friends (56%) believe cultural issues are an obstacle to making local friends. Despite these barriers, over half (52%) have social circles that are a mix of local residents and expats. This could be a result of German expats’ ability to communicate easily, as only about a quarter of German respondents with mostly expat friends (26%) cite language barriers as a possible reason.

Further Reading