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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Isolated by Language but Economically Secure in Germany

Expats in Germany feel secure in their jobs and trust in the German economy. However, making local friends and learning the local language are challenges faced by many.
  • Germany ranks in the bottom 3 for ease of settling in.
  • The majority finds it hard to make local friends.
  • 93% believe the German economy is stable.
  • 79% rate the quality of education positively.
  • The country performs poorly for digital life.

Language Barrier and a Lack of Local Friends

Germany has fallen from a previous 23rd rank in 2017 to 36th place out of 68 countries in the 2018 overall ranking. The fall reflects, among other things, Germany’s poor performance in the Ease of Settling In Index, where it placed in the bottom 3 (66th out of 68 countries). Germany has also dropped significantly in terms of quality of life, falling from 10th place to 26th out of 68 countries.

Although 72% of expats in Germany are generally happy, a significant proportion of those who rate their happiness poorly (62%) say not having enough socializing opportunities impacted them negatively (vs. 52% globally). It seems the Germans do not offer the warmest of welcomes, either: over half the respondents (56%) find it challenging to make local friends, while just 51% say that the local population is generally friendly compared to the survey average of 69%. More specifically, just over one in ten (13%) believe that locals are very friendly towards foreign residents; this figure is 15 percentage points below the global average (28%). It is no wonder that Germany ranks 62nd out of 68 countries in the Friendliness subcategory.

Expats in Germany also struggle with learning the local language, with just 19% agreeing that it is easy to learn. Close to three out of five (59%) also say it is largely difficult to live in the country without knowing the language, compared to 39% of expats worldwide. However, it seems that the difficulty of the German language did not come as a surprise to many expats, with 40% saying they already considered the language a potential disadvantage before moving.

The language is extremely difficult to learn and not knowing it creates a feeling of isolation.

Unfortunately, struggling with a language barrier proved to be a key reason for some expats’ unhappiness: 50% state that it affected their happiness negatively. As one expat from the US explains: “The language is extremely difficult to learn and not knowing it creates a feeling of isolation.”

Clean and Green Environment, with Excellent Healthcare

Although close to two in five expats in Germany (39%) rate the local climate and weather negatively, the quality of the environment is regarded positively: close to nine in ten (89%) rate this factor as good compared to the global average of just under seven in ten (69%). This result is perhaps unsurprising, given Germany’s reputation as an environmentally friendly nation — the country ranks 13th worldwide in the Environmental Performance Index, a survey of environmental health, ecosystem vitality, and environmental performance.

In addition to the quality of the environment, expats are also satisfied with the level of medical care in Germany: 82% rate its quality as generally good, with only 13% stating that healthcare is largely unaffordable. A majority of 59% say they considered the healthcare in Germany a potential benefit before moving.

A Stable Economy with Job Security

Germany continues to perform well in the Working Abroad Index, ranking in the top 10 for the fifth consecutive year (8th out of 68 countries). This positive result is linked to the healthy state of Germany’s economy, which was rated positively by a majority of 93% of respondents. In fact, the country ranks second overall for economy and job security, with two-thirds stating that they did consider the economy and job market a potential advantage even before moving — this is 20 percentage points above the global average (47%).

I enjoy the financial stability, good job opportunities, and stable economy in Germany.

Over seven in ten respondents (71%) say that job security is generally good compared to the global average of just under six in ten (59%). One Bulgarian expat writes: “I enjoy the financial stability, good job opportunities, and stable economy in Germany.” Not only do expats feel secure in their jobs, a majority of 68% state they are all in all satisfied with their work. A significant proportion of expats work in IT (20%) or manufacturing and engineering (12%).

Happy with Finances, Troubles Filing Taxes

In terms of personal finances, Germany performs somewhat averagely, coming in at a 34th and 32nd place out of 68 countries for personal finance and cost of living, respectively. Just over two-thirds (68%) state they are generally satisfied with their financial situation, mostly on par with the global average of 67%. Similarly, 78% agree that their disposable income is enough or more than enough to cover the cost of daily life. When it comes to the cost of living, just over two in ten (21%) rate this factor negatively, compared to the survey average of more than three in ten (31%).

However, filing local taxes seems to be a challenge for a large proportion of expats who’ve been living in Germany for up to two years, with 51% stating they find this generally difficult; this is 17 percentage points higher than average (34%).

Education: Affordable and High-Quality

Families in Germany enjoy life there: 85% generally say they are satisfied with family life. Over half of expat parents (56%) agree that childcare is by and large easy to afford, while 77% believe that education is largely affordable, compared to the global result of 47%. Germany is among the top 10 destinations for cost of childcare and education, coming in at 9th out of 50 countries. This is perhaps an unsurprising result, given that half of expat parents in Germany send their children to a local tuition-free state school, compared to the global average of 36%. The quality of education is also rated well by an above-average proportion of expat parents: 79% agree that educational standards are generally good, compared to 69% globally.

Parents also report that there’s lots for children to do in Germany, with 86% of expats with children agreeing that the availability of leisure activities for children is generally good. Parents are happy with the level of safety for children, too: 93% rate this factor positively, while just over nine in ten (92%) agree that their child’s health is by and large good.

Varied Travel Opportunities, Poor Digital Infrastructure

Germany ranks in the top 10 when it comes to travel and transportation: 91% of respondents rate the country’s transportation infrastructure positively, and 93% say they are generally satisfied with their opportunities to travel, potentially a reflection of Germany’s central geographical position in Europe.

However, when it comes to the new Digital Life subcategory of the Quality of Life Index, Germany ranks 53rd out 68 countries. Not only is it somewhat hard to pay for things without cash — 35% say they have difficulty with this, compared to the global average of just 13% — but only 29% of respondents completely agree that it is easy to get high-speed internet access at home compared to the survey average of 41%.

Further Reading