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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expats in Germany Are among the Unhappiest & Loneliest Worldwide

Expats have a very hard time making friends, finding housing, and dealing with Germany’s lack of a digital infrastructure.

Germany comes 49th out of 53 in the Expat Insider 2023 survey — ranking among the least attractive expat destinations. When starting life in Germany, expats face big challenges due to the country’s lack of digitalization, the inflexible bureaucracy, and the tense situation in the housing market. On top of that, Germans rank among the bottom 5 least friendly local populations (50th). This might explain why expats are unhappy with their social life and have difficulties making friends. It is therefore hardly surprising that expats in Germany are among the unhappiest worldwide (50th). Overall, 64% of expats are happy with their life in Germany, compared to 72% globally. 

A Less than Welcoming Culture 

The Ease of Settling In Index (50th) is one of the main pain points for expats in Germany. In fact, the country performs very poorly in all three subcategories of this index: Local Friendliness (50th), Finding Friends (49th), and Culture & Welcome (49th).  

Three in ten expats (30%) say that people in Germany are not friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18% globally), and 55% find it difficult to make local friends (vs. 36% globally). Since 32% also have no personal support network (vs. 24% globally), it does not come as a surprise that about one in three (32%) do not feel at home in Germany (vs. 20% globally). Unfortunately, this has been a trend: in the last decade of the Expat Insider survey, Germany has always ranked among the bottom 10 countries for Finding Friends and the friendliness of the locals.  

“I can't meet people here and no one seems to want to actually hang out.” – US expat 

The Hardest Place to Get Started 

Expats in Germany also have the hardest time finding their footing. Germany ranks last in the Expat Essentials Index (53rd), which covers the topics of Digital Life, Admin Topics, Housing, and Language. The lacking digital infrastructure (51st) and the language barrier (51st) frustrate expats immensely.  

Germany places last (53rd) for cashless payment options and second to last (52nd) for easy access to high-speed internet. Half of the expats (50%) find it difficult to live in Germany without speaking the local language (vs. 32% globally). This is a problem, as 60% find German difficult to learn (vs. 38% globally).  

“It is often impossible to pay by card.  Digitalization ‘made in Germany’ is a joke.” – French expat 

Cumbersome public administration and a tense housing market create further obstacles, as more than half (56%) find it hard to deal with the local bureaucracy (vs. 38% globally). On top of that, 58% struggle to find housing, 27 percentage points more than the global average (31%).  

Excellent Job Market & Job Security 

On the positive side, Germany does quite well in the Working Abroad Index (15th). Germany’s job market (4th) and job security (5th) make it into the top 5 worldwide. The country only shows a mediocre performance for Personal Finances (28th), though. In terms of Quality of Life (18th), expats appreciate both the infrastructure for cars and the easy availability of green goods and services (7th for each). A Nigerian expat says: “I like that I have an opportunity here to grow in my career and to have a sustainable life overall.” 

Further Reading