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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Germany Unwrapped: Expats Give the Worst Rating Yet

Germany offers a polarizing mix of challenges and opportunities for expats, from great job security to tricky social integration.

Ranking 50th out of 53 countries in the Expat Insider 2024 survey, Germany receives its worst results yet since the beginning of the survey in 2014. Aspects of Quality of Life (27th) and Working Abroad (23rd) may contribute positively to expats’ experiences. But Germany continues to be among the worst-performing countries worldwide in the Ease of Settling In (51st) and Expat Essentials (53rd) Indices. A lack of social connections and complicated bureaucratic processes impact overall happiness levels: 54% of expats favorably rate their happiness in Germany (vs. 68% globally).

How Expats Rate Life in Germany

A Tough Start

Germany’s Ease of Settling In Index (51st) and its three subcategories are firmly in the bottom 5. Making connections and building a social circle can be a slow process for expats there, with nearly two in three expats (65%) finding it difficult to make local friends (vs. 41% globally).

Trying to adapt to cultural differences while not feeling welcomed are some of the compounding challenges: 41% of expats don’t feel at home (vs. 23% globally) and 32% don’t feel welcome (vs. 17%). Close to two in five (39%) find it hard to get used to local culture (vs. 21% globally).

“I find the culture super isolating and uptight. It’s almost impossible to make friends, and I’m always scared I’m breaking some rule.” – Ghanaian expat

Staying Healthy & Safe in Germany?

The Quality of Life Index fell 9 ranks to below average in 2024 (27th). The biggest losses occurred in the Healthcare and Safety & Security Subcategories, with both dropping 13 ranks to place 36th and 31st, respectively. Despite the affordability of healthcare ranking 25th, expats find it difficult to get equal access to all kinds of healthcare services (44th).   

And in terms of personal safety and political stability, slightly higher than average shares of expats rate them favorably (81% and 65% vs. a global 80% and 59%, respectively). But that hasn’t stopped these factors from falling in the ranks: political stability lost 11 spots in one year!

Affordable Transportation but Unreliable Infrastructure

The best performing Quality of Life subcategory is Travel & Transit (18th). In two years, the affordability of public transportation left the bottom 10 to rank 35th; possibly due to the introduction of the so-called Deutschlandticket, which is valid for public transportation across all of Germany for a monthly fee.1

However, its availability (23rd) is gradually worsening due to aging infrastructure. This is also reflected in infrastructure for cars, which — in just two years — dropped out of the top 5 and top 10 to rank 12th in 2024. Still, nine in ten expats (90%) rate the opportunity to travel favorably (vs. 83% globally).

“I like being able to easily travel around Europe and use a bike as my main mode of transport.” – US American expat

The Environment & Climate is in a modest 20th place. The star factor is the availability of green goods and services, such as renewable energy, organic foods, and sustainable products, which places Germany in 7th place. The majority of expats also positively rates the natural (86% vs. 82% globally) and urban (74% vs. 66%) environments.

Struggles with the Essentials

Entering dead last in the Expat Essentials Index (53rd), Germany presents more challenges for expats. Worsening trends among all four subcategories entrench them firmly in the bottom 10.

For Digital Life (53rd), only 53% of respondents agree that it’s easy to get high-speed internet at home (vs. 78% globally), with a concerning 33% finding it difficult to pay without cash — more than four times the global average of 8%.

Admin Topics is unsurprisingly in 45th place, giving credence to the German stereotype of labyrinthine bureaucratic processes. Around two in three expats (66%) find dealing with the authorities difficult (vs. 42% globally).

“The bureaucracy is soul-crushing and not easy to navigate as a foreigner. There is little support for expats. Very few services are available online.” – Canadian expat.

Housing (51st) is another hot topic: only 16% of expats agree it’s easy to find housing (vs. 45% globally), and 64% are unhappy with its affordability (vs. 47% globally).

Moreover, language barriers may hinder expat integration, as reflected in the country’s 50th place for Language. Not only do 67% of respondents find German difficult to learn (vs. 40% globally), 51% agree that it’s not easy to live there without speaking it (vs. 33% globally).

Professional Opportunities Can Be Found

If expats can weather the above-mentioned storms, they’re rewarded with a moderately attractive Working Abroad Index (23rd). A top 10 placement for job security (7th) and a 17th place for the local job market position Germany as a destination for expats seeking professional opportunities. More than half of respondents (60%) reported that moving to Germany improved their career prospects (vs. 56% globally).

Yet despite above average rankings for Career Prospects (22nd), Salary & Job Security (21st), and Work & Leisure (25th), Germany’s Work Culture & Satisfaction (32nd) is the odd one out: only 58% of expats are satisfied with their jobs (vs. 60% globally).

Overall, expats are not entirely satisfied with their financial situation (30% are unhappy vs. 26% globally) or the general cost of living (45% view it unfavorably vs. 39% globally), either. This has led to a continuous drop in the Personal Finance Index to land it in 37th place for 2024.

The Typical Expat in Germany

Further Reading

External References

  1. Bahn: Deutschland-Ticket (accessed 14 Jun 2024)