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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Germany Is the Toughest Country to Handle the Basics of Expat Life

The country does well for working abroad, but expats struggle with settling in and disappointing digital services.

Overall, Germany lands in a below-average 42nd place out of 52 in the Expat Insider 2022 survey and even ranks last in the Expat Essentials Index (52nd). This crushing verdict is due to its bottom 10 results in three out of four subcategories: Housing (47th), Digital Life (48th), and Language (49th).

Expats find it very hard to find housing in Germany: 56% rate this factor negatively, more than twice the global average of 27%. They also have a hard time living in Germany without local language skills (46% unhappy vs. 32% globally). Since 55% describe German as difficult to learn (vs. 38% globally), this is a major obstacle. Lastly, Germany does very badly regarding digital life, such as cashless payment options (51st) and easy access to high-speed internet (49th). Close to three in ten (27%) are unhappy with the options to pay without cash, compared to 8% globally.

Hard to Deal with the Ämter

The lack of digitalization continues when it comes to the availability of government services online (43rd): about one in three expats (33%) rate this factor negatively (vs. 21% globally). The country fares a bit better regarding administrative topics in general (36th), but not by much. For instance, 52% of expats find it difficult to deal with the local authorities (vs. 39% globally). “I really hate German bureaucracy,” an expat from the UK says. “Especially the fact that nothing is digitized! It takes forever to get in touch with any of the local Ämter to discuss residence permits and the like.

An Impressive Degree of Job Security

On the plus side, though, Germany nearly makes it into the top 10 in the Working Abroad Index (12th) and even features among the top 5 in the Salary & Job Security Subcategory (4th). Expats give their job security the second-best rating worldwide (73% happy vs. 59% globally), and 34% could not be any happier with this factor (vs. 25% globally). Only Ireland (1st) does better. Nine out of ten expats (90%) also rate the German economy favorably (vs. 64% globally). This might have contributed to their rosy view of the local job market: 58% give it a positive rating, compared to 47% worldwide. “I love the stability of life in Germany,” says a Polish expat. “Of work, too. The work-life balance is great, and so is the respect given to employees.”

Creativity Is Not Encouraged

However, this is not the case for all aspects of working in Germany. In the Work Culture & Job Satisfaction Subcategory, it places only 24th. Survey respondents are especially dissatisfied with the local business culture in one respect: 34% say that it does not encourage creativity or thinking out of the box (vs. 26% globally). The most common field of work for expats in Germany is IT (19%), followed by manufacturing and engineering (13%) and healthcare (9%).

A Safe Country That Promotes Sustainability

In the Quality of Life Index, Germany lands in a decent 15th place. It performs particularly well in the Safety & Security (9th) and the Environment & Climate (13th) Subcategories. The respondents commend Germany for being a politically stable country (87% happy vs. 64% globally), where they feel safe (90% happy vs. 81% globally). “I feel really safe here,” an expat from the US stresses. “There is little to no violence.” They also agree that green goods and services are easily available (78% happy vs. 64% globally) and that the German government supports environmentally friendly policies (81% vs. 61% globally).

Good Infrastructure, Subpar Leisure Options

Germany’s results in the Travel & Transit Subcategory (20th) are somewhat mixed. For example, 91% of expats rate the infrastructure for cars positively (vs. 75% globally). Another 90% say it is easy and safe to get around on foot or by bicycle (vs. 77% globally). But 23% do not consider public transportation affordable (vs. 15% globally).

The Quality of Life Index is also impacted by the below-average results in the Leisure Options Subcategory (38th). Only 63% are happy with the culture and nightlife, slightly less than the global average of 67%. And 17% are not satisfied with the local dining options (vs. 12% globally).

One of the World’s Worst Destinations for Settling In

One of Germany’s weakest spots is the Ease of Settling In Index, though. Ranking 48th, it ends up among the global bottom 5. In fact, it places among the ten worst-rated destinations for every single factor. Among other things, 37% of expats are not happy with their social life (vs. 26% globally), 28% describe the population as unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18% globally), and 31% struggle with getting used to the local culture (vs. 19% globally). It is hardly a surprise that nearly one in four expats (23%) do not feel welcome in Germany (vs. 16% globally).

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