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Living in Germany: Toughest Country to Handle the Basics of Expat Life

Internationals who move to Germany are happy in the workplace but have delivered a crushing verdict on how hard it is to find a home and settle into the society around them, a new survey shows.

How do expats around the world rate life in their adopted country? That’s something that the Expat Insider survey has been asking for the past nine years. The results for 2022 have just dropped, and Germany has put in one of its poorest-ever performances.

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.

“Destination Report” in Germany is the toughest country to handle the basics of expat life, (Internations.org, 2022)

The survey results read like a rap sheet of issues that expats in Germany will be all too familiar with. Among the aspects most negatively rated included the competitive German housing market, the trickiness of learning German and the overall woeful state of digital life, including the low availability of government services online, the lack of cashless options, and sub-par access to high-speed internet.

In the category of “expat essentials”, which includes bureaucracy, digitization and housing, Germany came rock bottom.

Some 56 percent of respondents complained about how hard it is to find a place to live, which is a figure over double the global average.

Hard to deal with bureaucracy

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.” (“Destination Report” in Germany is the toughest country to handle the basics of expat life, Internations.org, 2022)

One of the worst destinations to settle in

Once again, expats also highlighted the difficulties they had settling in in Germany. Overall in this category the federal republic ranked in the bottom five, being one of the 10 worst-rated destinations for each sub-category. More than a third of expats said they were unhappy with their social lives, while a quarter said they found the local population unfriendly. Nearly one in four said they did not feel welcome in Germany. 

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).

An Impressive Degree of Job Security

Where Germany really shone, however, was in the workplace: 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).

The country came second only to Ireland in the category of job security, with 73 percent saying that this was a positive aspect of living in Germany. Nine out of ten said they saw the German economy as strong, while a majority said they thought the local job market was good.

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.” 

The Best Expat Countries in the World

Overall, the top 10 countries around the world for expats in 2022, according to InterNations, are as follows:

  1. Mexico
  2. Indonesia
  3. Taiwan
  4. Portugal 
  5. Spain
  6. UAE
  7. Vietnam
  8. Thailand 
  9. Australia
  10. Singapore

Sources

Carter, A. (2022). Tech-phobic and unfriendly: Germany slumps in new ranking of expat countries. IamExpat. https://www.iamexpat.de/expat-info/german-expat-news/tech-phobic-and-unfriendly-germany-slumps-new-ranking-expat-countries

Internations.org. (2022). Germany is the toughest country to handle the basics of expat life. Internations.org. https://www.internations.org/expat-insider/2022/germany-40255

Thelocal.de (2022). Germany ranked as ‘worst country in world’ for essential expat needs. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.thelocal.de/20220718/germany-ranked-as-worst-country-in-world-for-essential-expat-needs/

By Itamar Medeiros

Originally from Brazil, Itamar Medeiros currently lives in Germany, where he works as Director of Design Strategy at SAP.

Working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, Itamar has helped truly global companies in multiple continents create great user experience through advocating Design and Innovation principles. During his 7 years in China, he promoted the User Experience Design discipline as User Experience Manager at Autodesk and Local Coordinator of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) in Shanghai.

Itamar holds a MA in Design Practice from Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK), for which he received a Distinction Award for his thesis Creating Innovative Design Software Solutions within Collaborative/Distributed Design Environments.

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