The best expat cities in Germany, according to expats

The best expat cities in Germany, according to expats

An annual city ranking has revealed how expats rate life in 82 cities around the world, including seven cities in Germany. While Aachen has once again been named the best city for expats in Germany, the capital city of Berlin did not fare so well. 

Internations Expat City Ranking 2019

More than 20.000 respondents in 82 cities around the world took part in InterNations’ 2019 Expat Insider survey, which is used each year to compile the “Expat City Ranking”, a list of the best and worst cities to move to. With the respondents representing 178 nationalities and living in 187 different countries around the world, it is one of the largest surveys of its kind. 

Participants are asked to rate more than 25 different aspects about urban life in their city on a scale of one to seven. The scores from these subcategories are then grouped to provide an overall value for the four different areas that make up the Expat City Ranking: Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life and Finance & Housing. 

For a city to be included in the Expat City Ranking 2019, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per city was required. 

The best cities for expats in Germany

This year’s ranking included seven German cities. Aachen is once again the best-rated city in Germany for expats, coming in just outside the top 10 in 11th place. Finishing in 61st position, Berlin ranks worst. Generally, German cities were highly rated in the Urban Work Life Index, but not so well on ease of settling in. 

German cities score highly on working life

All seven German cities achieved above-average scores on job satisfaction, with as many as nine out of 10 expats in Aachen saying they were satisfied with their jobs in general (compared to 64% globally). In fact, Aachen topped the ranking in the Urban Work Life Index. 

The same sentiment was reflected elsewhere: Three quarters of expats in Düsseldorf feel secure in their employment and overall Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg ranked 1st, 2nd and 4th on job security, respectively. The only city to not score so well was Berlin, where only around three in five expats are satisfied with their work-life balance. 

Expats struggle to find housing in Germany

Housing seems to be an area where plenty of expats struggle. While German cities generally ranked well on affordability, many expats highlighted the lack of housing availability as an area in need of improvement. Overall, Munich is the third worst city in the world for expat housing (80th), ahead only of San Francisco and Dublin. 

In Berlin, nearly two-thirds (64%) of expats struggle to find a home, twice the global average of 32%. Housing is also Cologne’s biggest weakness, with just 12% of expats saying they believe that it is easy to find a house. Even in top-ranking Aachen, the figure is just 22%, well below the global average of 50%. 

Making friends is difficult in Germany

German cities also fared poorly in the Getting Settled index. While Aachen was the top-ranked German city in this category, it only came 49th overall. Placing 61st, the second-highest ranked city was Cologne. To a greater or lesser degree, expats in all the German cities in the ranking said that they struggled to make friends.

Just three in 10 expats in Düsseldorf and 25% in Hamburg said that they find it easy to make friends. Only 48% of expats describe the locals in Frankfurt as generally friendly, and 49% said they find it hard to make new friends. Even in Cologne, rated the second-friendliest city in Germany, 45% said that finding friends was hard (compared to 35% globally). 

Expat life in 7 German cities

The top-scoring German cities in the 2019 ranking were:

  • 11. Aachen
  • 31. Düsseldorf
  • 42. Hamburg
  • 49. Frankfurt
  • 50. Cologne
  • 51. Munich
  • 61. Berlin

Best cities for expats around the world

Four Asian cities - Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore - topped this year’s Expat City Ranking 2019. While all of the cities in the top 10 were appreciated by expats for different reasons, they did have some aspects in common: they scored particularly highly in the Urban Work Life, Quality of Urban Living and Local Cost of Living Indices. Expats in all of these cities (apart from Basel and Zug) also expressed that they found it (very) easy to settle in.

The top 10 expat cities for 2019 were:

  • 1. Taipei
  • 2. Kuala Lumpur
  • 3. Ho Chi Minh City
  • 4. Singapore
  • 5. Montreal
  • 6. Lisbon
  • 7. Barcelona
  • 8. Zug
  • 9. The Hague
  • 10. Basel

For the full ranking, including a detailed breakdown of the scores, visit the InterNations website.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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