Frankfurt and Hamburg rated among the worst cities for expats in the world

Frankfurt and Hamburg rated among the worst cities for expats in the world

The annual InterNations City Ranking survey has just been released and expats in Germany have given their adopted home a pretty damning review. Five German cities are included in the ranking of 50 international cities despite some low ratings.

The Expat City Ranking 2022

Every year the InterNations network asks almost 12.000 expats living in 181 different countries and representing a total of 177 nationalities for their opinions to assemble a major ranking of the best and worst cities for expats around the world. The ranking takes in five key areas of expat life:

Encompassed within each of these areas are 16 sub-categories, together covering 56 aspects of urban living. Those taking part in the survey were asked to rate their city on a scale of one to seven for each of the different aspects. 

Compared to last year the top and bottom 10 switch up quite a lot, with Valencia beating out Kuala Lumpur to be named the best city for expat living. Various European cities feature in the ranking, with cities like Lisbon and Basel even managing to secure places in the top 10. Down at the other end, Johannesburg has fallen a few places to be ranked the worst place for expats, and two German cities have claimed spots in the bottom six.

Which German city is the favourite among expats?

From happiness in Hamburg to frugality in Frankfurt, expats have ranked five German cities and most fall pretty near or in the bottom 10! If one thing is clear, these expats are all well integrated into their adopted home, having proven their German sensibilities of showing very little unearned pride and offering a bounty of constructive criticism. 

31. Berlin

In place 31, Berlin was the highest ranking German city, with respondents citing quality of life and access to work as their main reasons for praise. One Wahlberliner*in (Berliner by choice) told the survey, “I love Berlin’s stability, culture, nature, and international environment.” On the flip side, Berlin ranked very low on the “Ease of Settling In” rating, likely a consequence of it becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable housing in the city.

33. Düsseldorf

Expats in Düsseldorf adore their adopted home enough to vote it the second highest German city in the ranking, but they believe their love is unrequited, with 25 percent saying they feel unwelcome. Playing on an old stereotype of the Germans as sticklers for the rules, one Italian respondent told the survey, “People here can be obsessed with rules and scold others who do not adhere to them. They do not socialise much, and they are not open to new friendships.” While 55 percent said they find it hard to deal with bureaucracy, Düsseldorf ranked first worldwide for the affordability of healthcare.

38. Munich

The only southern German city to make it into the expat ranking was Munich - which came in at spot 38. Of all the German cities included in the ranking, expats named Munich as having the best career prospects, with 73 percent saying that moving to the city in Bavaria has improved their careers. Public transport was one of the city’s biggest shortcomings, ranking 44th in the survey’s Quality of Life Index. And, as with Düsseldorf, expats also said they found it hard to make friends.

45. Hamburg

Hamburg managed to make it into the ranking at the bottom end. It's not all smiles in the port city - where expats are the least satisfied of all cities with their life in Germany. More than a quarter say they are unhappy with their life abroad, which is twice the global average. Lack of social life was again cited as the main reason for this dissatisfaction. One Australian expat told the survey, “It takes very long to be accepted as a “friend” of any order.” The main thing that expat Hamburgers are happy about? The public transport network - but they still think it is unaffordable.

49. Frankfurt

As one would imagine, all German cities ranked pretty poorly on the Digital Life subcategory of the survey, but none so low as Frankfurt. While expats confirm Germans love to strictly uphold the rules, apparently they aren’t as good as explaining them. “The lack of clear instructions is insane when it comes to admin topics like taxes, TV licence fees, or citizenship,” a French expat told the survey. In Germany’s city of finance, expats were also unsatisfied with their work-life balance. And though they feel like endless working hours mean the grind never stops, expats in Frankfurt are also struggling to finance themselves, with 51 percent finding the cost of living too high.

The best cities for expats in 2022 

According to the results of the 2022 Expat Insider Survey, the top 10 cities around the world for expats are: 

  1. Valencia
  2. Dubai
  3. Mexico City
  4. Lisbon
  5. Madrid
  6. Bangkok
  7. Basel
  8. Melbourne
  9. Abu Dhabi
  10. Singapore

The worst cities for expats in 2022

From worst to best, the cities found to be the worst places for expats to settle in 2022 are:

  1. Johannesburg
  2. Frankfurt
  3. Paris
  4. Istanbul
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Hamburg
  7. Milan
  8. Vancouver
  9. Tokyo
  10. Rome

To find more information about the Expat Insider survey, visit the InterNations website.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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