Germany ranked one of the worst countries in the world for making friends

Germany ranked one of the worst countries in the world for making friends

Although narrowly avoiding a spot in the global bottom 10, Germany has been ranked one of the worst countries in the world for finding friends as an expat. Overall, expats in Germany find it difficult to make friends, struggle to settle in, and generally perceive the locals as unfriendly.

Finding Friends Global Ranking 2020

Global networking company InterNations has just unveiled the results from their Finding Friends Ranking 2020 - a list of the best and worst countries worldwide for making friends. The ranking is based on the results of their annual Expat Insider survey, for which they ask 15.000 expats across 181 countries to rate various aspects of expat life. 

This year’s Finding Friends Global Ranking is topped by Mexico, Bahrain and Ecuador, while Denmark, Kuwait and Sweden occupy the bottom three spots. Having fallen into the bottom 10 for the last three years in a row, Germany managed to climb a few ranks to place 47 out of 58. 

Germany narrowly avoids bottom 10 spot in ranking

Even though it’s not among the very worst destinations in the world for finding friends, Germany only very narrowly avoided a bottom 10 spot. According to the survey’s results, 44 percent of expats in Germany find it difficult to make new friends, compared to 33 percent globally. 

Even more tellingly, 51 percent said that they find it difficult to make friends with locals, compared to 38 percent globally. For comparison, in top-ranking Mexico, nearly three-quarters of expats living there (73 percent) find it easy to make friends, and 71 percent find it easy to make friends with locals. 

Interestingly, this difficulty with making social connections appears to be a trend across German-speaking and Nordic countries. Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark all landed in the bottom 10 for this subcategory. The only countries in the bottom 10 not located in Europe are South Korea, Japan and Kuwait. 

Germans are not perceived as friendly towards foreigners

One reason why expats might find it so hard to make friends in Germany could be that the local population is not generally perceived as being very friendly. Only 53 percent of expats in Germany said that they consider the local residents friendly, compared to 68 percent globally. In Mexico, 88 percent of respondents described the locals as friendly. 

In addition, more than a quarter of survey respondents (26 percent) think that Germans are not friendly towards foreign residents, compared to 18 percent globally. Only 52 percent actually consider the locals friendly to foreigners, compared to 66 percent globally and an incredible 90 percent in Mexico. One Dutch expat living in Düsseldorf commented, “Quite a lot of people are really unfriendly to people who do not speak German or have a non-German appearance.”

This is reflected in the makeup of expats’ social circles in Germany. Just 16 percent said that they are mainly friends with locals, while 45 percent have a mixed group of friends and a full 39 percent said that they are mainly friends with other expats only. One US expat living in Munich said, “It is easy to make expat friends, but hard to make German friends.” Another mentioned that it can be a struggle if you do not learn German

You can find more details about the Finding Friends Ranking on 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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BabaNumi2 18:37 | 6 August 2020

Is not true at all... Germans might be a bit reserved at the beginning but once they know you better and calling you a friend that friendship will last a life time

EmilGramenz2 17:12 | 8 August 2020

People say that people from Schleswig-Holstein (my state) are the least talkative too. Great, I have an excuse for having no friends.

Christian Lozano 18:28 | 11 November 2020

Quite true, friendship in germany is overrated

DoannaBreshna2 11:23 | 7 July 2022

In August, it would make a whole 22 years of living in Germany. After completing my BA in Mumbai and being young, passionate about discovering the world and ready for life’s challenges, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Economics in Germany. Since Stuttgart was and I think still is a partner city of Mumbai, I applied at the Universität of Hohenheim through the DAAD, a German exchange program for international students. The only missing criteria to qualify was attaining a certain level of German language skills. So, I decided to learn German in Germany rather in Mumbai only because it would be more efficient to learn German in the country of its origin and it would give me the time to acquaint myself socially with the German way of life before I would begin with my studies at the Uni. Hence, after an 8-month intensive language course in Stuttgart, I applied at the Uni and after 4 written entrance tests and one oral interview with a German professor, I got into the University the very next year. At the German course, I interacted with my teacher and all the expat students. It was lovely. I was so excited back then: to be independent, to discover a whole new culture, world, people, cuisine etc. etc. At the Uni, I later learned that I was the only foreigner (except for one Bulgarian and a Polish girl). Everyday, I would change rows to sit and acquaint myself with different students, eat at the mensa (being mainly a vegetarian, it was tough back then was vegetarianism was not included in German diets. But I still went there to get to meet people. I would go to all those Uni parties and would not have a soul talk to me even though I tried to get involved in their conversations). It was tough. I tired joining small learning groups, but there too would not be included. Hence, I spent two years of Uni life alone (just with the girl from Bulgaria and Poland), studied a lot and had two jobs a time and three during my vacation to finance my stay. It was tough. After completing my studies in two years (and I learnt that I was one of the few who completed my master’s degree in two years), I joined Siemens in Munich for a one-year internship. Again, excited thinking that probably Munich is different. However, at Siemens once again it was just Expats from Spanish speaking countries that connected with me immediately. I tried so hard to break the ice with Germans: organize house parties, ask them if they would like to join me for a movie on the weekends but could not get an inch further with them. I later learnt that Germans clearly love their cellar or settling their winter and summer clothes or doing up their garden or doing some outdoor sports activities on the weekend. Hence, my Monday mornings at work would be lying to them that I sorted my clothes on the weekend in order to get into a conversation with them. I then started getting involved in those outdoor activities which I personally despised. But anything to break the ice with the Germans. I had plenty of expats as friends, but I wanted to be included in the German society. After a year, I left Siemens and most of my expat friends from Siemens left Munich for London. I got a position at an international asset management company in the Marketing Comms department in its Munich hub. Since the company had its headquarters in Dublin, I was hired by Irish colleagues. Again, with lots of hope and excitement for a fresh start, I joined the company at the Munich office. I learnt that all my colleagues at the Munich office were Germans and mostly from Bavaria. So, I changed my dress attire: instead of knee-high skirts, I wore pants, those boring shirts, bought myself a pair of black glasses to look serious. I started adding Bavarian vocabulary to my German, joined in those weißwurst breakfast (tried swallowing them and showed that I appreciated the breakfast culture, even though as an Indian I was mainly a vegetarian), join them at the Oktoberfest (even though I do not drink beer but showed them that I appreciate their culture). Still did not get included. In fact, I face a lot of, what one would today label as discrimination, derogatory statements publicly from my bosses. Once a German subordinate at a meeting with him alone referred to me as a “Negerkuss” and explained how as a child he loved smashing them as it reminded him of the“N” people. I could not report such actions or statements to the HR department back then because firstly they were all Germans and secondly, I feared that they would not believe me. Hence, I strategically opted for international projects and worked with colleagues from Dublin and Boston which made my life easier for a while. I worked hard and harder and focused completely on my career not because I was only ambitious but personally, I feel it was because I wanted to be recognized and accepted by my German colleagues. In the meanwhile, I later met my lovely person who I married three years later. My husband a German Afghan. Among the German men that I would socialize with, I was seen more as an exotic person and less as the person I am. Privately, thing were looking good. But at work with my hard work, I faced a backlash. Instead of being recognized by my achievements and accepted, my German colleagues did not like it that I got all that recognition on an international level. Hence, they went about me differently: they did not invite me at meetings, they stopped talking to me, my German boss did not assign me to any international projects and did not even give me local marketing projects. In fact, I was asked in these exact words “hast Du kein schlechtes Gewissen, dass Leute wie Du unser Jobs wegnimmst?”. I was outcasted till it effected my health. I landed at the hospital twice: once with a severe stomachache and the second time with a severe case of shingles. This is when I decided to resign. After 12 years. I resigned and later started my own e-commerce social enterprise. It has been almost 22 years in Germany: the initial years learning the language, studying at the Uni, then a year at Siemans as an intern, a year at the Pinakothek der Moderne, 12 years at Pioneer Investments (called Amundi Investments today). I am happily married with two lovely children and run my own business. In between, I did try to join the work force since I really miss working at corporates at times, but never got in again in Germany. In total, I applied for 108 jobs. Yes, 108. And the apartment that we live in Munich was an apartment that we got in 2015 after being refused around 87 times. German friends in Bavaria: I have none. I am still seen as an exotic person. And by the way after 2015, even those few close friends of my husband who he met in Munich, deserted us. They do not contact us anymore. There was a time, they were in our apartment almost once a week for dinner or parties that we threw. But after 2015, things got a whole lot worse in Germany. My German Afghan husband who has been living here since the age of 5, was suddenly seen as a foreigner, a Muslim and less of a German. How many times, I have contemplated to take my kids and resettle in India or settle in cities that open and diverse like London. But since both my husband and I have built our lives out here. We are both high-income earners and successful in our careers and our children see themselves as Germans. But of late since its going to be 22 years in Germany, I do question a lot. I have realized one thing: being successful is not a boon in Germany. Germans do not like it and especially if you are a foreigner. This is my story. Pretty long. But I had to pour my heart out. Young people who are planning to study or start their lives in Germany due to personal reasons either because their partner is German or because they have got a job transfer, should really really think twice and opt for places in Europe or even in Germany (probably Berlin or perhaps Hamburg) where diversity is accepted.

NiroNde2 08:14 | 8 June 2023

Just joined to let you know that career women always get the sad end of the stick in life as a rule, unless of course, if they are working together with someone or on their own(which again implies the former, as one cannot lead an organization without selling something to or working with someone), the percentage of which is next to none. An overwhelming majority are delusional and a bonafide tragic meme of modern society. All the people around them, especially relevant or similar to their ethnic background, desert them sooner or later, and with good reason. Given that you are a hyper intellectual, you get the point. I appreciate and thank you for sharing your story, however. There are quite a few queer, xenophobic folks out there in the country. Maybe stop taking yourself so serious, throw in the towel, and go someplace you can live a happy meaningful life, especially for your next generation.