Good jobs, but no friends: How expats rate life in 6 German cities

Good jobs, but no friends: How expats rate life in 6 German cities

The annual Expat City Ranking has been released for 2021, revealing how expats rate life in 57 cities around the world, including six German cities. Aachen has once again been named the best destination for expats in Germany, but like the other five German cities in the ranking, it’s got a few significant drawbacks. 

The Expat City Ranking 2021

InterNations’ Expat City Ranking is compiled from the responses of its annual Expat Insider survey. One of the largest of its kind, it takes information from more than 12.400 expats, representing 174 nationalities and living in 186 countries around the world.

Expats were asked to rate more than 25 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. These ratings were then bundled together to make up scores for four major areas: Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, and Finance & Housing. InterNations then used an average of these scores to compose its list of the best and worst expat cities worldwide. 

For a city to be featured in the Expat City Ranking, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants was needed. In total, 57 cities met this requirement. 

What do expats think of life in six German cities?

In 2021, six German cities were included in the ranking. Aachen was once again rated the best city in Germany for expats (it was previously crowned number one in 2019, but dropped out of the survey in 2020, presumably because its sample size was too small to be included). Coming in 42nd place, Hamburg is Germany’s lowest-ranked city. 

Although the scores were far from uniform, a clear pattern did show across all of the German cities included in the ranking: while they all make it into the top 10 for working life - suggesting expats in these cities are happy with their jobs, salaries and working hours - they all came in the bottom 15 for ease of getting settled. 

Aachen rated the best German city for expats

Ranking 20th out of the 57 cities in the survey, Aachen is the top-rated German city for expats in 2021. Expats rated the city as affordable - with 91 percent saying they had enough disposable income to cover all expenses - and a good place to work. 85 percent are satisfied with their job in general. On the downside, 27 percent of expats are unhappy with their social life in Aachen, with three in 10 saying they do not feel at home in the city. 

Job satisfaction was also high in Frankfurt, which at 26th out of 57 is the second highest-rated German city in the ranking. It also lands among the top 10 in the Urban Work Life Index, with 79 percent of expats rating job security positively. However, expats in Frankfurt did report working the longest hours across all six cities. Frankfurt’s overall performance was held back by the housing market, with 40 percent of survey respondents saying they found it difficult to find housing, and 63 percent describing it as unaffordable. 

Rounding out the top three German cities in the 2021 ranking is Munich, which this year was voted the best city in the world for working. Expats rated job security, local career opportunities and the state of the economy particularly highly. Munich’s strong performance was also down to its high quality of life - it was the only German city to make it into the global top 20 on Quality of Urban Living. However, expats complained that the housing is unaffordable, and that they struggle to make friends. 

Work life good, social life bad

These patterns of highs and lows are mostly repeated across the other German cities included in the ranking. In Berlin, expats rated the local career opportunities and work-life balance positively, but 31 percent said that they found the local residents unfriendly - one of the highest scores across all cities. Expats also struggled to get settled in Düsseldorf, and found housing to be unaffordable, although they are pleased with their working life. 

In Hamburg, which ranked last out of the German cities in this year’s survey, expats are still happy with their job security, but 63 percent said they struggled with their financial situation and 68 percent said they found housing difficult to afford. More than half are unhappy about the weather, while 45 percent said they find it hard to make friends. 

Overall, here’s how these German cities performed in the 2021 Expat City Ranking:

  • 20. Aachen
  • 26. Frankfurt am Main
  • 35. Munich
  • 39. Berlin
  • 40. Düsseldorf
  • 42. Hamburg

The best cities for expats around the world

Spain was once again well-represented in this year’s ranking, with two Spanish cities ranking inside the top 10. The worst-ranked cities in 2021 included some European heavyweights, such as Rome, Milan and Paris. 

The top 10 cities for expats in 2021 are:

  • 1. Kuala Lumpur
  • 2. Malaga
  • 3. Dubai
  • 4. Sydney
  • 5. Singapore
  • 6. Ho Chi Minh City
  • 7. Prague
  • 8. Mexico City
  • 9. Basel
  • 10. Madrid

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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