"Still in the Stone Age": Expats ambivalent about life in Germany

"Still in the Stone Age": Expats ambivalent about life in Germany

The results of the latest “Expat Insider” survey are in, and Germany has achieved a thoroughly so-so score. In general, the survey found that expats in Germany are very satisfied with their work. On the other hand, they struggle to make friends. And on one aspect in particular, the federal republic has plenty of work to do…

Taiwan top and Kuwait bottom in Expat Insider 2019

Every year, the Munich-based company InterNations conducts a survey of around 22.000 expats across 187 countries to rank them according to quality of life, career opportunities, finances, living costs and social relationships. 

In 2019’s ranking of 64 countries, Taiwan came out on top (for the second time - it also ranked first in 2016). Second place went to another Asian country, Vietnam, with Portugal coming in a close third. Nigeria, Kuwait and Italy came bottom of the ranking.

Germany ranks highly on work but struggles with digital life

Germany landed right in the middle, in 33rd place. Despite climbing three places since last year’s ranking, this is still far from the 12th place it achieved back in 2014. Overall, Germany’s score appears to be a tale of two halves: while expats praised the federal republic’s workplace conditions, job security, comparatively low working hours and school system, they also struggled with settling in, feeling at home and with Germany’s far-from satisfactory digital infrastructure.  

Accordingly, Germany achieved fourth place overall for the category “working life”, but slumped in the digitisation category, coming firmly in the bottom 10 with 55th place overall. Survey respondents complained about the country’s continued reliance on cash, and the difficulties they had experienced setting up internet connections and mobile phone contracts. On this count at least, Germany is “still in the Stone Age”, according to one participant. 

Expats in Germany struggle to integrate

The federal republic also scored badly when it came to integration. For the third year in a row, Germany ranked in the bottom ten for this category and now occupies place 60 out of 64. Only expats in South Korea, Austria, Denmark and Kuwait reported more difficulties with integrating. More than half of respondents in Germany said that they find it difficult to make friends with the locals. More than a quarter (27 percent) described Germans as generally unfriendly. 

The survey respondents also recognised that being unable to speak German exacerbates foreigners’ isolation - with more than 50 percent saying that it is impossible to live well in Germany if you do not speak the language. However, a majority also felt that it is not easy to learn German

The top 10 expat destinations 2019

For the second time, Taiwan achieved the top spot in 2019’s Expat Insider ranking. The top 10 countries were as follows:

  • 1. Taiwan
  • 2. Vietnam
  • 3. Portugal
  • 4. Mexico
  • 5. Spain
  • 6. Singapore
  • 7. Bahrain
  • 8. Ecuador
  • 9. Malaysia
  • 10. Czechia

Expat Insiders’ bottom 10 expat destinations

The bottom-ranking countries for 2019 were:

  • 64. Kuwait
  • 63. Italy
  • 62. Nigeria
  • 61. Brazil
  • 60.Turkey
  • 59. India
  • 58. UK
  • 57. Greece
  • 56. Russia
  • 55. South Korea

To read the full ranking, with details of how the scores are calculated, 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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Cornelia Hebert 20:31 | 18 September 2019

This is my response to struggling to integrate: The Language is not as much the problem as the German Mentality. I am an Americanized German. Germans are not as casual in their choices of friends as Americans are. Germans are also more outgoing, or less , depending on the Area. They don't call a person, that they don't know very well "Friend" . They take a long time to warm up to strangers. But if you make a true friend in Germany, you will have a friend for life!