What's life like as an expat partner in Germany?

What's life like as an expat partner in Germany?

Plenty of surveys ask what it’s like to be an expat in Germany, but relatively few examine the living and working conditions of those who relocate to be with a partner. The Expats & Spouses in Focus report has now shed light on the lives of expat partners in Germany. 

Expat & Spouses Monitor looks at expat life in Germany

The Expats & Spouses Monitor is a new survey looking into the lives of expatriates and expatriate partners in Germany. 864 people, from 88 countries, who live or work in 144 different German cities took part in the survey, answering 67 questions about their: 

  • Work and occupational situation
  • Career and career satisfaction 
  • Social life and integration
  • Opinions about Germany

The report authors used the responses to put together some insights into the demographics and working and social lives of expats and expat partners living in Germany. Overall, the report found that expat partners are often highly qualified in their own right, but face considerable challenges using their professional talents when living abroad. 

For the purposes of the report, an expat is considered someone who has either been sent to Germany temporarily on a corporate assignment, or moved there of their own volition. An expat partner is considered someone who moved to Germany as a life partner of an expat - sometimes also called an accompanying partner or a trailing spouse. 

Expat partners highly qualified but struggle to integrate

The key insights of the report support this overall conclusion. For instance, the survey responses showed that expat partners in Germany are highly-qualified: 98 percent of respondents had graduated from higher education, with 59 percent holding a Master’s degree or a PhD. 

Despite this, the report showed that expat partners often struggle to integrate themselves in Germany - both in terms of their career and their social life. Only 45 percent of partner respondents said they work in Germany - compared to 82 percent of expats - despite the fact that 80 percent of partners did work before moving to Germany. 81 percent of all not-working respondents said they were actively looking for jobs

Unsurprisingly, then, partners’ career satisfaction was 32 percent lower than expats’. Their satisfaction with progress towards their goals for income was also 24 percent lower than their partners’.

Overall, partners said they feel less integrated in Germany than expats, with 55 percent of expats considering themselves integrated into German society, compared with 43 percent of partners. 

Germany still a desirable place to live and work

However, the report concluded that internationals in Germany still see it as a desirable place to live and work, with all survey participants rating their satisfaction with Germany as a living and working destination an average of 7 out of 10. When it came to a city-by-city analysis, the report found that Cologne was the best-recommended city as a working destination, while Düsseldorf was the best-recommended city for living. 

Finally, respondents were asked what words they associated with Germany. Over 200 different words came up, but several were repeated time and again. The five words most associated with Germany were:

  • Bureaucracy
  • Organisation
  • Safety
  • Rules
  • Home

To find out more about the Expat & Spouses Monitor and read the report, visit their website



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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