Working life good, social life bad: Expats' mixed feelings about life in Germany

Working life good, social life bad: Expats' mixed feelings about life in Germany

The results are in! The seventh annual Expat Insider survey has just been published, revealing how expats all around the world feel about their adopted countries. Once again, expats in Germany have expressed very mixed emotions about life in the federal republic. 

Germany achieves middling rank in Expat Insider 2021

In 2021, more than 12.000 expats took part in the Expat Insider survey. Their responses were used to assemble a ranking of 59 countries around the world according to quality of life, career opportunities, finances, living costs and social relationships. Put together by the Munich-based company InterNations, it is one of the largest surveys of its kind. 

For the third year in a row, Taiwan topped the 2021 Expat Insider survey. Second and third place went to Mexico and Costa Rica, respectively, while Kuwait, Italy and South Africa were the bottom-ranked countries. 

Once again, Germany landed close to the middle, in 36th place. This is down one place since the 2020 ranking, and a major slip since the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, when it consistently ranked inside the top 20. Overall, Germany’s score is a tale of two halves: expats are satisfied with their quality of life, finances and working lives, but they struggle with the local language, making friends and feeling at home. 

Expats are happy with their working lives, but not their social lives

Accordingly, Germany ranked fifth overall in the Economy & Job Security sub-category, with three in four expats feeling secure in their jobs, and 58 percent being satisfied with the local career opportunities. Illustrative of this security is the fact that the proportion of expats in Germany who work full-time hours is almost 10 percentage points higher than the global average (64 percent versus 55 percent). 

However, Germany has once again landed in the bottom 10 (55th) for the Ease of Settling In Index, which looks at expats’ thoughts on feeling at home, the local language, finding friends, and the friendliness of the local population. More than a quarter of expats (26 percent) find the German population to be unfriendly, 30 percent do not feel at home, and a massive 52 percent say they have trouble making local friends (the global average on this last point is 36 percent). 

Elsewhere, Germany’s performance is relatively middle-of-the-road, clocking in average scores for Personal Finance (25th), Cost of Living (33rd) and Quality of Life (22nd). Expats highlighted transportation in Germany as one of the aspects of life they feel most positively about. However, Germany scores poorly in the Digital Life subcategory, placing 53rd out of 59 countries, with expats bemoaning in particular the difficulty of paying without cash, and finding high-speed internet

The top 10 expat countries 2021

The top 10 best-rated countries in the Expat Insider 2021 survey were as follows: 

  • 1. Taiwan
  • 2. Mexico
  • 3. Costa Rica
  • 4. Malaysia
  • 5. Portugal
  • 6. New Zealand
  • 7. Australia
  • 8. Ecuador
  • 9. Canada
  • 10. Vietnam

The bottom-ranked countries

According to the survey, these are the worst expat destinations in 2021:

  • 50. Malta
  • 51. India
  • 52. Turkey
  • 53. Cyprus
  • 54. Japan
  • 55. Egypt
  • 56. Russia
  • 57. South Africa
  • 58. Italy
  • 59. Kuwait

You can 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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