Germany Is the Hardest Place for Expats

The Expat Essentials Index reveals the 52 destinations that make life abroad easiest and those that make life most challenging for foreign residents, like Germany which is the hardest place for expats in 2023. The index is based on data from the Expat Insider 2022 survey by InterNations, the world’s largest expat community with over 4.5 million members. All top three destinations, Bahrain (1st), the UAE (2nd), and Singapore (3rd), offer easy communication with the lack of a language barrier, while also posing minimal bureaucratic issues. On the other hand, expats struggle the most with getting started in Germany (52nd), Japan (51st), and China (50th). Expats in all three countries struggle with the local language and a lack of modern digitalization.

When starting out in Germany, expats face many frustrating barriers. They rank the country last in the Expat Essentials Index (52nd). It ends up among the bottom 10 in three out of four subcategories: Housing (47th), Digital Life (48th), and Language (49th).

Expats report that housing in Germany is both hard to afford (59% unhappy vs. 43% globally) and to find (56% unhappy vs. 27% globally). “It may take up to three months to find even a temporary accommodation,” says an expat from Poland.

Expats do not fare much better when it comes to Language (49th); 46% say it is difficult to live in Germany without speaking the local language (vs. 32% globally). Although 60% speak German fairly or very well (vs. 53% globally), the language is still a struggle, with another 55% describing it as hard to learn (vs. 38% globally). Germany’s lack of digitalization is another major issue: 24% of expats find it hard to get high-speed internet access at home (vs. 11% globally), while 27% are bothered by the lack of cashless payment options (vs. 8% globally).

The missing digital infrastructure also impacts the availability of government services online (43rd): about one in three expats (33%) rate this factor negatively (vs. 21% globally). The country does a bit better regarding Admin Topics (36th) in general, but not by much. For example, 52% of expats find it difficult to deal with the local authorities (vs. 39% globally). “I really hate German bureaucracy,” an expat from the UK says. “Especially the fact that nothing is digitized! It takes forever to get in touch with any of the local government offices to discuss residence permits and the like.” 

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