Unhappy and lonely: Germany ranks 49th in new expat countries survey

Unhappy and lonely: Germany ranks 49th in new expat countries survey

Results of InterNations most recent Expat Insider survey suggest that expats in Germany feel that much could be improved about their adopted home. Described as lonely and unfriendly, the federal republic has been voted in the bottom 10 destinations for expats to live in 2023.

The Expat Insider Survey 2023

The 10th Expat Insider Survey has been released by the German-based company InterNations, the world’s largest global expat network. This year’s survey asked 12.065 respondents from all over the world to rate expat life in 53 different countries according to five different scoring categories:

  • Quality of Life (travel, environment and climate, leisure options, healthcare and security)
  • Ease of Settling In (local friendliness, finding friends, culture and welcome)
  • Working Abroad (career prospects, salaries and job security, work culture and satisfaction)
  • Personal Finance
  • Expat Essentials (digital life, admin topics, housing and language)

Once again, this year’s ranking was topped by Mexico. Spain and Panama followed, where expats said they felt very at home, while Turkey, Norway and Kuwait came bottom of the ranking.

Expats praise Germany for job security at work

The responses of expats in Germany have placed the country 49th out of the 53 international countries included in the ranking. The country's attempts at digitisation going at a snail’s pace, “cumbersome public administration” and the struggle to find somewhere to live, were cited as the most common reasons for frustration.

One area of the survey where expats ranked their adopted home country as doing pretty well, was in working life. Overall, the respondents thought Germany’s job market provided many opportunities and appreciated that once they had found a position, they would be able to benefit from the job security offered by the country’s labour laws.

In the throws of a record-high skilled worker shortage, there is no lack of available positions for job seekers in Germany at the moment. Having recently passed the Chancenkarte reform, which will see the country adopt a points-based immigration system to encourage more non-EU skilled workers to fill vacant positions, it is clear that the coalition government are keen to boost Germany’s existing status as a go-to for jobseekers.

Government administration services cannot meet expat needs

However, the shortcomings mentioned by respondents in the survey reveal the extent to which Germany lacks sufficient infrastructure to welcome and support newcomers pre and post-arrival. A March 2023 survey, also by InterNations, in which 56 percent said they found it hard to deal with local bureaucracy and 58 percent said they struggled to find housing, was also considered by the company when ranking Germany in the Expat Insider Survey 2023.

With the head of Berlin's Immigration Office (Ausländerbehördecalling his own institution nigh dysfunctional and local government in the German city deciding to put all applications for citizenship on hold while a seemingly ultra-efficient new office is built to deal with the 27.000 plus applications already in a backlog, the frustration of Germany’s expats is backed up with very real examples administrative disorganisation.

Severe lack of housing is another cause for complaint that is likely to get worse before it gets better. 58 percent of respondents said they struggled to find housing in Germany, 27 percentage points higher than the global average. Facing the worst housing shortage in 20 years, President of the German Property Federation Andreas Mattner has stressed that “1,4 million people will be looking for a flat in 2024 and won’t be able to find one if we don’t turn things around immediately”. 

Expats in Germany are unhappy and lonely

While job opportunities ebb and flow and digitisation in Germany expands, albeit at a sluggish pace, expats' responses to one aspect of living in Germany have remained consistent over the 10 years that InterNations has asked for feedback about the country.

“In the last decade of the Expat Insider survey, Germany has always ranked among the bottom 10 countries for Finding Friends and the friendliness of the locals,” the report pointed out. With Berlin and Munich having recently been voted among the top 10 most friendly holiday destinations in Europe, it seems as though Germany has a distinctly different attitude to those who are passing through and those who want to stay and pay their taxes

30 percent said that people in Germany are not friendly towards foreign residents (compared to 18 percent globally), and 55 percent find it difficult to make local friends (versus 36 percent globally). Overall, 32 percent said that they do not have a personal support network, the same percentage as those who said that they do not feel at home in Germany.

The final cherry on the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte of expat woes? 60 percent said they find it difficult to learn German.

The most attractive expat destinations in the world 2023

According to InterNations, the top 10 countries around the world for expats in 2023 are as follows:

  1. Mexico
  2. Spain
  3. Panama
  4. Malaysia 
  5. Taiwan
  6. Thailand
  7. Costa Rica
  8. Philippines
  9. Bahrain
  10. Portugal

For more information on the survey, including a detailed breakdown of the scores, visit the InterNations website.

Thumb image credit: Mark Benham /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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