For members


Germany ranked ‘most difficult country’ for foreign residents to get started

Germany has been ranked bottom of a new international ranking that looked at how countries make life easy or difficult for newly arriving foreign nationals.

Flags of the countries participating in the European Women's Football Championship in 2022 hang in a pub garden.
Flags of the countries participating in the European Women's Football Championship in 2022 hang in a pub garden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The Expat Insider 2022 study surveyed around 12,000 foreign citizens in 52 countries and asked them to rate their country of residence in the subcategories of dealing with administration, housing, digital life and language.

Bahrain topped the list, followed by the United Arab Emerates in second and Singapore in third place. International residents reported that all three countries offer easy communication and a lack of language barrier, while also posing minimal bureaucratic hurdles. 

Of the 52 countries reported on, Germany came bottom of the list behind Japan (51st) and China (50th). It also landed in the bottom ten in three out of four subcategories: Housing (47th), Digital Life (48th), and Language (49th).  

In the housing category, expats reported that housing in Germany is both hard to find and afford.

READ ALSO: Why Germany is seeing the ‘worst housing shortage in 20 years’

“It may take up to three months to find even a temporary accommodation,” one contributor from Poland reported.

Foreign citizens do not fare much better when it comes to language in Germany either: 46 percent said it is difficult to live in Germany without speaking the local language (compared to 32 percent globally), even though 60 percent reported speaking the language fairly well or very well. A full 55 percent rated German as hard to learn, compared to 38 percent globally.

Germany also landed in the bottom five countries worldwide when it comes to digital infrastructure (48th), such as cashless payment options (51st) and easy access to a fast Internet connection (49th).

Germany’s lack of digitalisation is a major issue and 24 percent of expats reported finding it hard to get high-speed internet access at home, compared to 11 percent globally, while 27 percent are unsatisfied with the lack of cashless payment options (compared to 8 percent globally).

READ ALSO: Is card payment finally gaining ground in Germany?

The poor digital infrastructure also impacts the availability of government online services – a subcategory in which Germany came in 43rd place. A total of 52 percent of expats reported finding it difficult to deal with the local authorities, compared to 39 percent globally. 

“I really hate German bureaucracy,” one person from the UK said. “Especially the fact that nothing is digitised! It takes forever to get in touch with any of  the local government offices to discuss residence permits and the like.”  

Germany did slightly better in the category Admin Topics overall, where it came in 36th place.

How does Germany compare to its German-speaking neighbours?

Compared to its neighbouring German-speaking countries, Germany also scored worse in every category. In the overall ranking, Switzerland and Austria landed much higher up the list – in 20th and 32nd place respectively. 

A sign points to the Foreigners' Authority and the Public Order Office in Frankfurt am Main.

A sign points to the Foreigners’ Authority and the Public Order Office in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The ratings for the three countries diverge sharply on two aspects in particular: foreigners in Germany complain about the lack of digital infrastructure (48th) and administrative topics (36th), while international residents in Switzerland are very satisfied with these aspects of life. Switzerland ranks among the top ten countries worldwide in both subcategories (7th in each), while Austria ranked around the middle of the list for digital infrastructure (29th) and administration (27th).

Austria ranked much higher than Germany in Switzerland for housing and came in 25th place, while Germany (47th) and Switzerland (44th) rank in the bottom ten when it comes to the availability and affordability of housing for foreign residents.

“The housing shortage here is a real problem, as well as the constant increase in rent prices, while salaries are not increasing at the same rate,” said one participant from Ukraine.

Despite German being one of the official languages in all three DACH countries, German residents perceived the language barrier as more of a difficulty (49th place) than those living in Austria (38th place) or Switzerland (30th place).

“Germans are prejudiced if you don’t speak German well enough, especially at the offices,” one Romanian survey participant said.

READ ALSO: IN DEPTH: Are Germany’s immigration offices making international residents feel unwelcome?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Living in Germany: PISA school shock, crisis mode and a German Christmas film

In our roundup this week we get into concerns over education results, the German word of our time and a favourite festive film.

Living in Germany: PISA school shock, crisis mode and a German Christmas film

Living in Germany is our weekly look at some of the news and talking points in Germany that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox on Saturday.

Why has German school students’ performance nosedived?

This week we reported on the latest results of the so-called PISA study which looks at how 15-year-old school pupils are doing in various subjects like literacy, maths and science. According to the international survey, German students achieved some of their lowest scores ever. In the study, which was carried out in 2022 and is the first since the Covid pandemic, German pupils’ performance was also found to have fallen significantly compared to other countries. Young people scored particularly badly in maths, dropping 25 points below the previous score of 500 in 2019.

The PISA study has sent alarm bells ringing in German society, with many wondering what has contributed to the dramatic decline. One reason that has come up is the Covid pandemic, as German schools were heavily affected. Other countries with lockdowns also suffered a drop in results. Another issue is that Germany falls behind on digitalisation. When schools did shut, there was a lack of digital infrastructure in many schools to enable learning from home. “In an international comparison, Germany was not well prepared for distance learning in terms of equipment with digital devices,” explained study director Doris Lewalter.

People have also pointed to teacher shortages. Germany is dealing with a lack of workers, including in the education sector. Another possible factor could be a lack of German language skills in the classroom – especially among pupils with a migration background, which increases the burden on teachers. It is clear that it’s a complicated picture, and this ‘PISA shock’ will no doubt be a major political talking point going forward. 

Tweet of the week

Can we say this is the German word of our time rather than just the year?

Where is this?

Sunrise Hanover

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

On Friday we woke up to a train drivers’ strike in Germany, although a few trains were running as seen here in Hanover. It was also a spectacular morning if you were up early enough to catch the sunrise, with slightly milder temperatures compared to what we’ve been experiencing lately. 

Did you know?

If you’ve lived in Germany for a long time you might be familiar with this Christmas favourite – Drei Hasselnüsse für Ashenbrödel or Three Wishes for Cinderella. But did you know just how popular it is in Germany (and some other European countries) and that it turned 50 this year? The film was shown 15 times between December 1st and New Year last year on German and Norwegian TV, showing just how loved it is. Audiences love its romantic feel and wintry scenes, with many families making it a large part of preparing for the festive season. It’s also hugely popular in the Czech Republic and Norway. 

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the Drei Hasselnüsse für Ashenbrödel exhibition that has recently opened at Moritzburg Castle in Saxony, which was also one of the shooting locations for the film. It includes original costumes, memorabilia, props and more. Fans can also visit other outdoor filming locations like the gothic Svihov Castle in the west of the Czech Republic and the snowy slopes of the Bohemian Forest on the German-Czech border.