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Expats in Germany rich but have few friends: survey

Expats in Germany are more secure in their jobs than in any other country in the world, but struggle to make friends. And that's not the worst of it, a new survey commissioned by global bank HSBC shows.

Expats in Germany rich but have few friends: survey
Photo: Pexels.com

Now in its ninth year, the 2016 Expat Explorer survey, published on Wednesday, interviewed nearly 27,000 people about their life as expats.

Questions fell into three main categories – economics, experience and family – and covered topics related to expats' careers, financial well-being, quality of life and the ease of settling in.

When it comes to jobs and money, the Bundesrepublik is unrivaled in some categories. In no other country were respondents as confident about the economic outlook or about their job security.

Germany was also in the top ten for career progression and for political environment, meaning that it scored third overall out of 45 countries for economic factors.

The Bundesrepublik’s working atmosphere was notably popular with millennials: 62 percent of expats aged 34 or younger rated it as having a better working culture than their own country – placing it third only to Sweden and Norway.

But when it came to the overall experience of living in Germany, the report offered up less that might pull in potential migrants.

Respondents complained particularly of how hard it is to find a place to live in Germany – it was considered the third hardest country to find a roof to put over your head out of the 45.

Making friends was also seen to be a major challenge.

“In Germany, people are weirded out by too much friendliness too fast. Start slow with 'Hallo' and 'Guten Tag', then work your way up from there,” one respondent advised.

“Learn the language! Germans speak English, but you will never truly feel at home unless you make the effort to learn German,” another observed. 

This isn’t the first survey in which expats have complained that Teutonic unfriendliness has made it hard to settle.
 
In the InterNations Expat Insider 2016 survey, released in August, Germany ranked 55th out of 67 countries for overall friendliness.

But on the plus side, health care and public safety were both rated very highly in the new HSBC survey.

Family issues meanwhile proved to be a mixed bag.

Germany scored very well (fifth) on education and childcare, but poorly on the ease of building relationships and having a social life as a parent.

Parents in Germany were particularly appreciative of their children’s chance to become bilingual, with 85 percent seeing this as an advantage.

But on the ease of integrating as families into German society, respondents again found that they were confronted by an unfriendly culture, with Germany placing 34th.

In terms of tips the respondents had for people moving to Germany, several focused on making the most of the outdoors and soaking in the history of the big cities.

“Visit the major cities like Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg. Go wandering in the Bavarian Alps, travel along the rivers Rhine and Mosel and visit the Black Forest,” one advised.

Another respondent sums up the experience of being an expat in Germany thus: “exciting, lonely, frustrating, eye-opening, rewarding, fun, isolating, maddening – but I wouldn't change a thing. Better to experience something than regret not doing it.”

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