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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?

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For members


Which areas in Munich are most popular with foreigners?

Munich isn't only one of Germany's most picturesque cities - it's a magnet for foreigners looking to start a new life. Here's a guide to some of the areas the international community loves the most.

Which areas in Munich are most popular with foreigners?

In the long list of German cities, Munich has long been a favourite destination for foreigners. 

The Bavarian capital is known for its sprawling parks and beer gardens, pristine Altstadt and access to the great outdoors, not to mention its charming cafes and high-end shopping districts. So it’s no wonder that more than a quarter (26 percent) of the some 1.4 million people living in Munich have moved there from abroad.

If you’re looking to start a life in Munich – either with a family, as an international student or in a new career – you may be wondering where you can best tap into this multicultural community. 

To help you get started, here are some of the areas that are most popular with foreigners, from hip suburbs to sleepy residential districts. 


If access to world-class universities, galleries and cultural facilities is your priority, look no further than Maxvorstadt – the buzzing intellectual heart of Munich.

Located just outside the Altstadt in the northwest of the city, residents here are just a stone’s throw from the idyllic Englischer Garten, so you’ll have plenty of green space for jogging, cycling and picnics with friends. 

Better still, many of Munich’s top attractions are located in Maxvorstadt itself. This is the district where all three of the major universities – Ludwig Maximilians University, Kunstakademie and the Technical University – are based.

READ ALSO: ‘World’s largest village’: How foreigners in Germany feel about Munich

Munich's Englischer Garten in the sun.

Munich’s Englischer Garten in the sun. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jacqueline Melcher

Art fans will be spoilt for choice in the arts district known as Kunstreal, where you can visit all three of the major galleries (or Pinakotheken), from the modern to the old. And while it may not quite have the thriving nightlife you find in other parts of the city, it is home to some of Munich’s prettiest beer gardens and historic breweries such as the Löwenbraukeller and Augustinerkeller. 

Finding a place to live in Maxvorstadt does come with a steep price tag, so if you’re on a tight budget, it may not be the place for you. That said, it does have one of the highest concentrations of foreigners in Munich, so internationals are bound to feel right at home. 


Up to the north of the city, running along the west of the Englisher Garten and up to the Olympiapark, is Munich’s bustling bohemian district of Schwabing.

Due to its proximity to the universities, this area has long been a popular choice for students and academics, not to mention artists and other creatives who are captivated by its array of independent galleries, trendy cafes and boutique shops.

It’s also known for its charming historic buildings and airy Altbau apartments, so if you dream of living somewhere pristine and picturesque, Schwabing could be the perfect choice. However, it’s worth mentioning that the area’s popularity and high-end apartments have led prices to spike in recent years. 

With so many creative types, international students and young professionals drawn to the area, however, it’s the perfect place to meet fascinating people from all over the world.

Ludwigsvorstadt & Isarvorstadt

Centrally located just south of Munich’s charming Altstadt, Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt is the place to be if you want to be immersed in the action. 

On a night out, this is one of the top places to go to find world-class restaurants and bustling bars, not to mention Glochenbachviertal, where the majority of Munich’s vibrant gay bars and clubs are located. 

Munich city centre at night.

Munich city centre at night. Photo: picture alliance / Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Jan Woitas

With new office buildings and hip co-working spaces springing up all the time, it’s a great area for young expats who want to live close to work but also in one of the most lively parts of the city. And with the Isar river running along the eastern border of the district, you’ll have a perfect route for your morning or evening run or cycle. 

One other major benefit of living in Ludwigsvorstadt is that the area is also home to Munich Hauptbahnhof, so it’s the perfect launchpad for jetting off around Germany or even Austria or Italy. What’s more, the district is known for its multiculturality, and has even been nicknamed ‘Little Istanbul’ due to its prominent Turkish community. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: 10 of the best hiking day trips from Munich


With rental prices shooting up in Munich over the past decades, suburbs like Berg-am-Laim are becoming the go-to choice for internationals who don’t have a banker’s salary. 

This relaxed neighbourhood is a working class area with affordable housing and plenty of green spaces, making it a great choice for someone looking for a more laid-back option that’s still only 15-20 minutes by train from the centre.

Less than a decade ago, Berg-am-Laim was home to some of Munich’s most off-beat clubs and nightlife, but in recent years, these have closed down to make way for more residential housing. 

With its array of international schools, it’s also ideal for families who want their children to learn in a more multicultural environment. It also happens to be the number one choice for many internationals moving to Munich these days, so anyone craving a strong sense of community is bound to feel right at home there. 


A little more removed from the centre in the southern part of Munich is the quiet, family-friendly district of Giesing. 

Here, you can find much more affordable housing than in the hip central districts, but also a sense of local community and enough shops, bars and cafes to keep you entertained.

READ ALSO: It’s not impossible: How to find housing in Munich

With plenty of local schools, parks and playgrounds on offer, Giesing has become something of an enclave for young families and particularly internationals in recent years, so it’s a great place to make friends and build a sense of community.

Despite its quiet, residential feel, you’re also no more than a 20 minute bike ride or 15 minute train journey away from most of the action as well, so you won’t be entirely cut off from the world-class cultural attractions and colourful nightlife that Munich has to offer.