Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best Countries for Expatriates: Germany Takes Second Place after Canada!

Yeah, I'm really supposed to be working on that thesis right now. Not even on my own computer at the moment, to minimize distractions. But by God, you're going to hear these cool survey results here first! (Unless you already read the news.)

In a survey conducted last year of expatriates conducted by a big banking company looking for the countries friendliest to expats, Germany took second place among the fourteen countries for whom they had enough respondents to reach statistical significance. It was second only to the lovely Canada (a country I unfortunately still haven't sold my husband on). Australia came after Germany, and countries like France, Spain, and the Netherlands were much lower, with the United Arab Emirates coming in last. Germany was second to Canada in the ability to meet local friends, first in expats learning the language (I think English-speaking countries took a hit in this category since the survey was probably mostly answered by native speakers of English, so they don't have to mess with learning the language in those countries), first expats joining community groups, and ninth in expats purchasing property here. (That one is not easy here.) The article cites Germany's high level of English knowledge and great work-life balance* as reasons. The US came in sixth in the survey.

It's interesting to see these results knowing how many expats do have trouble here with the language and with getting integrated and making German friends. I guess it all depends on what you might be comparing it to. Of course it will always be easier to make friends in your own country, where you have a complete understanding of cultural signals and jokes and whatever else, than it would be in any other country. But where expats complain that Germans are hard to make friends with, it would probably be just as hard in France or Spain or Australia or the UK, or if this survey is accurate, maybe even harder.

*Speaking of this, a friend I was talking to yesterday who comes from another country, when we reached somehow the topic of sick time and vacation time, said, "Yeah, you know, I used to really think about trying to move to America, but now that I know more about some of the things there, I don't think so!"


  1. How so? :)
    I think living in a place is a little different than just visiting it. Italy is so lovely and friendly to visit, but I bet moving there would be tougher for a foreigner, as it's very insider-y. (Stupid new word - I'm having a bad vocabulary day.)
    Damon and I were talking about it and wondering what % of the respondents were Americans. The list is topped by countries where anti-Americanism is quite low and that could be a big factor here.

  2. sereously, man. vacation/sick policies SUCK ASS here.

  3. i am not at all surprised by those results. Although i do expect that the respondents were mostly american. Germany (or Germans at least) are very foreigner friendly in my experience. They travel so much that they are (generally) open to others, and so many Germans have lived or studied in other countries (not to mention the impressive english skills). I for one feel quite settled and integrated here. (and have mostly local friends)

  4. Scary that I fit in here so well, now that you've pointed out the hurdles, though I do sometimes miss the convenience of the US.

    Thought about Australia, but in many ways it is just California without as many drive-by shootings. Singapore is still on the list for the future, but probably isn't so nice in a downturn.

    Have you given thoughts to a follow-on move to another place?

  5. Sara: It's definitely one of the biggest barriers to wanting to come back. :(

    Emily: I agree that it is easier to make friends (as an expat) with thos who have spent some time abroad themselves, and among Germans this is a big chunk of the (young at least) population!

    Mike: I'm not sure how much say we will have in where we go next; in academics you usually have to follow the job. But we have definitely dreamed about cool places we could go next! I prefer to stick with a language I already have a handle on - so English or German speaking countries (or maybe I could bring Spanish back from the depths of my mind). If Australians are like Californians maybe I have to avoid that place. I'm afraid with Singapore I'd feel a little stuck in the city, but there would be great travel opportunities from there!! I've been romanticizing Ireland since we visited there, but it's a pretty expensive place and not exactly chock full o' jobs.


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