Living and Working in Germany as a Foreigner

Living and working in Germany as a foreigner

Germany is a popular destination for foreigners looking to live abroad. As Europe’s largest economy, Germany offers a high quality of life, good job opportunities, and excellent public infrastructure. However, moving to a new country always comes with challenges. An overview of German culture, the cost of living, the finest cities for foreigners to live in, and advice for foreigners living in Germany will all be covered in this article.

What is Germany Like?

  1. Culture

German culture emphasizes order, punctuality, direct communication, and efficiency. Greetings tend to be formal, using last names until a friendship develops. Restaurants and stores close early in Germany compared to other Western countries. Getting things done efficiently during business hours is prioritized.

  1. Currency

Germany uses the Euro (€). Major credit cards are widely accepted, especially Mastercard and Visa. Carrying some cash is still common for small purchases, tips, and farmers’ markets.

  1. Nightlife

The club scene is legendary in German cities like Berlin and Cologne. Techno-music was pioneered here. Bars range from casual pubs to upscale cocktail bars. Many cafes serve beer, wine, and small meals.

  1. Language

While many Germans speak excellent English, learning basic German phrases shows respect. English fluency drops off among older generations. Speaking German will make your life much easier when dealing with government bureaucracy.

Cost of Living in Germany

Germany offers high wages, strong worker protections, and affordable living costs relative to much of Western Europe. Still, some areas like Munich approach Swiss prices. 

Here’s a comparison of living costs across German cities:

City1 Bedroom ApartmentPublic Transport
Berlin€800 average€86 monthly pass
Hamburg€950 average€98 monthly pass
Munich€1300 average€55 monthly pass
Cologne€730 average€90 monthly pass
Dresden€650 average€63 monthly pass

Consumer prices are only 2-3% higher on average than the EU as a whole. Groceries, dining out, and entertainment are moderately priced. Rental prices vary widely, with eastern Germany being much cheaper in cities like Dresden and Leipzig. Healthcare costs are quite low under Germany’s universal coverage system.

What Foreigners Should Explore

Germany has a rich culture, scenic landscapes, and world-class tourism infrastructure. Some highlights for visitors include:

  1. Historical Sites

Roman ruins along the Rhine, medieval castles like Neuschwanstein, and Cold War sites like the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie reveal Germany’s incredibly complex history. Museums also document deeper history, like Egypt’s treasures at Berlin’s Neues Museum.

  1. Football Matches

Catching a Bundesliga match is a must – Germans are crazy about fussball. Stadiums are packed, tickets affordable, and the atmosphere electric. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are giants, but most cities have a team.

  1. Oktoberfest

This epic 2-week beer festival in Munich draws millions decked out in dirndls and lederhosen. Expect lots of Bavarian costumes, dancing, rides, food, and beer in 1-liter steins. Similar festivals pop up everywhere, but Munich’s is the original.

  1. Black Forest

The idyllic landscapes of Bavaria enchant visitors with alpine vistas, quaint villages, dense forests dotted with lakes, and rolling hills covered in vineyards. Outdoor activities range from hiking, biking, rowing, sailing, skiing, and more, depending on the location and season.

Best Cities in Germany for Expats

The expat experience differs hugely between German cities in terms of job opportunities, English fluency, international community, and quality of life. Here are some top destinations:

  1. Berlin

Berlin is one of the best cities for expats in Germany due to its vibrant culture, strong economy, and affordable cost of living. As the nation’s capital and cultural epicenter, Berlin attracts young creatives from around the world, especially in fields like tech, media, fashion, and the arts. 

English fluency is high, public transit efficient, and housing costs are relatively low compared to other major European capitals. Berlin’s world-famous nightlife and counterculture communities also make it appealing for young expats looking for a dynamic social scene. 

The growing startup scene provides plenty of career opportunities for expats with in-demand skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. With abundant jobs, high livability scores, and relatively affordable rents, Berlin ticks off many boxes that make for an excellent expat destination.

  1. Munich

Munich consistently ranks among the most livable cities in the world and is a popular choice for foreigners relocating to Germany despite its high cost of living. Situated in beautiful Bavaria, Munich entices outdoorsy professionals with abundant jobs, excellent infrastructure, rich cultural traditions, and a remarkably welcoming population. 

Major international corporations headquarter here, seeking fluent English speakers to fill high-skilled roles. Getting by in English is easy compared to much of Germany. Locals proudly preserve the best of Bavarian customs while embracing foreigners. With safe streets, quick commutes, and activities ranging from epic Beer Gardens to alpine sports, Munich offers a sublime quality of life for expats and their families.

  1. Hamburg

Hamburg is consistently ranked one of the best cities in Germany for expats due to its economic prosperity, affordability, and high quality of urban living. Situated along the Elbe River with a North Sea port rivaling Rotterdam’s, Hamburg serves as Germany’s historic window to the world. 

The bustling metro area drives media, renewable energy, and logistics while offering abundant jobs for English-speaking expats. Despite rising housing prices, Hamburg remains affordable compared to other Global cities, especially with world-class public transportation woven throughout the scenic waterfront. 

Expats flock to Hamburg for its economic might paired with vibrant culture and charm that feels more Northern European than stereotypically German. The welcoming character and economic power of Germany’s “gateway to the world” make Hamburg a top expat destination.

  1. Frankfurt

As Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt offers unparalleled career opportunities for expats in fields like banking, finance, and business services. Over 75,000 people commute here daily for high-paying jobs at multinational corporations and major EU institutions like the European Central Bank. 

Nearly 40% of Frankfurt’s population is foreign-born, creating a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere where expat networking thrives. English fluency permeates the international business community. 

Frankfurt also boasts Germany’s busiest airport and high-speed rail hub, making other European cities readily accessible. Between the thriving economy, world-class infrastructure, and vibrant multiculturalism, Frankfurt lets expats capitalize on Germany’s strongest economic advantages.

Cheapest Cities in Germany

Despite Germany’s strong economy, affordable destinations exist for budget-conscious movers. Cheaper cities tend to be further east, have higher unemployment rates, and smaller expat communities:

  1. Leipzig

With over 200,000 university students making up nearly a fifth of its population, Leipzig offers an affordable cost of living that appeals to young people and creatives. Housing costs are roughly half of those of the more expensive German cities, with beautifully renovated buildings in areas like the City Canal District. 

Public transit and cheap bikes ease commutes across Saxony’s largest city. Unemployment remains higher than in Western Germany as traditional industries like mining decline, but the growing green energy, logistics, and healthcare sectors offset economic weaknesses. 

Cheap rents continue attracting new restaurants and indie shops in districts like KarLi, while vibrant venues host Leipzig’s world famous music and arts scenes. Leipzig rewards open-minded expats with an energizing urban lifestyle on a budget.

  1. Dresden

With living costs nearly 25% below the national average, Dresden offers expats affordable living paired with stunning Baroque architecture. Rebuilt from WWII devastation, Dresden harmonizes restored cultural treasures with vibrant new growth along the Elbe River. 

Unemployment remains higher than in western Germany as manufacturing dominates the economy, including microchip makers GlobalFoundries and Infineon. English fluency still lags behind more international cities. However, increasing high-tech investments paired with extremely low rents make Dresden attractive for budget-minded expats. Outdoorsy types will also appreciate the stunning and accessible landscapes of Saxony Switzerland, just on Dresden’s doorstep.

  1. Erfurt

For expats seeking an authentic German experience without the high costs, Erfurt deserves consideration. As Thuringia’s charming capital, Erfurt offers stunning medieval architecture and one of Germany’s largest intact old towns for a fraction of the price of better-known destinations. 

Adding to its affordability, beautiful parks and gardens provide free and scenic spaces for locals and visitors alike to relax. English fluency lags behind Western Germany, as manufacturing, horticulture, and healthcare drive the economy rather than international business. 

But for budget-conscious expats looking to immerse themselves in real German culture while enjoying a slower pace of life, Erfurt’s affordability and charm make it one of Germany’s top bargain destinations.

  1. Duisburg

As an industrial city in Germany’s most populous state, Duisburg offers expats extremely affordable living costs. Modern apartments flank medieval landmarks along the leafy Rhine riverfront. 

Blue-collar industries like steel manufacturing, logistics, and rail transport employ many residents and keep unemployment higher than elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia. However, English fluency also lags outside globalized sectors. 

For expats undeterred by industrial aesthetics and limited internationalization, Duisburg rewards with ultralow rents, extensive public parks, and efficient transport linking the Ruhr Valley. Cost-conscious expats will find few German cities matching Duisburg for bargain living paired with good infrastructure.


Germany continues to draw expats seeking high wages, strong worker protections, and a renowned quality of life. Choosing where to settle depends greatly on your career, language skills, lifestyle priorities, and budget. 

Cosmopolitan Berlin appeals to budget-minded creatives and young families with plentiful jobs, world-class infrastructure, affordable rents, and vibrant culture. Outdoorsy professionals with in-demand skills get the best Germany offers in prosperity powerhouses like Munich and Frankfurt, though costs run higher. 

For maritime urban living on par with Rotterdam or Amsterdam, Hamburg celebrates its status as Germany’s gateway to the world. And for expats focused on stretching savings while still enjoying Germany’s storied history and culture, destinations further east like Leipzig, Dresden, and Erfurt reward open-minded newcomers with beautiful, affordable living. Wherever in Germany life takes you as a foreigner, embracing the German language and customs leads to the most rewarding experience.

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