• Germany's news in English

3.4 million Germans live in other OECD countries

The Local · 1 Jun 2015, 15:54

Published: 01 Jun 2015 15:54 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

As well being the second-most attractive country for immigration, 3.4 million Germans were living in other developed countries in 2011 - roughly the population of Berlin.

This makes Germany the fifth-biggest country of origin of emigrants living in the OECD after Mexico, Britain, China and India.

1.1million of these Germans live in the United States, and 270,000 each live in Britain and Switzerland. France, Italy and Spain are also popular spots where Germans like to settle.

Flavia Westerwelle, who moved from Germany to the US 18 years ago, spoke to The Local about her experience emigrating and setting up ausgewandert.com, an organization for German expats and businesses looking to set up shop in the US.

"On the surface lots of emigration from Germany can be seen as a negative sign, because it means that people are unsatisfied with their lives, and think things will be better elsewhere." she said.

"But on the other hand, it also showcases a certain openness, flexibility, courage and entrepreneurial spirit, which via feedback and exchanging experiences with emigrants can lead to a deeper understanding of your own country," she added.

Between 2001 and 2013, three times as many Germans immigrated to other European countries than OECD countries outside Europe. Switzerland, Austria, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands have been particularly popular in recent years.

Educated Emigrants

The level of education of German emigrants is generally high and continues to rise. 1.4 million of them have the Abitur (end of school diploma) or a vocational qualification. A further 1.2 million are university graduates.

Due to the high proportion of well-educated women, the number of highly qualified emigrants has increased by 40 percent over the last decade.

In Switzerland alone, the number of highly qualified Germans has doubled to 150,000 since 2001.

A total of 46,000 Germans living in the OECD hold a doctorate.

Studying abroad

Germans tend not to waste any time after leaving school when it comes to moving abroad. No other OECD country sends as many students abroad as Germany.

Between 2010 and 2012 the number of Germans studying in other OECD countries increased by 14 percent to 140,000.

The main destinations are Austria (31,000), the Netherlands (25,000), Britain (16,000), and Switzerland (12,000). 30 percent of these study maths, science, medicine or engineering.

Motives for moving

Considering the average level of education of many emigrants, it is no surprise that career prospects are the main reason for leaving Germany.

Work is equally important when it comes to Germans who return to their homeland, but family and friends increases in importance for those considering retuning.

"It is also often neglected in the media how many Germans emigrants actually return home," said Westerwelle.

Story continues below…

According to surveys, 15 percent of Germans are considering moving out of Germany, and the figure is as high as a third among the unemployed.

Only a small proportion of these people actually go through with it. Germans who want to emigrate are generally less satisfied with their lives than their fellow countrymen, who aren’t considering moving abroad.

"Lots of people emigrate on false information about the destination country, and only when they find out that living abroad isn't always like a dream or a holiday, do they then realise that the conditions in Germany really weren’t so bad after all," said Westerwelle.

By Matty Edwards

SEE ALSO: Money 'not main motive' for German expats


For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Dad who auctioned baby on eBay restricted from seeing child
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd