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IMMIGRATION

New Zealanders in Germany: How many are there and where do they live?

Around 3,300 Kiwis call Germany home. We break down where they live – and find out their motivations for saying goodbye to the land of the long white cloud.

New Zealanders in Germany: How many are there and where do they live?
A Māori man in traditional dress at a cultural event in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

Germany keeps detailed statistics of everything – including the location and nationality of all of its residents, whether local or foreigners. The figures are updated as at December 31, 2018. 

For a country of a tick under five million – more than three times smaller than North-Rhine Westphalia – New Zealanders get around. 

The stats show that Kiwis are found in every state, although the likelihood of getting a few mates together for a hāngi will differ significantly depending on which state you live in. 

New Zealanders in Germany

Unlike their antipodean neighbours Australia, there are comparatively far fewer Kiwis in Germany. 

While there are 13,500 Australians scattered across Germany – 3,605 of which are manning espresso machines and operating beer taps in Berlin – there are only 3,300 New Zealanders in Germany as a whole. 

Gender breakdown 

Of the 3,300 Kiwis in Germany, 1,950 are male and the remaining 1,350 are female.

This repeats a pattern seen with most groups of foreigners in Germany.

British and Australians in Germany more likely to be male, with men more likely to move to Germany for work.

On the whole, there are almost a million more male foreigners (5,872,480) in Germany than foreign women (5,042,975) of the total of 10,915,455. 

China remains the anomaly, with 72,130 Chinese women in Germany, compared with 64,330 men. 

READ: Australians in Germany – where do they live?

READ: Chinese in Germany – where do they live? 

READ: Brits in Germany – where do they live? 

Where do the New Zealanders live? 

More Kiwis hear Berlin calling than any other state. A total of 900 live in the Haupstadt, meaning just over one in four (27 percent) call Berlin home. 

A total of 500 Kiwis are scattered across Bavaria, while 460 can be found in Germany’s most populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia. All up 400 live in Baden-Württemberg, with a further 220 in the city-state of Hamburg and 215 in Hessen. 

Down the other end of the spectrum, there are 20 Kiwis in both Bremen and Saxony Anhalt, with 25 each in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania and Thuringia. 

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But the loneliest state for homesick Kiwis looking for their cuzzies and their bros is Saarland. Only five Kiwis live in the entire state – all of whom are men.

Kiwi Saarland residents looking to get a game of rugby together would need to call up all of their brethren in Bremen and Thuringia to ensure a full game of 15 on 15 (with a few bench spots left over). 

So why Germany? 

As the crow flies, it’s 18,136 kilometres between the New Zealand capital of Wellington and Berlin. It might not seem like the kind of trip you do on a whim, although for some Kiwis that’s exactly how it happened. 

READ: Irish in Germany: How many are there and where do they live?

Shane Mason, the organizer of the monthly “Sweet As” New Zealand and German monthly meet up group in Berlin, told The Local that it was a relatively spontaneous decision – one he doesn’t regret at all eight years later.

Mason, a video producer, was given the opportunity to come to Berlin while still living in New Zealand.

“I was making travel television and the producer I was working with was based here in Berlin. I initially turned it down and they said ‘why not come for three months and try it out?’“ he said. 

“I came here and got my freelance visa as soon as I could. I loved it.

“This is the first place I lived outside of New Zealand. An opportunity came up and I took it. I had no real plans, I thought I’d just see where it goes.”

Mason said he had plenty of big – and some small – reasons for making the move. 

“The lifestyle and the cost of living. The ease of living here. (Germany) offers quite a lot and it’s a bit more easy going here – or at least in Berlin,” he said. 

“Oh and the cheap beer – and being able to walk down the street with a bottle. That doesn’t fly back home.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel meets New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden. Image: DPA

Close relations across the globe

Despite the distance between the two countries, Germany is New Zealand's sixth-largest trading partner, with an overall two-way trade value worth €3.2 billion per annum.

Around 3,000 Kiwi students study in Germany each year, while just under 14,000 German tourists find their way to New Zealand every year – the largest of any country. 

A Kiwi presence in Germany? 

Much to their frustration, Kiwis tend to be roped in with Australians when it comes to pubs, food and cafes – meaning that a unique Kiwi presence is hard to find. 

Berlin’s Kiwi Pub, located in the neighbourhood of Stieglitz, serves New Zealand beer and stocks a range of products for the homesick. The Pub also holds regular events to commemorate national holidays like Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. 

Also in Berlin is New Zealand butcher Simon Ellery, who started up The Sausage Man Never Sleeps – an ambitious gourmet sausage shop bringing Kiwi and international flavours to the already saturated German sausage palate.

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IMMIGRATION

What Germany’s plans for a points-based system mean for foreigners

To tackle its ever-widening skills gap, Germany wants to encourage talent from aboard to move to the country by introducing a points-based immigration system. Here's what foreigners need to know about the changes.

What Germany's plans for a points-based system mean for foreigners

What’s a points-based system?

A points-based system is an immigration model where foreigners have to score above a certain threshold of points in order to obtain a residence or work permit in a country. The exact scoring system is set by the government, but can include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account. 

Points-based systems can also be known as “merit-based systems”, because there tends to be a pretty big emphasis on what you can offer a country in terms of education or skills. 

The model was first introduced in Canada way back in 1967 as the country tried to move past a system based on race and nationality to one that favoured language fluency, youth and educational or vocational background. A similar step was taken in Australia just a few years later in 1972 and, since Brexit, the UK has also introduced its own points-based model. 

How does this relate to Germany?

When the new ‘traffic-light’ coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) took office last December, the parties pledged to reform Germany’s immigration system and bring a fresh cohort of workers into the country.

“In addition to the existing immigration law, we will establish a second pillar with the introduction of an opportunity card based on a points system to enable workers to gain controlled access to the German labour market in order to find a job,” the coalition agreement read.

This would apply to third-country nationals who don’t otherwise have the right to live and work in the country. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s new government means for citizenship and naturalisation

German language course poster

A sign advertising German courses. Language skills can count towards points in a points-based system. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

FDP migration specialist Dr. Ann-Veruschka Jurisch, who is working on these reforms, says the policy is driven by Germany’s desperate need for workers. 

“The Liberal Party (FDP) is convinced that we need more labour migration,” she told The Local. “We do have a lot of options for coming into Germany as a labour migrant – but it’s a bit complicated – and if you want to come to Germany to search for a job and you don’t come from an EU country, it’s much more difficult.”

That’s why the coalition is aiming to offer a second route for people who don’t have job lined up in Germany, but who otherwise have the skills or talent to find one. 

What will this look like?

The plans for the points-based system are still at an early stage, so the exact criteria haven’t been worked out yet.

What’s clear at this stage, however, is that the points-based option would run parallel to the current model, which generally permits people with a concrete job offer in a skilled profession to come and work in the country. 

“It’s about (people having) a good opportunity to come to Germany when they have either a job offer in sight or a direct job offer,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in response to parliamentary question in January. 

“Next to that, we want to achieve a further possibility for talent – for qualified men and women whose skills we need in Germany, who still don’t have a work contract but, if given access, could use that opportunity. That’s what we’re talking about with this Canadian points-based system. It shouldn’t replace our current system, but rather improve it.”

In short, that means that people with a job lined up won’t be disadvantaged – but there will be alternative routes for those without them. It also won’t affect the EU blue card scheme

READ ALSO: ‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

Will people need formal qualifications? 

Probably not – though it will obviously depend on the sector someone works in and their level of experience in their chosen field.

“I personally am convinced that you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on formal qualifications, because it’s very complicated getting your formal qualifications recognised in Germany,” said Jurisch.

“A medical doctor, for example, is one where you can’t say, ‘Okay, you’ve got some experience so we don’t need to see your papers.’ But there are a lot of other jobs which do not have this restriction and they are not formalised but rather based on practical experience.”

Carpenter wood

A carpenter sands down a block of wood in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

The issue of recognising qualifications is also a problem that the traffic-light coalition has set their sights on solving during their time in office.

At the moment, the process of getting qualifications officially recognised in Germany is done on a state-by-state basis, so somebody who gets their degree recognised in Brandenburg may have to redo the entire process again in Bavaria, for instance.

According to Jurisch, there have already been conversations between the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education on the issue, and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has also promised to take steps to solve it.

But, she said, it’s complicated: “I’ve started to dive into this issue, and the more I dive into it, the more complicated it becomes – so there are no silver bullets.” 

How many workers are needed – and where? 

In order to plug its labour shortages, Germany needs around 400,000 new workers every year, according to the Federal Employment Agency. In 2020, Germany’s net migration was just 200,000 and 150,000 people of working age entered retirement – which means the country is currently falling well short of its targets. 

“We have shortages everywhere,” Jurisch said. “We need 400,000 new workers every year, and these people won’t be born in Germany – or if they are, they won’t grow up for another 20 years.

“We haven’t managed to get more women into the labour market, or they work part time, so I don’t think this will make a big difference, and I don’t think we will close the gap by training people.”

In this sense, it seems that immigration is the only option for filling major staff shortages in almost every profession. 

“Whoever I talk to, be it nurses, nannies, IT workers, industrial workers, teachers, lawyers – everywhere we have a shortage,” Jurisch said.

staff shortages Germany

A sign outside a restaurant informs customers of a closure due to staff shortages. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

When will the points-based system be introduced?

Unlike with the plans to reform citizenship, which the SDP-led Interior Ministry wants to achieve by the end of the year, there’s no firm timeline in place for the points-based system.

However, the FDP is fighting for the policy to be given higher priority and would like to introduce the new visa system before the next federal election in 2025. 

“I hope it will be done in this legislative period,” said Jurisch. “I’m pushing to get it a little bit higher up on the agenda.” 

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: ‘Changing German citizenship laws is a priority’

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