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In maps: Where do foreigners live in Germany?

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Rebecca Spiess - [email protected]
In maps: Where do foreigners live in Germany?
Flags from all over the world fly in front of Berlin's convention center in early 2019. Photo: DPA

Germany is the second top destination for migrants behind the United States, UN figures show. We break down which states and cities internationals are drawn to.


In 2019, Germany had the largest foreign-born population of any country in Europe, with 13 million migrants. The country's diversity is also boosted by large numbers of foreign students and temporary workers moving to and from the Bundesrepublik.

READ ALSO: In numbers: Who are Germany's international students?

The map below shows which states in the nation have the highest percentage of foreigners. While western and southern Germany hold a clear lead, city-states like Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg also pull high numbers. 

Map prepared for The Local by Statista.

Taking into account the different subgroups that make up the expat population in Germany, what maps are most important to describe the country's foreign population?

Here's our breakdown. 

Migration backgrounds

Since 2005, German officials have used the term "individuals with migration backgrounds" to classify migrants and naturalized individuals as well as their children. This term offers more precision for categorizing different ethnic groups, rather than just using citizen or non-citizen distinctions.

READ ALSO: One in three people in Germany 'will have migrant background in 20 years'

It also shows a more nuanced picture of what areas in Germany are the most culturally mixed over numerous generations.

This map shows the proportions of Germans without a migrant background in 2016 using data from Destatis. Photo credit Underlying lk via Wikimedia.

While some of these numbers can be attributed to larger populations, it's also clear that more foreigners live in western Germany in general. 

READ ALSO: Who are Germany's foreign population and where do they live?

What about citizenship?

Populations of foreigners are not the only valuable statistic. How many people actually stay long-term? 

If you're interested to see what Bundesländer enjoy the most new citizens, here's a map showing what states welcome the most newly-naturalized Germans every year. Like the map above, it's clear that western and southern states hold the lead.

Interestingly, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland in the far west do not naturalize as many citizens as states like Bavaria or North-Rhine Westphalia. 

Source: Naturalizations of Foreigners, including Yearly Percentage Change in 2018, Screenshot via Destatis

Younger generations

Germany's youngest generations also give some good insights into migration history. According to the country's Federal Office of Statistics, the cities and Bundesländer with the most children of migration backgrounds are Bremen, Berlin, Hesse and Hamburg.

Bremen is the clear leader. Using recent statistics published in 2015, the map below shows just how diverse Bremen's youngest generations are, as well as which areas of the city they live. Bremen is a city divided into two enclaves: the southern city centre and the harbour in the north. The map has been shortened to include both. 

A map of Bremen showing the percentage of children with a migration background living in every part of the city. Data comes from 2015 city statistics. Based on TUBS via Wikimedia. 

Berlin, another famously diverse city, is Germany's global capital. Each neighborhood has its own distinct subculture and trends. The map below shows the two largest non-German ethnic groups in every part of the city. From Russians to Poles, Berlin is proudly Multi-Kulti, or multicultural. 

A map showing the most common minority groups in every Berlin Bezirk. Based on Berlin.svg via Wikimedia. 

International students

In 2016, Germany had the fifth-highest rate of international students globally. Many foreigners begin their stay in Germany on student visas. German certifications and credits are highly valued internationally, making it a sought-after country to study abroad.

Using the most recent rankings from QS World University Rankings, the map below shows the top ten most popular universities for students studying abroad. 

Source:, altered using university rankings from

Aachen, where RWTH Aachen University is located, is also the top city for expats in Germany, according InterNations 2019 Expat City Ranking. Globally, Aachen placed 11, above Düsseldorf at and Hamburg at 31 and 42 respectively.

While things like degree paths and housing obviously play a large role, these German cities will also likely provide a great scene for international students.




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