For members


Canadians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Finding poutine or Nanaimo bars in Germany is perhaps a little harder than locating an American burger joint. But with just over 18,000 Canadians living here, we can be found out - and yes aboot - nearly everywhere in Germany.

The Canadian flag flies in Frankfurt Oder.
The Canadian flag flies in Frankfurt Oder. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Patrick Pleul

Although the accents of Germany’s approximately 13,500 Aussies or 117,000 Brits may be more easily distinguished from the nearly 120,000 Americans living here, you still stand a good chance of running into a Canadian in Germany – politely, of course.

Around 18,185 Canadians were registered as living in this country at the end of 2020. But contrary to what you may have been told, we don’t all sew a maple leaf to our backpacks. So, who are Germany’s Canadians and where can you find them?

For starters, according to official numbers, we’re a pretty gender-balanced bunch, with slightly more women (9,270) than men (8,915) in our ranks.

Relative to population, you’re statistically most likely to spot one of us in Berlin (3,405). Bavaria slightly beats out us Hauptstadt Canucks in absolute numbers though – with 3,420 somehow seemingly preferring a winter that reminds them more of home.

Rounding out the top five, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg come in at just under 3,000 each, with just over 1,600 Canadians living in Hessen. At the lower end, just 75 Canadians were registered in Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania at the end of last year.

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

What brings Canadians to Germany?

One study from 2009 estimated that most of the nearly 2.8 million Canadians living abroad resided in just four places – the US, UK, Australia, and Hong Kong. In roughly that same time period though, the number of Canadians living in Germany has gone up around 40 percent. Even Canada Goose has made its way here, having opened locations in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich all in the last year.

So what brings our contingent of Canadians to Germany? Love is an oft-cited reason.

“We met in Scotland when we were both living there,” says Bronwyn Farr, originally from Victoria and now living in Bremen with her German partner, close to his family. “Following some work changes in Aberdeen we decided to move to either Canada or Germany. It was all about where I could get a job first. And I got a job here!”

Toronto’s Abraham Grigaitis was all set to move to London for a new job in tech. But plans changed after he met the man who is now his husband during a weekend trip to Berlin.

“It was mostly about my relationship and I’m very happy living in Berlin now. But it wasn’t the easiest move. Learning the language while trying to advocate for yourself at the Bürgeramt is hard, and there’s a lot of cultural differences. Dealing with rather straightforward Germans when you’re used to being polite sometimes feels like a splash of cold water to the face – but now my family in Canada says I’m a little too German that way sometimes,” he says laughing.

Toronto's Abraham Grigaitis (left) met his German husband during a holiday in Berlin.
Toronto’s Abraham Grigaitis (left) met his German husband during a holiday in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Abraham Grigaitis.

“We were flatmates in Beijing,” says Kari Churches, originally from Victoria, of meeting her German husband. They now have two boys, aged three and five, and live in a small Bavaria town with Bamberg, Erlangen, and Nuremberg all close by.


Work opportunities are another big reason Canadians we spoke with either came to or remain in Germany. Holding jobs ranging from IT consultant to a professional show jumping rider, many also cite a better work-life balance in Germany and the chance to travel more easily, due to more vacation days, better transport services, and shorter distances from place to place.

“I love, love, love the infrastructure,” says Kelly Dawn Fischer, originally from Calgary and now living in a small town in Schleswig-Holstein. “The transit system and bike infrastructure are accessible and user-friendly, even in the countryside.”

Kelly Dawn Fischer, originally from Calgary, visits Lübeck Gate Haus
Kelly Dawn Fischer, originally from Calgary, visits Lübeck Gate Haus. Photo courtesy of Kelly Dawn Fischer.

Fellow Calgarian Indrani Kar works in Bavaria as an environmental licencing planner but lives with her husband in Leipzig. She is also an admin for a “Canadians in Germany” Facebook group with over 2,000 members. “I can make good money here doing something ethical that I love. There’s no way I could do what I’m doing back home, and definitely not for what I currently earn. There’s no [extreme] winter here, so the outdoor lifestyle is great.”

Kar’s remark about winter might seem strange to some Germans, but as a fellow Calgarian, I have to point out that a Canadian prairie winter – with regular temperatures of -30C – is simply in a bonechilling league of its own. By contrast, German “winter” looks appealing.

“Love the milder winters and especially being so close to travel to literally anywhere in Europe at the drop of a hat!” says Marc Andrew Jannard, a Montrealer who now lives in Süsel, just outside of Lübeck.

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

From easier travel to better work-life balance, Germany has plenty going for it. But there’s always a few things you miss. True to my western Canadian roots, I myself order an Alberta steak with a glass of red from Okanagan wine country whenever I go home—things that are next to impossible to find here.

So what do our Canadians miss about Canada? For starters, it is a longer journey home than for Europeans, so family tops the list for many people, alongside naturally beautiful Canadian landscapes like the Pacific Ocean or Rocky Mountains.

“I miss how uncrowded those places are,” says Farr.

Bronwyn Farr, originally from Victoria, now lives in Bremen with her partner.
Bronwyn Farr, originally from Victoria, now lives in Bremen with her partner. Photo courtesy of Bronwyn Farr.

“I really only miss my family in Canada and I guess the familiarity of understanding and knowing what’s going on around me,” says Tammy Kovacs, who is from southern Ontario and now lives in Würzburg with her husband and youngest son. “But it has been getting better.”

“I miss how friendly people are at home in general,” says Grigaitis. “But also dill pickles.”

“I love the festive culture and family life here in Germany,” says Carolynn Jaworska, who lives in Mainz with her husband. “But when I’m home, I definitely enjoy a couple of caesars [a cocktail with Caesar mix, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and vodka], an Alberta steak, and a Nanaimo bar – or two!”

READ ALSO: Ten foods I miss as a Canadian in Germany

Are you a Canadian in Germany? Tell us what you miss about your home country, and if you have any tips for Canadian home comforts by emailing us: [email protected] or leaving a comment.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How ‘tolerated’ migrants could soon gain residency rights in Germany

The Bundestag has passed a law that will see people with a 'tolerated stay' gain a new path to permanent residency in Germany. Here's some background on the controversial law - and what it means for migrants.

How 'tolerated' migrants could soon gain residency rights in Germany

What’s going on?

After a fierce exchange of blows between politicians from the governing traffic-light coalition and the CDU/CSU parties, the Bundestag passed their so-called “right of opportunity to stay” (Chancel-Aufenthaltsrecht) law on Friday.

In the parliamentary vote, 371 MPs from the traffic-light coalition parties – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FPD) – voted in favour of the bill. A total of 226 parliamentarians voted against, including 157 CDU/CSU MPs, 66 MPs from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and three independents. 

Politicians from the left-wing Linke party, as well as a number of CDU/CSU MPs and three FDP MPs, were among the 57 who abstained. 

The law aims to provide a new path to residency for people who had lived in Germany on a ‘tolerated stay’ permit for at least five years by October 31st, 2022. This group will now be given 18 months to fulfil the criteria for permanent residency, which includes proving at least B1 German language skills and showing that they can financially support themselves. 

However, people who have committed crimes or given false information about their identity won’t have the opportunity to apply for a residence permit.  

READ ALSO: How Germany is planning new path to residency for migrants

What exactly is a ‘tolerated stay’?

A tolerated stay permit, or Duldung, is granted to people who are theoretically barred from staying in Germany but are, in practice, unable to leave. That could be due to their health, caring duties, the situation in their home country or a lack of identification papers. 

It’s estimated that around 136,600 people have been living in the country on this status for at least five years, including people who have sought asylum but whose applications have been turned down. 

Germany has historically dealt with these tricky situations by suspending deportation and instead offering a ‘Duldung’, which allows the person in question to stay for the time being. 

More recently, special statuses for migrants who end up in vocational training or work have been added, enabling some migrants to enter training or employment while living on a tolerated stay permit. 

However, the situation for many has remained precarious. Since tolerated status is meant to be temporary, authorities often end up issuing multiple permits over time, causing stress and uncertainty for migrants and additional paperwork for the state. 

How will life change for this group of people? 

For those who speak a bit of German and have a secure livelihood, things could become a lot easier in future. 

Those who have been here at least five years will be given an 18-month permit which will give them time to switch from a tenuous tolerated status to official permanent residency. In addition, people aged 27 or under and particularly well-integrated adults will be given this opportunity after just three years of residence.

This in turn would allow them to take up work or training, become self-employed, start a business and also claim social benefits.

Most importantly, they will have the security of knowing that they are allowed to remain in the country as long as they want to and will be able to show an official residence permit to employers, landlords and public authorities.

Woman protests against deportation Germany

A woman holds up a ‘Stop Deportation’ sign at a protest outside Berlin-Brandenburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

What’s more, they should also have an easier time when trying to reunite with close family members. 

However, some people could still slip through the net. According to official statistics, 242,000 people currently live in Germany on a tolerated status – meaning than more than 100,000 won’t be covered by the new law. And this will also be the case for people who end up with a Duldung in the future. 

Even among those who have been here for five years or longer, one key condition for permanent residency – proving their identity – could remain a major hurdle. However, the law does offer people a chance to get around this if they have taken “necessary and reasonable measures” to clarify their identity.

READ ALSO: How to get fast-track permanent residency rights in Germany

What has the response been to the new law?

Unsurprisingly, the governing SDP – who drafted the law – have argued that their approach will finally give people a humane route to staying in Germany on a permanent basis.

“We are ending the current practice of chain toleration,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), referring to the practice of giving multiple tolerated status notices over time. “In doing so, we are also putting an end to the uncertainty that often lasts for years for people who have long since become part of our society.”

Adis Ahmetovic, who grew up as a child as a ‘tolerated’ migrant, spoke in the Bundestag of his own difficulties and said he had even faced deportation orders. “It clearly didn’t work, because now I’m an elected MP,” he said, adding that the right of opportunity law was a move towards “fairness, participation, recognition and respect”.

However, not everyone has been positive about the change, with the CDU and CSU parties in particular speaking out against it. Deputy parliamentary party leader Andrea Lindholz (CSU) told the government it would be better to focus “on those who are really entitled to protection”.

CDU Andrea Lindholz

CDU deputy parliamentary leader Andrea Lindholz speaks out against the “right of opportunity” law in the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

For well-integrated long-term tolerated migrants, there are already enough exceptions and pragmatic solutions, she added. 

Axel Ströhlein, president of the Bavarian State Office for Asylum and Repatriation, also criticised the fact that the path to residency would only apply to people who had already been deemed ineligible for asylum or protection from deportation. He said the new regulation would undermine the meaning and purpose of the right to asylum and could send the signal that a lack of cooperation is worthwhile and leads to a residence title.

Others, however, welcomed the change but said it didn’t go far enough.

Kristian Garthus-Niegel of the Saxon Refugee Council had spoken out in support of the Linke’s proposed amendment to effectively end the ‘tolerated’ status by removing the cut-off date for long-term residence specified in the law. This amendment was rejected in the Bundestag. 

READ ALSO: ‘Dangerous and wrong’: Why German MPs are clashing over citizenship plans

Are there any other important changes to know about? 

Yes. Skilled workers who come to Germany will also have an easier time bringing their family over in future as the government has permanently waived language requirements for spouses of highly qualified workers. 

In addition, they want to make language and integration courses far more widely available and speed up the process of applying for asylum in future. 

People who have committed crimes or who are considered dangerous, on the other hand, will be removed from the country more easily and swiftly.