Germany vs France: Which Is Better for Living?

Germany and France are undoubtedly among the few countries expats desire to live in. Germany has an impressive history and a stable economy, while France has wine, croissants, and beautiful scenery. Where would you choose to live?

Both countries are popular destinations, France being a magnet for tourists and Germany being most attractive for skilled workers. Both countries differ in some aspects and have their pros to cons.

When moving to another country, you have to consider many factors, including quality of life, job opportunities, cultural differences, living standards, climate, etc. In this article, we explain all that in detail. Read on to find out everything you need to know about these two unique countries.

Germany vs France

Surprisingly France is one of the favorite countries for Germans in Europe. At the same time, many French reside in Germany, mainly due to their work. Currently, around 130,000 Germans are living in France and about 112,000 French living in Germany.

What are the pros and cons of each country?

Pros of living in Germany

  1. Living in Germany is affordable; The average cost of living is around 2,100 EUR for a single person. 
  2. Public transport is incredibly efficient. You can get in any part of Europe in hours.
  3. Employment is easy to find, and job security is guaranteed as being fired is almost impossible.
  4. Good salaries. The average salary in 2021 was 56,985 EUR.
  5. The most significant number of borders in Europe. Germany has 9 borders with different countries.
  6. Plenty of great festivals, parties and culture. Think Oktoberfest.
  7. Strong and reputable automotive sector.
  8. Excellent and “free” health care.
  9. Germany is a beautiful country with wonderful historic sites. You can enjoy beaches at the north and explore the Alps in the south.
  10. Free and high-quality education system. Most universities are free with excellent quality of education.
  11. Great geographic position – middle of Europe, best if you want to see more of Eastern and Northern Europe.
  12. Low crime rate.
  13. There are also plenty of housing options with modern furniture and equipment at affordable prices. Decent places for living in and even much cheaper if you prefer living in small villages or towns. Find out more about rents in Germany. 

Cons of living in Germany

  1. The weather is often not the greatest. You might struggle with long winters.
  2. Flats without kitchens. When renting a new place, you will have to include in your budget a cost of a new kitchen. Apartments often come without one. 
  3. It might be not very easy to make friends with Germans. They seem more reserved and unfriendly (direct!) than you might be used to.
  4. Poor variety of foods. Get used to meat, potato and bread.
  5. Non-German speakers might find it difficult to integrate with no German skills. Living in smaller cities will be difficult.

 Pros of living in France

  1. Excellent medical care and affordable health insurance.
  2. Great education system.
  3. Affordable cost of living. It’s 67% lower than in other Western European countries (but more expensive than in Germany).
  4. One of the best food and wine in the world.
  5. Wages are of a good level. The average salary was 49,560 EUR gross in 2021.
  6. Diversity within regions – from mountains to the warm Mediterranean coast.
  7. Cultural and historical heritage of France made it one of the most visited countries in the world.
  8. Location is great if you want to be closer to southern Europe.

 Cons of living in France

  1. Inefficient French bureaucracy can make all your desire to live in France disappear. It gets worse for people who don’t speak French.
  2. Wages are lower than in many other European countries. Think Germany, Nordic countries.
  3. Jobs can be a challenge, especially with no French language skills.
  4. Strong language barrier.

Being a foreigner in Germany vs France

What will your life look like as a foreigner in Germany and France?

Germany

Firstly, it’s easier to integrate yourself as a foreigner in Germany than in France. Your life also will be easier in the beer capital if you don’t speak a local language. In Germany, most of the information from the administration is accessible in English. 

It’s also a rare case when someone doesn’t speak decent English. Administrative processes e.g., paperwork, are well defined; you just need to follow the instructions. 

In Germany, foreigners feel more comfortable, and they don’t feel isolated. And Germans are very open-minded people and won’t put a “Foreigner” label on you.

France

In France, the situation looks different. Hopefully, your job doesn’t require speaking  French, but general life pretty much does. Expats have noticed that it’s hard or almost impossible to integrate into society without knowing French. You will learn the local language out of necessity.

According to the Expat Explorer Survey 2018, almost 90% of expats in France are fluent or learning French.

Besides, you will struggle to deal with authorities and administrative work in France. The organization is definitely lacking, and nobody speaks English. So if you’re going to move to France for the long term, learn some French.

People 

People in France a nice and welcoming, but they can be quite nationalist sometimes. Foreigners often are seen with suspicion and caution by society.

Nonetheless, most manifestations of racism in France are usually targeted at Arabs, Africans, and, recently, Eastern Europeans. Southern Europeans are also targeted, although to a less extent.

Germany and France compared

Despite these two countries being neighbors, they are very different. Here are all main distinctions:

Punctuality Germans are known to be on time. Keep that in mind and never be late more than 5 min, whether it’s a meeting, school, or date.French people are known for being late. So don’t get mad.
Greetings Germans will offer you a handshake. French people kiss when they greet each other. A handshake is an option, too, for example, for men or informal instances.
Working hoursIn Germany, a working week is usually 38,5 – 40 hours. A workday starts earlier and ends earlier than in France. In France, people work about 35 hours a week. Their day starts late and ends late. Don’t expect to have dinner before 7 pm.
Food cultureGermans like to have a good breakfast and lunch. Dinner is usually kept simple and light – a bit of bread with ham, cheese, or spreads and a bit of veggies. French breakfast is usually coffee and a croissant if you are lucky. Lunch and dinner are the two biggest meals of the day.
Work cultureGermans are hard-working people, so you would be expected to work efficiently and finish tasks punctually.France has a more relaxed work culture, where you can occasionally enjoy a coffee or a chat. Your boss won’t expect you to be a high achiever.  

Germany vs France: Quality of Life

Both countries have an excellent quality of life. However, there are some differences.

Germany

1. Efficient transport infrastructure:

Transportation methods vary from trains which you can book via Deutsche Bahn, to buses, trams, etc. Ferries are also available in Hamburg.

2. Quality of education:

If you are thinking of studying in Germany or educating your kids, there is some good news – universities and schools are free.

3. A low crime rate:

Crime rates are incredibly low, and Germany is one of the safest countries in Europe.

4. Germans always follow the rules:

Rules define the life of Germans, and you will get in trouble if you don’t follow them. Your neighbor will call the police sooner than you realize that you violated rules or laws in some way. That factor also contributes to the low crime rate.

5. Affordable, high-quality healthcare:

Compared to other countries, Germany offers affordable services, where for 70-105 EUR per month, you can get comprehensive health insurance covering all possible issues. Moreover, the German health care system is recognized as one of the best systems in the world.

6. Recreational activities and sports:

Cycling and running are pretty everyday activities. Germans also love outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, camping, and much more. You can also access free/low-cost sports facilities, theatrical and musical performances, pilates or yoga classes.

7. Festivities:

If you love good food, beer, and some little fun, then looking forward to lively festivals every time of the year, Oktoberfest is most known.

8. Language:

Generally, schools and universities teach in German. Yet, kids learn English from kindergarten. English fluency is widespread; most people except the elderly speak good English.

10. Work-life balance:

German employers will give you at least 25 days of vacation, some offering more. People don’t work on weekends. Most amazingly, on Sundays, everywhere is closed.

11. Good salaries and wages:

German companies pay very good wages, above the European average. Salaries of the employees match up with the living standards. The average salary in 2021 was 56,985 EUR. Good salary ranges between 2,500 – 3,000 EUR after taxes. It’s higher than in France. You can easily manage to save up a good amount every month.

12. Freedom for pet lovers:

In Germany, pets can accompany you to restaurants but not in the groceries store.

13. Government supports people:

Excellent social welfare is one of Germany’s most remarkable pros of living there. It takes well care of people who need it. You will pay taxes every month to feed the beast until you need it.

France

France has been ranked among the best countries in the world in quality of life. It’s rated above average regarding housing, social connections, health care, work-life balance, and personal security.

1. Cost of living:

France is, in general, more expensive than Germany. But housing, electricity, and heating cost more in Germany. (Many people, even Germans, live across the border but work and do shopping in Germany).

Generally, France can be very expensive (Paris) and affordable at the same time. Even within Paris, some districts are cheaper some are more pricey.

2. Food and wine:

Foodies certainly have to choose France over Germany. It’s non-negotiable. Everyone has heard about wines and delicious croissants. When it comes to food, France scores high. The quality of food is also on a top-level. Germany, unfortunately, lacks diversity in food choices.

There are 27 restaurants in France with three Michelin stars – the most of any country in the world, and 632 restaurants with at least one star. You will be delighted by all these crêpes, escargot, beef bourguignon, and more.

And, of course, no mention of French cuisine would be complete without outstanding wine, beer and champagne. Wine lovers will appreciate living in France. In Germany, you will enjoy beer most of the time.

You can even make countless tours of vineyards across the country. French ciders are also some of the best in the world.

3. Fabulous weather:

You can compare the weather in the South of France to any place in Germany. In fact, Germany doesn’t even have access to the warm Mediterranean. Some parts of France offer lovely weather with sunshine for the better part of the year. At the same time, Paris isn’t much different from German Berlin.

4. French health care and affordable health insurance:

Around 96% of France’s population uses the country’s public healthcare system, which is one of the best in Europe. Health insurance is relatively cheap compared to other countries. It costs less than 100 EUR per month. Plus, you can get around 70% of your medical costs reimbursed in France.

And if you have a chronic condition like cancer, AIDS, or a severe mental illness, the government will cover 100% of your medical expenses. Yet, oftentimes, a drawback of public healthcare is the long wait times.

5. Advanced transportation:

France is mobile, and you don’t need to have a car. However, nothing can beat efficient German public transport. But it has everything you need, from the well-constructed roads, modern trains, trams, and airports.

6. Work-life balance:

France has been ranked among the top ten countries that provide better work-life balance. It has the least weekly working hours of at least 35 hours. 

Furthermore, employees get a minimum of 20 days of vacation paid days, sometimes up to 40 days. Don’t forget about the “mandatory” French lunch lasting a minimum of 2 hours.

Germany vs France: Job Opportunities

Job is by far the most common reason why expats move to Germany or France. So which country offers the best opportunities?

Germany

Germany has a lower unemployment rate, which is 3,8% vs 9,4% in France. Besides, the unemployment rate among young people is particularly high. 

Generally, the German job market is larger than French, so more vacancies are available, especially for those highly skilled in the particular area. Don’t forget that Germany has the largest economy in Europe and is the fifth-largest worldwide.

Germany’s federal employment agency states that more than 400,000 skilled expats should arrive every year to cover all demand in jobs.

If you are looking for an English-speaking job, it can be a little hard to secure a job in Germany, but possible. Here, all will depend on your skills. Well-educated expats don’t have problems getting a job in Germany. Vocational training is also highly valuable for German companies.

The biggest Germany’s employers include:

  • Volkswagen
  • Deutsche Telekom
  • Allianz
  • BMW
  • Daimler
  • Siemens
  • Bosch

  In-demand jobs are:

  • Nurses
  • Civil and electronic engineers
  • IT professionals
  • Automotive experts
  • Software developers
  • Sales representatives
  • Product managers
  • Professionals in telecommunication
  • Professionals in banking
  • Customer service workers
  • Managers

Even without a job, you can get a Job Seeker Visa to move to Germany. With that, foreigners can stay for up to 6 months and seek employment.

Information technology and engineering industries are rapidly growing in Germany, and locals cannot meet the demand on their own; if you are a tech expert, expect to get a job easily.

If you are looking for something short-term and with the English language, check out jobs in tourism and hospitality. There are plenty of businesses hiring people for seasonal work.

Helpful articles about job search and work in Germany:

France

The unemployment rate in France is high, and finding a job here isn’t as easy as it’s in Germany.

You can also become self-employed in France. The government makes this relatively simple by registering yourself as a micro-entrepreneur online. Plus, it has simplified tax and accounting requirements, and you pay your taxes and social charges online.

Speaking French will undoubtedly help you on a way of securing a job, but it’s not a must. There are plenty of English-speaking employment opportunities in France.

If you are a Swiss national, EU, or EEA, you don’t need either a resident or work permit to be employed in France. Other nationalities will need to get a sponsorship from a French company in order to apply for a work visa. It can be a challenging task. Not many companies are willing to go for it.

If you have been transferred to France as an expat, your employer in France will take care of the paperwork.

These jobs you can get with no particular education and little to no French language:

  • Ski resort worker
  • Freelance writer/editor
  • Housekeeping
  • Translator
  • Real estate agent
  • Tour guide
  • English teacher
  • Babysitter
  • Pub crawl promoter/bartender
  • Camp counselor

Most relevant French industries include:

Automotive
Shipbuilding
Fashion and textiles
Electronics
Finance
Tourism
Industrial machinery
Food and beverage
Pharmaceutical

Large multinational companies in France:

  • Peugeot
  • Ubisoft
  • Total
  • Danone
  • Airbus
  • AXA
  • Citroen
  • Renault
  • Michelin

Shortage, in-demand occupations in France in 2022:

Electricians\ICT professionals
Surveyors
Veterinarian and medical professions
STEM professionals
Construction workers
Agriculture workers
Workers in tourism

Salaries in France

Wages vary across sectors and skill levels and within regions as well. Paris is the highest-paying French city. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Research, the average salary in France was 4,130 EUR gross per month or 49,560 EUR annually in 2021.

After taxes, employees have about 2,791 EUR. Your income depends mainly on education, experience, skill level, sector, profession, employer, and region. But generally, you can expect a lower salary than in Germany.

The highest paying jobs in France are:

  • Chief executives
  • Organisational development managers
  • Financial controllers
  • Sales directors
  • Regional managers
  • IT managers
  • Accountants
  • Marketing managers
  • Project managers
  • Branch managers

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Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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