Germany vs UK: Which Is Better for Living?

Oct 20, 2021Living in Germany, Move abroad, Move to Germany, Work Abroad

Germany and UK are arguable the two best countries to work as an expat in Europe. Germany is the largest country in the EU and has the strongest economy. At the same time, the British capital London is a truly global city with many opportunities for expats looking for a good job. So what country is better for living in?

When considering relocation and different career opportunities, you have to take into account several factors. This article considers various elements of living in Germany vs the UK, such as job opportunities, salaries, cost of living, standards of living, and much more.

Germany vs the UK

Currently, around 140,000 to 300,000 Germans live in the UK, while only about 95,000 to 107,000 Brits live in Germany.

Pros of living in Germany

  1. Great employment opportunities for foreign specialists
  2. Great location – proximity to other countries
  3. Simple immigration policies
  4. Large country – various cities to choose from
  5. Relatively low cost of living when compared to other Western European countries
  6. Education including universities has great quality and is also free
  7. High salaries in particular industries and professions. Overall salaries are high when ccompared across Europe
  8. High living standards
  9. Large, strong, and stable economy
  10. Liberal country
  11. Home to many world’s biggest companies like Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Siemens
  12. Low unemployment rates
  13. Free health care

Pros of living in Germany

  1. Higher taxes – with a gross monthly salary of 4,000 EUR you will get 2,539 EUR after tax. Taxes can be between 35% and 55% of your salary
  2. It’s a German-speaking country. Your opportunities might be limited by it. In fact, in most industries speaking German is necessary
  3. Large number or refugees and other immigrants tend to belong to the lower social classes
  4. Germans aren’t very polite (at least from the British point of view)

To learn more about living in Germany, you can also read “Is Germany a good place to live?”

Pros of living in the UK

  1. People are more sociable – you will have a better social life
  2. People are very polite 
  3. You will improve your English skills
  4. It’s one of the best destinations for studies in the world – you or your kids can receive world-class education
  5. Cultural diversity – you will see people from different backgrounds on the streets
  6. The UK has London. While this city isn’t for everyone, it’s one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world

Cons of living in the UK

  1. Employees tend to do overtime
  2. Salaries are low
  3. British weather isn’t the best – expect a lot of rain
  4. High cost of living 
  5. Traditional food isn’t very diverse
  6. Travel opportunities – no borders with other countries 

Germany vs the UK: Quality of life

The United Kingdom is a world-renowned destination for international students, workers, and entrepreneurs. It’s home to the world’s best universities is Europe’s second-largest economy with large, international corporations. 

Furthermore, the capital London is also one of the largest financial markets in the world. Therefore, the UK offers a large specter of opportunities for international students and educated specialists such as doctors, dentists, IT specialists, bankers, engineers, and scientists.

However, Germany has the biggest economy in Europe and some of the world-leading companies, particularly in the automotive and technology industries. 

Germany

Germany and the UK are very similar in many ways, but if you never lived or have been to any of these two places, you will be surprised by the differences.

German living standards are considered to be high. Germany was continuously ranked among the top 5 countries in the world to live in.

These are some of the elements of German daily life which make the quality of living very high:

  • Better work-life balance

Work-life balance is great in both countries. People work to live. You will have between 37-42 hrs. a workweek and many holidays. You never have to work on a weekend.

Sunday is a rest day for everyone. Nothing is open on Sundays.

  • Focus on sports and group activities

People are sportive. They like to hike, bike, skiing, run, playing various sports. Everyone has a hobby. This can be related to sports and outdoors or just meeting with people for some social activity. 

Yes, German people love the outdoors. They like to spend their free time in the nearest park, lake, or mountains. As long as it’s not raining, Germans will be outside, even if it’s freezing cold.

  • Free and quality education

In Germany, you can study bachelor’s and master’s programs for free. Most bachelor’s degrees are offered in the German language, but you can find various master’s programs in English. Education in Germany has excellent quality.

  • Everything functions like a clock 

Germany’s economy is among the world’s strongest, which allows the country to continue to invest in the future development and improvement of residents’ lives. 

  • Salaries and cost of living are proportional 

Furthermore, the ratio of prices and earnings is well matched. You will earn good money not only to sustain yourself but also to put into savings. People can also find ways to save a lot of money on deals and discounts. 

  • Social security

The social system is very strong in Germany. People receive support from the government in case of any hardship. Health care is paid with monthly payroll taxes and free for employees (all serviced are reimbursed by the insurance).

  • InfrastructurePublic transport 

Public transport in Germany is superior to the UK. There are trains, buses, trams everywhere across the country. Moreover, they are modern, clean, and affordable. Schedules are frequent in major cities, plus buses and trains are connecting suburbs and commuter towns.

Prices for single-trip public transport tickets aren’t very different than in the UK, but monthly passes are cheaper.

The UK

Overall, the UK is doing well in many “good quality of life” indicators, similarly to Germany. This includes jobs and income, education, safety, political environment, environmental quality, etc. 

However, for some and other reasons, the UK is positioned quite below the world’s rankings for quality of life – in place 23, while Germany is in the 8 positions. 

The UK ranks below average in work-life balance and housing. Housing is expensive and hard to find. 

1Switzerland
2Denmark
3Netherlands
4Finland
5Australia
6Iceland
7Austria
8Germany
9New Zealand
10Luxembourg
11Norway
12Estonia
13Sweden
14Oman
15Slovenia
16Japan
17United States
18Spain
19Lithuania
20Portugal
21Czech Republic
22Canada
23United Kingdom

Housing and lifestyle

Unfortunately, housing in the UK and especially in London is very challenging. Many expats also don’t like how houses are built in the UK, with less to no space in between. 

German towns and settlements, in general, tend to be more spread out. Overall, German houses offer more space.

Expensive education

Another factor giving the UK fewer points for the quality of life is the lack of free high education. You will need to pay a large sum to study at a British university. The average British student pays an average of £9,250 per year to study.

Whereas, in Germany, you or your kids can study at the country’s best university for free. 

UK weather

In the UK, you will see rain much often than in Germany. Skiing, going to the beach, sunbathing doesn’t exist. Yet, there are some ski resorts in Scotland. 

Germany has a variety of beautiful landscapes, including the Alps. (tallest peak at 2,962 m), lakes and rivers. 

Work-life balance

German workers on average, work 1,371 hours per year and have a higher average salary than people in the UK do. The annual gross national income is 46,850 US dollars.

Whereas, British workers work 1,677 hours per year, and have an annual gross national income of 39,040 US dollars.

Health care 

German healthcare is vastly superior to the UK, but insurance also costs more.

There are way more doctors per head of population. Getting an appointment with a doctor is much faster in Germany than in the UK.

More on work-life balance

Work-life balance in Germany is vastly superior to the UK.

Germans value their leisure time, yet they are also more productive workers than British! The Germans generate on average $60,50 GDP per hour worked which is only $52,80 in the UK.

German people are about 13% more productive, maybe due to the high-quality time of work they can enjoy. The work-life balance in Germany is great!

Germany vs the UK: Cost of living

According to statistics, the cost of living in the UK is 24,6% higher than in Germany. In short about the cost of living in both countries:

  1. Utilities, transportation, clothes, gyms, and groceries cost pretty much the same
  2. Coffee and a typical takeaway lunch for office workers is about the same
  3. Housing is more expensive in the UK (22%)
  4. Eating out in restaurants is more expensive in the UK (12%)
  5. Electricity, mobile phone, and the internet are more expensive in the UK
  6. Taxis are more expensive in Germany
  7. Hotels are cheaper in Germany
  8. Tobacco and alcohol are significantly cheaper in Germany
  9. Public transport is cheaper in Germany
  10. Entertainment and sport are also cheaper in Germany (32%)

In total, you will spend more money while living in the UK than in Germany, and you will spend significantly more money in London (at least 20%). Overall, the difference in prices between the two countries is about 10%.

Germany

According to the Federal Statistics Office, German households spend an average of 2,704 EUR per month.

Most Germans spend around 356 EUR on groceries, 351 EUR on transport, and 284 EUR on leisure per month.

For example, the cost of living in Berlin is estimated to be:

  • 45% cheaper than New York
  • 33% cheaper than London
  • 26% cheaper than Singapore
  • 22% cheaper than Paris

Housing

The cost of housing, especially in major German cities, is keeping increasing in recent years, but so it’s in London. In fact, no German city has anything similar to London prices.

Whether Germany is more or less expensive than the UK for housing depends a lot on where you’re moving from and to.

Munich is the most expensive town in Germany, after comes Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Hamburg.

Yet, Berlin is getting more pricey too. It has the fastest-rising rents in the world and is catching up fast with the other major German cities.

On average, Germans spend 908 EUR per month on housing, energy, and maintenance. 

The UK

In short about the cost of living in the UK: 

  1. Family of four estimated monthly costs: £3,564
  2. Single person estimated monthly costs: £2,014
  3. Cost of living in the UK is more expensive than in 64% of countries in Western Europe (6 out of 14)
  4. Cost of living in the UK is more expensive than in 83% of countries in the World (12 out of 63)

The cost of living in the UK very much depends on the location. In 2020, London was ranked among the 10 most expensive cities to live in Europe. Cheaper locations include cities in northern England. 

  • In London, the rent of a one-bedroom apartment will be £1,662
  • Meal for 2 – £60
  • Transportation (monthly pass) – £158

Housing

Currently, renting an apartment in London will way above a thousand pounds per month on average. The monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs on average £1,740. 

Yet, s similar apartments in suburban neighborhoods can be found for £1,231 on average.

A larger apartment comes at a higher price, expect to pay over £3,000 in London. Renting a three-bedroom apartment located in the city center costs on average £3,141. 

Housing in LondonAverage monthly cost
One-bedroom apartment (city center)£1,662
One-bedroom apartment (outside of city center)£1,272
Three bedroom apartment (city center)£3,188
Three bedroom apartment (outside of city center)£2,081
Internet£32
Utilities (gas, electric, and water for an 85m2 apartment)£171
Source: wise.com

Consequently, more and more people are unable to afford to live in London, thus they are moving to cities nearby. This fact has driven prices high in those cities as well. Thus, the cost of living in any town near London has skyrocketed.

Overall, the average rent for a small studio apartment in the UK is $972.96 or £708.

Public transport

Public transport prices are significantly higher than in Germany. A London’s monthly pass for subway+train can cost you £360 per month. In comparison in Berlin, you will pay 173 EUR per month.

London

The Price Index for the city of London is 222. This score indicates that food, rent, and other necessities are more than twice as expensive in London than they are in the average global city. 

The total cost of living in London is about 38,5% higher than the Central European average. The average cost of living in London is about £2,892 per person per month.

People with children need more money, the cost of living for a couple with a one-year-old is around £49,714 annually or £4,142 monthly. Childcare is expensive in London.

Example of cost of living in London:

  • Rent: £2,219 per month (Average across London for the beginning of 2021)
  • Basic public transport monthly ticket: £146
  • Taxi fare for a 5-mile journey on a business day: £26
  • Dinner for two in a pub: £37
  • 2 theatre tickets: £171
  • 1 cocktail in a club: £11
  • 1 pint of beer: £5,20

Germany vs the UK: Job opportunities

Germany

Many Brits come to work in Germany and many Germans move for a job in the UK. Interestingly, Brits get the highest paycheck across all international workers in Germany 2,820 EUR per month after tax. 

According to the survey among British workers, around 600,000 are considering moving abroad for work, and 44% or 264,000 have identified Germany as their first choice. 

Best industries to work in Germany as an expat are:

  • Automotive
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Computer hardware & software
  • Management consulting
  • Computer hardware & software
  • Automotive
  • Banking
  • IT 
  • consulting
  • Healthcare services
  • Electronics
  • Research & Development
  • Biotech & Pharmaceuticals
  • Computer Hardware & Software
  • Telecommunication

How is working as a nurse in Germany different from the UK?

However, to integrate into German life and German company you would want to speak German.

In Germany, English-speaking jobs are quite hard to find unless you’re:

  • highly experienced and educated in your field
  • or your job doesn’t involve frequent communication with German clients or German colleagues

Therefore, working in some brick-and-mortar businesses won’t be an option. Mainly jobs in technology and IT will be suitable. Germany will offer most opportunities in tech and manufacturing.

Furthermore, many jobs in STEM professions (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) will give you a chance to work in English. 

In fact, Germany actively welcomes foreigners to work in STEM fields. The government has even lowered the minimum required salary for EU Blue Card to 44,304 EUR annually. 

Every 5th employee in the STEM field comes from abroad, so ex-pats and foreigners have high chances of hiring. 

Ultimately, Germany is a great place for technically skilled, hard-working individuals. Cities like Berlin will offer you the most and it’s very international.

Moreover, after living in Germany on EU Blue Card, you can get a permanent residency already after 2 years. 

Check out the list of high-demand jobs in Germany in 2021.

Wondering how much is the average salary for your profession? Check the Gehalt.de – the best German resource which provides information on all salaries in the country. You can add filters like location, experience, skills, size of the company, and others to see the most accurate numbers!

The UK

As an English-speaking country with the 6th largest economy globally and various international business hubs, the UK offers tremendous job opportunities. 

Also, thanks to the English language, many international corporations, IT companies, banks, and financial services firms have settled in the UK decades ago. They offer attractive jobs to millions of people. This will not change much after Brexit.

The country’s current unemployment rate is relatively low 4%, and the labor market is strong (even for graduates). However, competition for jobs can be fierce in some industries. 

Yet, people with the right qualifications, skills, and experience stand a good chance of employment.

Moreover, in the UK you will have a higher chance to land in the industry you love. Especially in London expats have great career opportunities in various sectors. 

The ultimate advantage of working in the UK is that you don’t have to learn a new language, as it might be in Germany (to some extend).

Job opportunities, however, will depend on your skills, attitude, professionalism, and of course, the legality of your working in a particular country. 

Read more about salaries and jobs in the UK here.

Where can you work in the UK?

Best fields to work in the UK include:

  • Accounting, banking and finance
  • Consulting and management
  • Healthcare
  • IT
  • Marketing, advertising
  • Sales
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Recruitment and HR

In contrast to the German manufacturing scene, the services sector dominates the UK economy. Banking, insurance, and business services are all key drivers of the country’s growth. 

Other important British industries include metals, chemicals, aerospace, shipbuilding, motor vehicles, food processing, textiles and clothing, design, the arts, and electronic and communications equipment.

Apart from that, expats and foreign workers can find the most job offerings in areas with skill shortages:

  1. Business services – analysts, market researchers, HR officers
  2. Construction – surveyors, planners and project managers
  3. Education – primary and secondary school teachers (particularly maths teachers)
  4. Engineering – electrical, mechanical and chemical engineers, civil engineers and product and process engineers
  5. Healthcare – nurses, medical radiographers and pediatricians
  6. Hospitality – baristas, chefs
  7. IT – cyber security analysts, SEO marketers, software developers and systems engineers
  8. Social care – counselors, social workers

The highest paying jobs in the UK aren’t much different from those in other countries. They include managerial positions, doctors in various fields, but also lawyers, train drivers, university professors, and engineers.

Germany vs the UK: Freelancing and Self-employment

Germany

Founding a company and or working as a freelancer is another way to move to Germany or the UK.

In Germany, non-EU citizens can obtain a Freelancer visa, which is very convenient and beneficial for self-employed people. 

Read more about the German Freelancer visa and requirements here

Founding a company is more complicated. It involves high starting capital (25,000 EUR for LLC) and high requirements for the visa (if you need one). Read more about the process of setting up a business in Germany and its cost.

As a self-employed or freelancer, you need to take care of health care costs, which are expensive in Germany. 

Therefore, self-employment is more challenging in Germany compared to the UK. 

The UK

The UK is much easier to do business than Germany. Moreover, the UK is one of the best places in the world to open a business, due to low taxation, excellent efficiency of the bureaucracy, and abundance of online services. 

In fact, setting up an LLC in the UK is super fast, cheap, and can be done online. Germany has a long way to go to the British entrepreneurial standards. 

Nonetheless, the market is very competitive. Hence, you might have higher chances of success in less saturated Germany. It still has many opportunities.

Germany vs the UK: Salaries

Salaries in Germany are higher than in the UK. In 2019 average salary in Germany was 52,147 EUR, when in the UK – 34,700 EUR. This trend will continue in 2022.

Germany

In 2021, the minimum wage in Germany is 9,60 EUR per hour or 1,585 EUR per month, while the median annual income is 43,200 EUR.

Salaries range by up to 19,000 EUR depending on location. It also makes a big difference if you work in a small company and a large corporation.

StepStone Salary Report 2021 (Stepstone Gehaltsreport 2021) has indicated the average gross salary in Germany as 56,985 EUR. 

Whereas the average gross household income in Germany is 4,846 EUR per month, the income of single people households is 2,812 EUR. 

The average gross monthly income of the household is 5,086 EUR in West Germany and 3,927 EUR in East Germany.

To learn how much taxes you will pay in Germany, read this comparison between taxes in US and Germany.

The average salary in Germany in 2021 in different industries:

ProfessionAvg. Gross salary (2021)
Medicine (doctors)€89.539
Finance€73.847
Lawyer€68.642
Business Advice€64.173
Banking€62.744
Engineer€62.564
IT€60.563
Marketing, PR€60.174
Production€60.046
Distribution and Sales€59.591
HR€58.029
Construction€57.270
Research€56.399
Logistics€50.358
Design€48.574
Source: housinganywhere.com

The average salary depends on the industry, position, and years of experience.

Check salaries in Germany yourself

Use this free tool to check average salaries in Germany. You can add filters like location, experience, skills, size of the company, and others to see the most accurate numbers!

The UK

In April 2021, the minimum wage in the UK was £8,91 per hour for someone above age 23.

The median monthly pay of the UK employees in October 2021 is £2,004 (2,370 EUR) gross per month or £24,048 (28,440 EUR) annually. These numbers are much lower than in Germany. 

Whereas, the average salary in the UK was £38,600 in 2020, according to the ONS.

Compensation in the UK varies depending on job skills and positions and can range vastly. 

Also, according to the latest OECD data, salaries in the UK are above average and they rank at number 15 out of 36 countries.

However, your earning power will vary a lot depending on where in the country you live. Typically, salaries decrease significantly as soon as you move away from London or the South East of the UK.

Average salaries in London (1£ = 1,19€): 

Cashier£15,483
Copywriter£34,113
Financial analyst£40,042 = 47,000€
Graphic designer£26,738
Mobile developer£41,431
Product manager£46,063
Receptionist£17,553
Software engineer£42,925
Teacher£25,539
Web developer£32,664

In other British cities, numbers are even lower. Therefore, employees get paid better in Germany.

Read full in-depth article about salaries in the UK.

Taxes

The UK is 100% wins when it comes to taxes. The German tax burden is the 2nd highest in the OECD.

Germany

Tax and social security contributions deductions for German employees are high. In total, you will pay between 35% and 45% of your monthly income. 

  1. Income taxes – between 14% to 45%
  2. Health insurance – 14,6% of your gross salary in total (paid half by you and half by the employer)
  3. Retirement insurance is levied at 19,6% of gross salary, of which half is paid by the employer and half by the employee
  4. Church tax – between 8% and 9%
  5. Solidarity surcharge – 5,5%
  6. Unemployment insurance – 3% (paid half by you and half by the employer)

The UK

In the UK you will pay way less in taxes than in Germany – just about 24,90%. With an average annual salary of £35,000, you will take home £27,464. Hence, you just paid around 22% in taxes. 

Income tax – between 20% and 45% (20% is most common). You can see rates for 2021-2022 below. 

England/Wales/Northern Ireland tax bandTaxable incomeIncome tax rate
Personal allowanceUp to £12,5700%
Basic rate£12,571–50,27020%
Higher rate£50,271–150,00040%
Additional rate£150,001+45%

Social security – employee pays 12% from the salary; 2% for income above £4,189 per month. At the same time, the employer contributes another 13,8% (15,05% from April 2022) to the national insurance.

For example, if you earn £4,000 a month or £48,000 a year, you pay:

  • nothing on the first £9,568
  • 12% on the next £38,432
  • total in social security £4,611
Your annual salaryClass 1 National Insurance rate
Less £9,5680%
£9,568 – £50,27012%
Over £50,2702%

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