Germany and the USA two immigrants countries welcoming thousands of foreigners every year. The USA is traditionally a place where people go to realize their big dreams, Germany preferred by skilled workers from around the world.
As a skilled professional, executive, or student, you want to get the best of your experience abroad. For this reason, we will take a detailed look at life in the USA and Germany. Which country is better for you? Read this post and you will figure out.
Related: “Is Germany a good place to live?”
Education and Student Life
Germany has 380 Universities and 370,000 international students. It is the third most popular destination among international students in the world and the most popular destination in Europe.
The main advantage of German higher education is that it’s free for foreigners and German citizens. The disadvantage – you will probably study on German language and your university won’t be on top of rankings.
The semester contribution in most universities between 100 EUR and 350 EUR per semester which also includes your public transportation card. Whereas you will be in thousands of dollars debt for many years ahead to pay your tuition fees.
More than 12% of students at German universities come from abroad. Germany is an attractive place to study and German university degrees are highly respected by employers worldwide.
German universities provide high-quality education with a big focus on research, while Universities of Applied Sciences offer a range of attractive,practice-oriented degrees.
Related: Difference between Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences in Germany.
The drawback of Germany is that, if you’re aiming to study at an undergraduate course in a public university in Germany you will hardly find a course taught in English because the absolute majority of them are in German.
For more dynamic student life opt for a medium-sized city with a high percentage of students.
In 2019 the US had 1,095,299 international students in its 400 universities around the country, and not without the reason, some top-ranking schools are located in the western country.
As you might already know higher education in the USA is very costly. While the country is hosting one of the most prominent universities in the world.
Not surprise that American degree has an excellent reputation worldwide, in Germany, you will need to opt for the best universities to get the same results. But sadly admission in the best colleges in Germany is quire tough.
Many students prefer to study in the USA because of on-campus resources like accommodations, technology, tools, infrastructure, ambiance, experienced teachers, and of course opportunities.
In the USA bachelor program lasts 4 years when it’s just 3 years in Germany and master has the same length – between 1 and 2 years.
Student life is very active because many students live on campus and so have tighter and regular relationships that Germans do. In Germany many students live in the apartments and not on the campus, in fact, only a few universities in Germany have accommodations next to it.
While studying in the USA students are being enriched by taking part in the social and cultural scene, since the U.S. campuses provide a rich variety of academic, cultural, and athletic activities.
Unfortunately, German universities aren’t on the same level as Americans and offer less to no campus life.
It might be difficult to find a job in Germany exceptionally in English, you might opt for bigger cities such as Berlin, Munich or Hamburg for this.
Germany is certainly a good place to be for all finance/business, logistics, IT, and all kinds of engineering professionals.
For English speakers, there are good chances in the IT sector, in international customer service, some kinds of engineering, and others.
But the rule is the better your qualifications, the better your chances! Unless you pretend on low-end jobs, then Germany has lots to offer, especially for people willing to work hard.
To work as a foreigner in Germany you will need to apply for an EU Blue Card – a residence permit which allows you to stay and work for a 4 year in the country.
You can do it after fulfilling requirements: receiving a job offer that fits your qualifications and has the minimum salary of 53,000 EUR per year or 41,808 EUR if STEM profession.
After two years of employment in Germany, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency status. It’s beneficial to be fluent in the German language when seeking work in Germany, but not always essential.
Germany also gives chance to graduates to work after completing the degree. So international students from Non-EU/EEA countries can extend it to stay in Germany and seek work for up to 18 months after graduating, as long as the job is related to their field of study.
The US has low unemployment rates and the economy is thriving, therefore foreigners can expect some great career opportunities, especially in cities like New York, San Francisco, where a lot of immigrants move to realize their dreams.
As a foreign national you will need to receive a work visa that will sponsor your company. Yet only 5% of American companies become sponsors for people from abroad.
They much more likely would hire someone who is already there, unless your field is in demand nowadays and you already had some experience in the profession.
Major US employers include:
- Exxon Mobil
- Ford Motor
- General Electric
- JPMorgan Chase & Co.
- Procter & Gamble
Currently, the US experiences demand healthcare professionals such as nurses, carers, nursing, and medical assistants, as well as the demand for cooks, accountants, software developers, retail workers, customer service representatives, office clerks, market research analysts, and marketing specialists.
Many foreign employees in the USA found their job with an organization in the home country, which has offices in the USA and transferred after.
Also, Germans work mostly this way in the USA since its not uncommon for German companies to have branches in the North American continent. Consequently, it is the easiest way for international workers to gain employment in the country.
Germany is one of the highest paying countries in Europe, but can it compete with the US?
The average salary in Germany is 45,240 EUR gross with monthly payments of 3,770 EUR.
Some german industries are especially well paid, such as pharmacy, banking, medicine and dentistry, law, industrial engineering, industrial engineering, computer science. However, employees in Germany also need to pay higher taxes than anywhere else.
Generally speaking gross salaries for most professions are lower than in the USA.
Here you can see average salaries in Germany by the industry:
|Purchasing, transport & logistics||€47.907|
|Skilled crafts & Trade||€43.919|
New York is one of the high paying places in the world. Here, you’ll find some of the best-paid data scientists and web developers in the world. Also, executive assistants or interior designers earn on average more than in other countries. Tech and finance positions are always in demand.
Here are some examples of average annual salaries in the USA in general.
|Salary averages for the USA||Average annual salary|
For example, the average salary of a software developer in the US is much higher than in Germany.
Germany is known for its high taxes, but they also include social contributions deductions, which will give you benefits later on the road.
Together the taxes and social contributions might cut even 35-40 % portion of your gross salary. German salaries are as much as half of that in the USA, so people end up having less money in the pocket after tax.
In addition, the sales tax is 19%, which is 9% higher than in the USA.
Luckily Germany, as well as many other countries, have treaties to prevent double-taxing expat’s income. So working in Germany you won’t need to pay for other tax at home. As American whatever you go you always will be taxed American rates.
The first 9,169 EUR or 764 EUR per month earned each year is tax-free. Any amount after that is subject to income tax.
Income tax in Germany is progressive: first, income tax rates start at 14%, then they rise incrementally to 42%; last, very high-income levels are taxed at 45%.
Below you can see German income tax brackets.
|Taxable income||The marginal rate|
|up to EUR 9,408||0%|
|EUR 9,408 – EUR 57,051||14% rising progressively to 42,00%|
|EUR 57,051 – EUR 270,500||42%|
|from EUR 270,500||45%|
The income tax rate for a foreigner with a gross salary of 40,000 EUR is estimated to be 36%.
The tax rate also depends on your personal circumstances such as marriage, having kind, or divorce. The highest taxes pay a single person without kids. What is unfair, you want to enjoy your earned money while you are young instead of giving it to the government.
The salaries in the USA tend to be pretty high and taxes are lower. The highest sales tax in the USA is under 10% and most US states have lower taxes than that.
Income taxes in the US also divided into briskets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. The rate is growing with income.
Americans also pay for the social security from their income which competed with other small taxes 7.65% each for employers and employees (15.3%).
Same way as in Germany your tax bracket depends on your taxable income and your marriage status: single, married, qualifying widow(er), married but paying tax separately, and head of household.
The average tax rate for an employee in the United States was 31.65% (2019).
The big difference is that all your income is a subject of tax in the USA, there is no free tax amount. Another difference – in the USA employees pay health insurance separately
In Germany dividends and sales of capital assets are taxed at 25% while in the United States there is a maximum of 23.8% (or up to 37.1% if you live in California).
The US’s corporate tax rate is 35% whereas 15% in Germany. So it’s not clear in which country you will pay less tax as a business owner, in Germany with VAT of 20% and corporate tax of 15% or in the USA with VAT of 10% and business tax 35%.
The only advantage for high earners is that income from $510,301 or more is taxed only with 37% whereas in Germany it would be 45%.
German companies often practice flexible working time in order to have a good work-life balance. Employees are only allowed to work 8 hours per day and so 40 hours per week.
Germans finish their working day punctually to spend the rest of the day with family, enjoying outdoors, or just their free time. Although overtime is still happening but not often.
If employees work more hours than in the contact they will be always paid.
Many people work part-time in Germany, especially women with kids. Companies are very open to this type of employment, normally it easy to find a parttime job in your industry.
The USA isn’t considered as a country with great work-life balance, many employer are working very long hours, in fact, 11% of them are.
Statistics say that more than half of Americans have an unhealthy work-life balance. A third of the employees in the US working more than 45 hours per week, and tough 9,7 million are even more than 60.
There is definitely an issue with balancing work and life in the USA, people tend to sacrifice much for work and less enjoy life than Germans do.
Germany has one of the best healthcare in the world and it’s universal – everyone has health insurance and access to medical services. The quality of services is outstanding and you never have to worry about being broken when you/your family require medical treatment.
All the medical costs of the patient are paid by the insurance. Insurance is inexpensive if you are a student and for employees, it’s a 7,3% from their gross salary (other 7,3% paid by the employer).
Another advantage of working in Germany that employees are get paid sick days. It’s no dilemma you can leave your workplace if feeling unwell or don’t show up in the office, you will get the paycheck anyway.
Read here more about which else benefits employees receive in Germany.
Additionally, family members may enroll at no cost with the statutory health insurance provider with whom one family member is already enrolled. That means an employee in Germany can provide not only for himself but for the entire family!
Employees can also take out private health insurance where they will pay a fixed amount per month without relation to the salary. This is a good option for high earners or business owners.
Related: “Is German healthcare free?”
Unfortunately, health care isn’t universal in the USA, not all people have health insurance and someone always has to pay for medical services.
The USA spends more money on health care than any other country, on average $8,500 in the year.
Usually, Americans also have health insurance which covers most of the treatments, however, premiums are very ranging, especially depending on the state. The average annual cost of health insurance in the United States was $403.
The lowest for a 27-year-old in 2020 is in the New Mexico’s,- $282, and the most expensive is in Wyoming’s – at $723.
In Germany you will never have to pay 723 EUR, the health insurance costs range between 50 – 500 EUR.
Below you can see average premiums for health insurance depending on the state for 27 years old.
There is a lot of debate over healthcare in the USA. A short stay in the hospital can cost you a fortune even with good health insurance. Surgeries are often don’t paid by the insurances too.
Health care is a big business in the USA and it earns money from residents when in Germany insurance companies are the main clients of the hospitals. Whereas the health insurance companies in Germany are largely non-profit and run by the government.
Cost of Living
Cost of living ranges in both countries, for some items and services you will pay less in Germany than in the USA and another way.
Overall it’s hard to say where life is cheaper, both countries are just too diverse. Many Americans who live in Germany say that living costs in the US will are lower. But it also can be more expensive in the USA if you are in cities like New Your or San Francisco. It’s all very relative.
In general fuel, cars, clothing, electronics, and other “stuff” are more expensive in Germany. Health care, education, and public transportation are cheaper in Germany.
The cost of living in Germany is relatively low in comparison to other western countries. The capital Berlin ranked as the 106th most expensive city out of 200 rated worldwide. Salary normally more than compensate your living expenses.
For example, the average costs for a family with one kid will be around 2,300 EUR – 3,000 EUR highly depending on which region you live and of course your lifestyle.
A family of four will need on average 3,800 EUR per month to live a comfortable life.
The average costs of living for students range between 800 – 1,000 EUR/month, including accommodation.
Prices also differ significantly between the large cities in Germany. You would need more money for living in Munich than you would in Dresden, for example. Small, university cities also tend to be more affordable.
In general, east of Germany is very affordable for living due to its ridiculously cheap rent.
The biggest monthly expense is as always – rent. However, rents in German cities very vary. As a student, you will pay between 290 and 560 EUR per month for a room in a shared apartment or sometimes a single flat.
As a professional, you might want an entire apartment, then expect to pay from 500 to 1,000 EUR for a one-bedroom flat.
Food is quite affordable and very high quality, especially if shopping in the discounters such as Lidl, Aldi, Netto.
For dinner in a restaurant, you will pay 10 EUR for food in a cheap one and 15 in a normal one. A three-course meal for two in an average restaurant costs 45 EUR and an additional light drink will be 4 EUR.
The average costs of living for student/single person on the budget range between 800 – 1,000 EUR/month, including accommodation. Depending on your location prices are vary, for example, east of Germany is very affordable for living due to its ridiculously cheap rent.
The average prices accordingly to the Numbeo:
- Meal in restaurant 10 EUR
- Cappuccino 2,75 EUR
- Water 2 EUR
- Local Cheese (1kg) 8,24 EUR
- Apples (1kg) 2,33 EUR
- Monthly Pass for public transportation 75 EUR
- Utilities 221 EUR
- Apartment (1 bedroom) 750 EUR
- Average Monthly Net Salary 2,329 EUR
In the USA people have more disposable income by the end of the month, therefore purchasing power is stronger.
Although, living in the USA is pretty pricey. And costs strongly depend on which city and region are you living in.
The most expensive cities include San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. However, there are still some well-known places where life comes with a reasonable price tag – Oklahoma City or Cincinnati for example, have much lower average costs than other large cities.
Naturally, in rural areas, outside of the cities, you’ll find the cost of living is much lower.
For students estimated living cost for the US is around $700 to $1000 per month. This includes your accommodation costs, room, food, travel, textbooks, weather-appropriate clothing, and entertainment expenses as well.
As an adult, for example, in New York, you will pay $3,003 for a 1 bedroom flat in the city center, $75 for lunch for 2, and $119 for monthly transportation pass.
Single person expenses without the rent estimated at $1,100 in New York and $1,114 in San Francisco.
Gasoline or petrol is cheaper in the USA and comes with $0.69 per liter. That’s probably why people in the USA prefer to use cars over public transportation.
Buying properties will cost you on average less than in Germany – the average apartment price per square meter is 2 times lower.
Eating out in the restaurant is more expensive in the USA, although fast-food is cheaper there. Groceries are on 55% more expensive in the USA than in Germany. On another hand, Americans pay 22% less for clothing.
There are definitely some advantages and disadvantages of the cost of living in both countries.
The average prices accordingly to the Numbeo:
- Meal in restaurant 13 EUR
- Cappuccino 3,75 EUR
- Water 1,36 EUR
- Local Cheese (1kg) 9,34 EUR
- Apples (1kg) 4,09 EUR
- Monthly Pass for public transportation 65 EUR
- Utilities 141 EUR
- Apartment (1 bedroom) 1,219 EUR
- Average Monthly Net Salary 3,186 EUR
International Expat Life
Germany is quite an International country, especially cities like Berlin, Frankfurt. For example, even relatively small (700,000 people) german town Düsseldorf has 8,400 Japanese inhabitants.
Germany has 12 million of foreigners in the country which is about 12% of the total population.
Some sectors in Germany require skilled workers from abroad. Shortages are especially evident in the electrical and mechanical engineering fields.
It’s also a good place for English speaking IT professionals, engineers, researches, university professors, and high-level executives. At many other positions, expats will need some knowledge of German to be able to work in Germany.
Companies like L’Oreal, Henkel, BMW, Trivago create a great international atmosphere, and it’s without mentioning Berlin, Munchen, and Hamburg.
But don’t forget its a German-speaking country, amount of expats is significantly lower than in the USA.
There is probably no country that beats the US in the number of immigrants and international workers. However, more and more Americans become expats and leave the country, while immigrants come coming.
The country has 47 million immigrants of 328.2 million total population or 14%. In reality not really a huge difference with Germany.
The highest concentrations of expats in the US are in New York, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.
The unfair advantage of moving as a foreigner to the USA is you don’t need to learn another language as in the case of Germany!
The US is a popular expat destination and one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world with large communities of Mexican, Spanish, Italian, African American, Puerto Rican, Indian and Chinese communities.
New York and Wall Street are the most famous financial districts in the world and many expats are based here if they are engaged in any type of finance-related job.
The biggest prospects for expats in the USA exist in high technology or niche markets. The US Department of Labor has forecast a requirement for 900,000 engineers in biomedical, software, and life sciences.
Despite the great opportunities, American immigration law makes it difficult for foreigners to come and work in the country. Receiving the Green card becomes more complicated with the years, Germany is more open and easier for immigrants and expats.
Standard of Living
Both countries have a high standard of living. However, Germany has less poverty, social disbalance, and tensions, or refugees than the USA.
Overall Germany has a high living standard: a clean environment, very low crime rates, lots of leisure-time and cultural attractions, well-developed infrastructure, good transportation.
Most people very satisfied with life in Germany, they have many rights, freedom, and their voices are heard by the government. To be exact, 93% of the German population is satisfied with their current life, when in the US this number is just around 80%.
The ratio of prices and earnings is well matched, you can find ways to save but also to spend a lot. Frankfurt has the 9th highest wages in the world and the relatively low cost of living, thus people there can afford more.
The crime rates are extremely low, therefore Germany is a saver place than the USA.
The standard of living is also high in the USA but it also depends on which aspects are we talking about. Health care is expensive and not at the same level as in Germany. The USA also has a bigger gap between poor and rich, than Germany.
However, the United States ranks at the top in housing, find an apartment is easier and more affordable than in Germany. Income is higher in some fields, people have higher purchasing power due to the lower taxes.
Other difference in the standard of living is that crime rates are much higher in the US and especially in murdering.
Another problem with the USA which Germany doesn’t have it’s that too many university graduates can’t find a job. Some might work in different fields after college to earn at least some money.
Germany is a diverse country with a large variety of different landscapes. It stretches from the North and Baltic seas to the Alps in the south, where the border with Austria also lies.
The landscape is predominantly flat and the climate is moderate with chilly temperatures. But there are also highlands, rolling hills, lowlands, beautiful lakes, and rivers. Forest covers a huge percentage of Germand land, almost a third.
You can spend your weekends wandering in the forests, sitting by many rivers and lakes, hiking hills, and mountains or exploring beaches and islands in the north.
The USA surely beats Germany at this point. The size of the country plays the role here and the USA in times bigger than Germany and located in different climate zones.
The USA is the world”s third-largest country in size and the third-largest in terms of population. Located in North America, the country is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean.
The USA has 50 states, almost each of them has something special in its nature and landscape.
From the tropical beaches of Florida to the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, from the rolling lands and barren deserts in the west to the huge areas of dense wilderness in the north.
If you really wanting diversity and exiting traveling experience the USA will be the right choice. Europe it’s all about culture and not much about the landscape.
The German public transportation system is well connected and really punctual. Many cities have a subway or some kind or intercity transportation, all cities have local busses.
The prices might be a bit high, so you want to look for train discounts or special deals, for example, traveling in the group gonna be always beneficial.
With student card, you will get a discount too, especially for a monthly or yearly pass, which is normally expensive.
Main big cities in Germany connected with high-speed trains which makes the life of business travelers easier as there is almost no need for taking a flight.
If you prefer to travel eco, Germany is also pedestrian and bike-friendly, each city has mandatory biking roads which make riding a bike hassle-free.
Compared to cities in the US, drivers pay more attention here. Fewer cyclists ignore the rules of the road as well.
Generally speaking, any person living in Germany can live their life comfortably without owning any motor vehicles.
Public transportation in the USA is different than in Germany but it exists! In big cities, you will find a subway, in smaller you might wanna use a bus. However, if you live in the suburbs, buses will not run as often and you may have to find alternative methods to get around.
Overall, infrastructure isn’t that good as in Germany and if you are living outside of the town you need a car.
Taxis services are expensive the same as in Germany, but in the USA you can use a Uber! This is a huge advantage.
Bicycles used as well it can be a great way to get around in the local area. If you are living in a city, the bus system will likely be pretty extensive, as with most of the public transportation systems in large urban areas.
In the US, not having a car can be a disadvantage, when in Germany many people live their life without even thinking to own a car. Furthermore, cheap fuel makes owning a car much cheaper than in Germany.
If you move to Germany, then you can expect to eat a lot of foods that are part of the traditional cuisine. However, you can find some Italian, Turkish, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese food throughout Germany that will give you some variety.
However, Germany has fewer chain restaurants and chain stores than the US and more family-owned places.
Due to the big numbers of Turks and Arabs in the German population, the Middle East and Turkish food especially fast food like döner kebab and falafel can be found everywhere.
German food mostly contains pork in different forms, like for example sausage as well as potatoes and pickled foods.
If you are vegetarian, you might have a hard time, in the south and throughout the country, pork is the main meal element. German cuisine varies with the region, in the north, they eat lots of fish.
The United States is a melting pot of cultures as a result of the many immigrants that came here from various other countries across the globe.
Therefore they have picked up foods from other nations these include American Indians, African Americans, Asians, Europeans, and Latin Americans.
Generally, Americans love meat and potatoes, the same as Germans, but potatoes comes often as fries. Mexican food is very common in the USA due to the big amount of Spanish speaking people.
Most of the fast foods came from the USA which automatically became their traditional and very popular foods such as hot dogs, burgers, pizzas, hamburgers, burritos, tacos, and others.
Consequently, food in the USA is more international when Germans prefer to eat more of their traditional dishes.
In Germany, you can enjoy 13 national holidays additionally to your minimum of 20 weekdays leave.
You are legally guaranteed a paid minimum entitlement of 20 days of vacation if you work five days a week on a full-time job, and 24 if you work 6 days a week. If you are disabled you get 5 days more. If you are underage, you also get more (between 25 – 30 days, depending on your age).
In practice, almost everybody often gets even more vacation days (between 25 – 30 days), and on average Germans have 29 days. These days, of course, are paid by the employer.
Total: 38 days of (vacation plus national holidays)
In the U.S employees receive 15 days of paid vacation per year and an additional 10 days of public holidays. In total it comes to 25 days off in the year, which is almost 2 weeks fewer than in Germany.
Entertainment/Things to See and Do
Both countries offer a variety of different things to do, see, explore. Germany is more cultural, visiting historical signs is very popular, day or weekend city trips as well.
Germany also offers many cultural events and entrainment opportunities such as concerts, festivals, celebrations, parties as well as nature spots, parks, lakes and rivers, cities to visit countless architectural sights, cathedrals, etc.
Germany is a diverse country, you can do weekend gateways only within the country and still haven’t seen everything.
Due to the size and position of the country, the US has a very diversified nature, landscape, and climate. While living in the USA you can explore the countless amount of interesting places and probably you won’t cover all of them.
Each state has something special about it and climate is different as well. The natural beauty of the US is still very untouchable and undiscovered in comparison to the German natural reserves, which everyone knows and has visited.
The USA is full of national parks, epic mountains, picturesque hiking trails, and stunning beaches. The diversity is definitely on point in the USA.
America is so large that you can travel for miles on the highways between main cities and towns without seeing another soul.
However, the country has almost no history or historical buildings and places, if architecture, traditions and heritage somethings you are interested in Germany will be a better choice.
Airports in Germany and The USA
Germany has many airports (539), many of them international, and some only domestic or charter ones. The country connected well itself with trains and flights between big cities.
In the USA you can find some of the largest airports in the world with flights to most of the countries. In total, the country has 19,700 airports and 149 of them are international. Whereas in Germany only 36 offer flights to other countries.
However, Germany has many options for flying with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Wizzair and others for a small price. So you can travel domestically and internationally for less than 50 EUR. In fact, popular flight to Mallorca offered for as much as 30 EUR both ways.