Dealing with loneliness in Germany


Expatriation can be a fun and exciting adventure, but it can also be a bit lonely at times. Please share with us some tips for dealing with loneliness.

What are some potential factors that lead to loneliness when moving to Germany?

How do you deal with feelings of loneliness?

Is it easy to expand or create a social network in Germany?

Are there any activities or events that encourage social meet ups and networking opportunities?

Thank you for sharing your experience,


Loneliness is a big deal here, particularly if one or more of these factors describe your situation (others may have more factors to consider than I):

1. Not working
2. Susceptibility to alcohol
3. Married
4. Accustomed to privacy
5. Extraverted
6. Intraverted
7. Comfort food, weight control
8. General cultural, legal and personality anomalies

#1: For me, working is a must in a long-term situation.  I always separate my social network members from my professional networks. This is critical everywhere including home.

#2: German beer is amazing.   Liquor selection is limited.  Don't bother asking for a Martini, I've not met any bar tender who knows what it is.  You can train bar tenders, and a sense of humor is always nice so as not to belittle anyone, for example they will ask which glass, because germans are raised with a concept of this is correct, and this isn't,  which is problematic,  because it stifles innovation,  but I digress.   Tell him no, no, not that one and point to an ashtray and smile this one.  But seriously,  alcoholism is really prevalent.   Particularly here, not because of culture,  not because of amazing beer, but reasons I stay clear of, so I won't give opinion, but be careful. There are differences in culture that matter, however,  covered in other sections below (I doubt I'll have the room to finish this dissertation... sorry...

#3: Men and women out in public are considered to be rude if they have eye contact   let alone smiling or stopping to chat.  Especially if you have a wedding band.  So to me, it's rude and presumptuous to feel that way.  I'm not unfaithful,  you're not all that, and it's all about what's correct and what's not, so again social progress is stifled.   I miss seeing an attractive person and catching a smile.  That's not any obligation to even stop to chat. It's just human.  But not here.

4: Auslanders will be interrogated by some, but it's not an unfriendly discussion, albeit somewhat masked by curiosity,  but living here you realize it runs deep -- do not take it personally -- you'll be frustrated and for no reason.  I'm not being racist; why do I mention it then?  Because here, if I don't,  then I  leave myself wide open to be assumed as one, which is the opposite from the general assumption in the USA (please don't zack me for generalizing; it is not pointing fingers; it's a two way street). All I'm saying is,  there's  notion that in Europe (not generalizing about Germany),  the extreme left has destroyed everything and so some may view you as part of the problem. Obviously,  avoid talking politics,  but you'll find that many germans don't avoid it at all-- interestingly USA politics.   They're experts in ways that after 4 years in Germany,  I wouldn't dream of pretending to know about German politics.   Please be aware that  some will be expert conspiracy theorists.  Just let it go.  Just nod and say "interesting,  listen I have to go, I'm sorry " because that's no less superficial and actually more constructive. Lastly,  german speaks with more potential to spray or blow air at you.   For me, I have a personal space that seems normal, like maybe 24 inches away. Here, that may not be enough,  and, depth perception gets worse and worse with alcohol to the point where I almost step off a barstool and they almost fall off because they lean into you  -- American people do the same thing, but even st a table without  being drunk, if you are paranoid about germs, go ahead and cover your beer because nobody even notices it.  It's not insulting them.  You know why? I think for a very cool reason-- they're looking you in the eye.  It's not mean.  Don't overreact.   Nobody's meaning any insulting behavior.   Lastly,  what may sound like perfect German to you isn't necessarily coming from a german.  In other words,  don't assume something coming from a fluent speaker means it's a native german.  In all fairness,  though the USA is also multicultural,  we have Canada,  Mexico the Pacific and Atlantic,  while Germany borders other countries which border other countries.  You drive 8 hours in the states you're in a different state.  Here,  you're in a different country.

#5&6: Both are listed because there's pros and cons.  I think you should be aware of perception that you are responsible for, such as being really extraverted towards a few people,  but not all people.   Seems normal for americans, but here, Germany has a really friendly protocol.  Do not clink a glass without looking each one in the eye.  Don't drink to something.  Drink to someone. Don't get weirded out if they get touchy-feely.  Don't make any public jokes.  Joking is everywhere in USA bars, unheard of here, and,  at someone's expense is not funny here either. Especially here. Don't talk about others.

#7: Spicy foods (here, sehr sehr scharff means a little extra pepper).  You can train restaurants to do it your way, but I believe being grateful and tipping is important in any country,  but I tend to stand alone in this view despite the clear fact it works for me.

#8: legally, it is critical to understand that laws here are not the epitome of justice.  Meaning justice is, like the USA,  handled in court. But the laws are based on control.  It's really easy to get into trouble because some you g people,  doesn't matter if they're German or not,  can hide behind these laws knowing you can be dragged away even though you were I  the right.  Don't get all big and bad here.  Don't be tricked into aggression.  You'll pay dearly.  Don't flip off a driver -- no witnesses necessary,  it's  3k euros fine, with no more than 30 days to pay it. 

All of these things may not seem relevant to loneliness in Germany,  but if you're staying here long term, especially if it's not because you wanted to (I love Germany and German people,  but my contracts are why I'm here).

If you don't want this posted,  no problem I'm probably not going to be describing the norm for 90 percent of expats, but it's been a long haul.  Being American is not bad nor great here. It's being kind and respectful; if you have that, then being American makes you rare,  because though I love our troops,  there's no doubt they've left a trace of disrespect for Germany  -- doesn't matter if that's true or not, that's a perception.

Forgive me, I forgot to add weight control.   Low carbs highly recommended if you want to control weight.  German food is awesome.   Really great.  Much healthier that USA fast food,  but just as fattening Imho.  But I managed to lose weight here, like 33 kilos, and chefs laughed heartily slapping me on the back saying "ohohoho... you will not lose weight in Germany " lol

Hmmm, I have to say that I find the posts from IPB68 rather strange. I’m not sure what point(s) are trying to be made. It sounds like a lot of senseless babble and a lot of clichés. The language is also weird. Doesn’t sound like native American at all; more like someone with a decent vocabulary but troubles with grammar and/or logic. Or maybe it was just written as a drunken rant.
I don’t think eye contact is a problem in Germany but making initial contact with new people is difficult. Women don’t generally like being chatted up by overly forward males. One usually meets people through work or school. Other places are clubs or sport groups, for religious people church or other places of worship.

I think it is o.k. for someone who has too much time on his hands to write a long and occasionally incoherent essay under the header of "loneliness in Germany".

beppi :

I think it is o.k. for someone who has too much time on his hands to write a long and occasionally incoherent essay under the header of "loneliness in Germany".

Anecdotal accounts can be very enlightening. But one needs to be careful when they try to make sweeping  generalizations based on limited experiences. It’s easy to project ones concerns; like someone dealing with alcohol problems assuming the problem is very wide-spread. I see concerning tends among  young people’s drinking habits that revel in excess. Going out on a Saturday evening in Stuttgart now reminds me of being in Scandinavia. Yet, the underlying problems of extreme shyness and lack of social contact don’t seem nearly as extreme in Germany. Loneliness is probably often a factor in problematic alcohol consumption but sorry, plenty of us can go out and enjoy a couple of drinks without having a problem with it – nor blame every excess on loneliness.

Its hard in Germany.. only if u r very good in geeman lang thn u hv social acty..otherwise german keep 1 step back..

Nad 555 :

Its hard in Germany.. only if u r very good in geeman lang thn u hv social acty..otherwise german keep 1 step back..

How is that different from any other country?
(By the way: The English of your post indicates that you may have communication problems in other languages as well.)

Life may seem or tend to be lonely cos of the way or the feeling of life moving so fast.  As a young working mom, i tend to be always on the move. Either to pick or drop the baby to the various places the baby needs to be dropped and or picked, then rush to work, then after work repeat. This goes all week. Over the weekend, its either cleaning up, running after weekend termins. There is barely time to just chill./meet up with the world. Also,finding time to hang out with people seems to be a hustle and i think this is where we end up losing friends, hence the loneliness. How do people cope?

Also meeting up locals is a challenge. To find a person with similar taste/sense of humor who is not an ausländer is a challenge. The language is a barrier. I think with better German knowledge it's easier to break that ice and just reach out to other people. The comfort of hanging out with people of same country of origin  kinda creates that hinderance of reaching out. Expanding the cirlce may be a step towards killing the loneliness..i think!

Hi Priscilla,

It's nice to hear from you regarding dealing with loneliness in Germany.

Thanks for starting a new thread.

looking forward to see more sharings.

have a nice day.


Tom, my first impression was also that the 1st reply was a drunken rant.

Totally agree with Beppi, I lived in several countries, and foreigners ALWAYS complain it's hard to get to know the locals.

Of course it's 'hard'. They have their lives, they have their circle of friends, routines. Why would they try and become part of ours, just because we're foreigners?

The thing I will say though - as a mother to young children it's harder here to meet people / other mothers than in the UK, where we've just moved from. A lot of children here go home by themselves and school finishes at different times each day.

In the UK all kids are picked up, every day, at the same time, by the same parents, so it's easy to get to know the others and connect. That's just circumstantial, as other than that, my experience is that the Germans in NRW are very friendly and welcoming, can't comment on Germans from other regions.

I should preface this by saying I'm in a rotten mood and sick of dealing with my Landsleute/countryfolk...but I think I can do this without ranting.

I can't relate to feeling lonely here, but I am a homebody and probably a borderline hermit. I prefer books to people most of the time. However, the friends I've made in here in Germany are among the best I've ever had. We see each other every few months and talk about important things going on in the world and in our lives. They are honest, direct, and candid, and they want to discuss controversial topics! - such a beautiful change from the countryfolk I still deal with, including family.

One of my good friends - who is my parents' age - I met at a Kochkurs/cooking class. Our neighbors are much more fun than we are. Other friends of mine are former students - many from Syria, one from Scotland... I started teaching because I had time to volunteer, and that developed into a job. I visited an English-speaking group a few years ago and met some really nice people - but got scared away by the sing-along bit at the end. Do a google search for one of those in your area, and you're bound to fine one.

There are tons of opportunties for meeting people here, beginning with volunteering. Sure, it helps if you can speak German well enough to get by, but once you show the effort, many Germans will be willing to speak English or at least Denglisch with you.

Parents of small children, the word to learn is "Krabbelgruppe". It's a weekly local play group. Bake something from "home" for your neighbors. Americans, Nestle Tollhouse chocolate cookies. Every German I know goes mad for them.

I live in a small town out in the country in Baden-Württemberg, and I have found plenty of ways to get involved and meet people - when I want to. :-)

If you are feeling lonely in Germany, then you can join one of the thousands Vereine and also volunteer for the thousands of causes Germans love to unterstützten.  You will have something on your calendar every day and will interact with people you share some interest with.

I will tell you that loneliness in Germany can stem from the Winters or grey rainy days when one does not want to go out.   Loneliness is also more evident in large cities rather than small towns where everyone knows your business.  Integrating into such a town will be almost impossible for an expat in my opinion.   

I am living in CA now, and hope to Retire in Germany.   I have US citizenship (the biggest regret of my life).

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