The war is long over, but who won in the end, Germany or UK England? Historians say that the United Kingdom and the Allies, but the modern reality on the ground says otherwise. In addition to official data, we will also look at the experiences of those who actually live in these two countries. I live and work in the UK – England since 2018, and my friends here have been living in various areas of England (London, Manchester) for more than 6 years. I have not lived in Germany personally (just in France) so I asked friends who have live there for research material. Three of them responded, out of which one is a doctor in the Dusseldorf area for 11 years, one works in retail in the Stuttgart area for more than 15 years and one came more recently (3 years) also in Dusseldorf metro area to work in the hospitality sector. Here is what I gathered from all of it:
- Wages in Germany were already considerably higher than in the UK even before the Brexit referendum, which led to a decline in the value of the pound sterling, and this trend will continue in 2022. In 2020, the average gross wage in Germany was of EUR 47928 or GBP 40866 (at today’s exchange rate). In England UK – the average salary in the country is about 30000 Pounds per year or 35180 EUR at today’s rate. And the pound might continue to fall in 2022 due to the lack of strategy on the part of the British government and the general lack of management of the entire Brexit process; It is true that you pay more taxes in Germany, but even so, your NET income for the same job will still be higher there, no matter how you look at it (there are of course exceptions).
- And since we’re on the subject of TAXES: as I said earlier, at first glance the taxes are higher in Germany, about 42% of your gross income will be retained for stuff like income tax, health insurance, pension contribution, unemployment insurance, etc. In addition to the gross salary taxes, in Germany you also pay the TV and radio tax which costs per home approx. 18 EUR per month. In UK England I pay national taxes only 20% of my gross income. But there is a catch: besides the fact that the gross salary is much lower than in Germany, we also have to pay here from our NET income: Local property tax (aka Council Tax and this is paid even if you are a tenant): 137 Pounds per month (another 5.5%), private pension (it is mandatory to have one because the maximum state pension in the UK is only 718 pounds per month) the employee contribution is at least 3% (I chose 5%), this is usually matched by your employer as well. So in fact we reach a percentage of 30.5% retained out of my UK gross income. There is also a TV license tax of £ 13 per month in England. And that’s before we consider the ridiculously high nursery fees in England. On average, in the UK, a full-time nursery for a child costs £ 1,000 per month! or £ 500 per month if both parents work. In comparison, in Germany, nursery for a child costs between 70 to 150 Euros per month, which in relation to the local salaries, I think is extremely reasonable. The German state encourages parents to work, the British one… not so much.
- Healthcare: The NHS (National Health System in the UK) has been underfunded for many years, while the German medical system has shown its value during the pandemic. This, together with poor relaxed pandemic management, has brought the UK to the forefront of Covid 19 deaths in Europe (131,000), while Germany, although it has a considerably larger population, got away only with 98,000. Both countries have an aging population.
German hospitals maintain a constant presence in the European charts, while the UK hardly manages to make an appearance in the top 20.
In UK – England it is usually common to have to wait 2 weeks to get an appointment with a doctor, and even then chances are you won’t get to see an actual doctor, just a nurse. Us East European immigrants in UK have a joke saying about the British healthcare system: “any disease is treated with paracetamol here” and unfortunately in many cases it’s kind of true. In Germany, my friends told me that for non-urgent examinations, the waiting time is quite similar (a couple of weeks), but for more pressing problems, the waiting time decreases significantly. So probably for many people at the level of first contact with the medical system, I don’t think they would see a big difference.
- Road infrastructure: Germany has an extensive motorway network where you can drive on certain segments without speed limits, a total of 12,993 km of motorways (8073 Mi), while the United Kingdom has 4 times less, only 3,700 km (2300 Mi) of motorways. Germany is twice as large as the United Kingdom, so it is still twice as developed compared to the United Kingdom. Bonus: in Germany the speed limit on motorways is 130 Km/h (80.8 Mph), and on some sections of the Autobahn there is no speed limit! In the UK, the maximum you can use on highways is 70 miles per hour (113 Km/h), but due to the numerous and endless construction sites, you will probably encounter lower limits than that.
- Trains: In Germany we have Intercity (ICE) trains that can run at 300 km / h (but rarely does). England UK has train tracks from the 20th century, some of them were upgraded but still can barely reach speeds of 125 miles per hour (201 km/h). One exception for the short connection between London and the English Channel tunnel. Britain is now trying to build HS2, a 330-mile London-to-Birmingham high speed rail, but has been trying for many years and with little success…
- Train fares and public transport: The UK has some of the most ridiculous and absurd prices for train travel in Europe. A monthly subscription for the London tube (subway) + overground train on zones 1-9 can cost you 360 pounds per month (422 EUR)!!! In comparison, in Berlin for areas ABC+ 1 rural district + 1 district-free city, the maximum costs are 176.7 EUR / month.
And this is just the local public transport, if you go to another city by train in England UK, you better brace yourself: a trip tomorrow morning from Manchester to London (2.3 hours ride, about 200 Mi distance or 320 km), will not cost you not less than 152 pounds!
In comparison, a similar distance by train from Hamburg to Berlin, on the same day and at the same time, will cost you with the ICE train between 40 and 75 EUR. That’s almost four times less! It’s just unbelievable really!
In the UK, local public transport outside of London often leaves much to be desired. In small cities, bus frequency is quite low and you have some walking to to to get to the nearest bus stop. Very few large cities have a subway or rapid transit network, and major cities like Birmingham or Manchester can only show a tram at best. Other big British cities like Leeds (population 800 thousands) do not even have a tram and rely solely on buses.
In contrast, in Germany, most cities, even if they do not have a heavy rail subway, they usually have an extensive network of surface trams, suburban trains and the so-called Stadtbahn light rail. This is basically a fast, grade separated tram, that runs partially underground. For example Dusseldorf (population 600 thousand) in the picture below. Everyone living in Germany assured me that public transport is accessible and affordable to anyone. You can easily get around without a car.
- Housing: Unfortunately the UK has some of the smallest houses in Europe. My one bedroom apartment in France had almost the same usable area as my semi-detached 2 bedroom house in England UK. A 2 bedroom house of 60 square meters (645 sq feet) is quite common here in the UK. European statistics show that in the United Kingdom, the average area for a 3-bedroom house is 76 square meters (818 sq feet). I don’t know how to tell you this, but my parents’ 2 bedroom apartment in Romania, has 87 square meters (936 sq feet) and that doesn’t even include the balconies! As per the same statistics, In Germany we have an average of 109 square meters (1173 sq feet).
However, it should be noted that in England UK, even if the living space is small you will probably live in house with a garden. 80% of Britons live in a house, while in Germany, 56.3%, ie half of the population, lives in an apartment. Large apartments indeed, but still apartments.
This is a standard bedroom for guests or children in the UK, where you can put a single bed and a small piece of furniture and … that’s about it. Or you might as well use it as closet or storage room, since it was obviously built for this and not to be human habitation:
Unfortunately, in the UK, not only the houses are cramped, but in general everything is. The streets of the city tend to be an endless repetitive row of terraced houses, cramped with cars on both sides (which makes it seem even more crowded). Not all, but most urban streets look like this. German cities and settlements, in general, tend to be more spread out and let’s just say you won’t get to know your neighbors so closely as you would in Britain. The British will point out again that the island is small and overcrowded, but this argument is a bit bleak when we consider that the population density in England is very similar to that in parts of Germany. I invite you to guess out of the below photos which street is in the UK and which is in Germany: (I should mention that both are in cities of similar size, in good areas of the city, and at equal distance from the city center)
- Passport Power: the German passport is now the 4th strongest in the world, the UK is now in 18th place, but once Brexit is over, it will lose free access to all 27 EU countries, so there is a distinct possibility that it will fall a few more slots…
- Education: In Germany to study at a good university is FREE (you only pay a small administrative fee), while in the UK, the British student pays an average of £ 9,250 per year to study. The British will probably point out that there are student loans in the UK and that you only have to repay them if you earn after graduation above a certain salary threshold or you don’t pay them at all if you don’t earn enough (why the hell did you go to university then?) But no matter how you look at it, a student in England UK, graduates from college owing tens of thousands of pounds for almost the rest of his life (up to the age of 65). And with that in mind as a student, I really don’t care how better British universities claim to be…;
- Geography: Most of the UK tends to be fairly flat or hilly, only when you head north to the Lake District and Scotland does the terrain become interesting. The highest mountain in the UK is 1,345 m and is located somewhere in the remote parts of Scotland. Most of the island is also covered in clouds and rain (except for the south coast). So you can probably say goodbye to any idea of going skiing or sunbathing on the beach (there is a ski resort in Scotland, but chances are are that you will probably get to the Alps faster than you can get there). While in Germany although we have in the North an area with a climate very similar to England, the country does offer a variety of beautiful landscapes and climate zones. In the South we can also check out the Alps (the highest peak at 2,962 m), and if this is not enough for you, there are always a short drive away the ski resorts of Austria, Switzerland or the beaches of France and Italy. It is quite difficult for the British to compete with landscapes like this, but I would be shamelessly lying if I said that Britain does not have beautiful landscapes:
- Food: In England we have Fish and Chips meaning fried Fish with French fries, Curry, peas, sausages, sausages with pea puree, some pies (Shepherd’s pie, kidney pie), baked meat, and English Breakfast. In Germany we have Sausages, a lot of dishes with sausage and cabbage and potatoes, Currywurst (chopped sausages with french fries), Schnitzel, Brezel, some interesting stews, “Rouladen” which is rolled meat and some very good desserts. I would say that none of these countries is a winner in terms of cuisine, but if I had to choose I would go with the German range due to the cultural assimilation with what you find in my country Romania. In both countries, expats are relying a lot on places with imported cuisine (Italian, French, American, etc).
- Bureaucracy: Both countries are highly developed and you can do almost anyting online nowadays (pay taxes, car insurance, open and manage utilities contracts, etc.). Germany used to be somewhat behind here, but the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of services. So we have an equal score here;
- Immigrants integration: in principle, if you speak the local language, in both countries you will easily find work. And the same: in both countries if you are serious and keep a good working ethic, you will gain respect and in time you will no longer be seen as a stranger. Racism exists in both countries, and in both states it depends a lot on the area you live in, neighborhood, religion, skin color and various other factors. Probably unsurprisingly due to a shared cultural heritage, Eastern European immigrants are more easily integrated into communities than Muslims. I would say that Britain has an advantage here due to the expansion of the British Empire, which led to a much greater exposure of the British people to Indians and Africans, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Eastern Europeans will be more easily accepted than the latter. Unfortunately, Romanians are seen in both countries in a double perspective: either respected well educated professionals, or thieves and gypsies who come to beg or steal. It’s a cruel reality, but not much we can do about it.
- How are the people? Well, if we go by the stereotypes: the Germans are introverted workaholic robots that lack a sense of humor and the English are a bunch of lazy alcoholics who complain about everything. And when looking to a percentage of the population that certainly fits the description. It is very difficult to deny some of these traits, even if they do not apply to everyone. I can say that the people I met both in the UK England and in Germany are nice folk with who you get along just fine over a pint of beer, certainly the stereotypes do not apply to everyone.
In both countries some (most) have a complex of superiority over other nations, but let’s be serious who doesn’t? I have yet to meet one Romanian that doesn’t consider himself to be above Moldavians, Bulgarians or Serbs. In general, in both countries the people tend to keep to them selves, everyone minds their own business and rarely takes an open interest of what’s happening across the fence.
- Reputation: Both countries have an impressive reputation and history. Britain is still a global power (the world’s sixth largest economy by GDP, versus Germany which is the world’s fourth largest economy), but for how long? No one knows exactly what the plan is after Brexit and hopefully they may do well on their own. But they may be even more alone if Scotland decides to leave on the same principle that the English decided to leave the EU.
And lastly Germany has one more Ace up it’s sleeve: it’s Made in Germany quality brand and the feeling of being in a respectable and strong country, which leads Europe. Most European nations see it as a role model and look up to it. Nowadays the UK took a punch in it’s credibility and is seen as the one that ran away from the adult table to pursue dreams and fantasies of reviving lost empires. Germany is led by Angela Merkel, Great Britain by the “formidable” Boris Johnson and I think that pretty much sums it up.
What do you think? Which is better on the long term? Germany or UK? I am waiting for your opinions in the comments section or on the Fb GarciaCalavera.com page. You can also drop a like there to subscribe to future articles. Thank you.
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