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Studying in Spain vs. Germany: Which is better?

Expatrio 2024-02-15
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Spain and Germany are two of the most popular destinations for international students. Both countries have a lot to offer, but which one is the best choice for you? 

This article will compare Spain and Germany based on 15 key factors you should consider. We will also give our verdict on which country is the best destination for international students.


Why should you study in Europe?

There are many reasons why you should consider studying in Europe:

  • Tuition fees in top universities in Europe are lower than in the United States and Canada.
  • The cost of living is much cheaper in Europe than in North America or Australia.
  • You have the option to work while studying in Europe.
  • The visa requirements are easier to meet than in other parts of the world.

Now, let's dive into the top 15 key factors you should consider before choosing which country in Europe to study in.


1. Tuition fees

Luckily for international students, tuition fees for European universities are affordable, and the quality of education is also high.

In Spain, tuition fees for international students depend on whether you are coming from an EU or non-EU country. Degree programs for non-EU students can cost anything from €700 up to €15,000 per year for a Bachelor's degree. This gets even more expensive if you are applying for a Masters degree.

On the contrary, there are no tuition fees at most public universities in Germany. However, you would still have to pay a semester fee between €100 to €350 to cover administrative costs. In many cases, this fee includes your student union membership and public transportation valid for the whole semester.

If going to a public university is not an option for you, you can always opt to study at a private one. Keep in mind that the cost to attend a private university in both countries can reach over €20,000 per year.


2. Living costs

The cost of living in Spain is generally cheaper than in Germany. For instance, a meal in a restaurant costs around €15 in Spain while it costs about €20 in Germany.

As in any country, rent prices will be much higher in bigger cities than in rural, less populated destinations. In Spain, average rent prices range from €400 - €900 for a 1-bedroom apartment. In Germany, you can expect to average between €500 to €1,346 for the same.

However, salaries in Germany tend to be higher than salaries in Spain, which is important to take into consideration.


3. University admission rate

Spain has a much higher university admission rate than Germany. There are over 70 public universities in Spain, and they each have an excellent admission rate. For example, the best university in Spain, Universitat de Barcelona, has an admission rate of 75%.

On the other hand, there are almost 350 public universities in Germany, and they have a pretty low admission rate of below 30%. You will have a better chance of getting accepted into a Spanish university than a German one.


4. Option to study and work

In Spain, international students are only allowed to work for 20 hours per week. However, you would need to obtain a work permit to do so while providing proof that you have another source of income.

In Germany, international students can work part-time for 20 hours per week (240 days per year) or full-time for 40 hours per week (120 days per year) without requiring an additional work permit.


5. Taxes

In Spain, you are required to pay income tax on any money you earn from working. The rate for income tax in Spain is between 19% and 47%.

The tax rates for Germany are slightly lower and many students take on mini-jobs which are often exempt from tax. Additionally, you can earn a tax-free income by making below €10,908  per year. Your wage will be taxed between 14% and 45% when you earn above that amount.

6. Visa requirements

The visa requirements for Spain and Germany are both reasonably easy to meet. To get a student visa for both countries, you would need to provide proof of enrolment at a recognized university, proof of sufficient funds to cover your living expenses, and health insurance coverage.

To prove that you have enough funds to study in Germany, you would need to deposit €11,208 into a Blocked Account, demonstrating that you can live in Germany sufficiently for one year. This amount is only set at €6,454 for a whole year in Spain.

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7. Option to live and work after graduating

After you graduate, you can stay in Spain for up to one year while looking for a job. If you find a job within that time frame, you can apply for a work visa. If you don't secure a job, your residency permit cannot be extended or renewed.

In Germany, international students are allowed to stay for 18 months after graduation. This period should give fresh graduates more than enough time to find full-time employment in Germany.

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8. Number of international students

There are more than 600,000 international students in Spain. Germany has less, at around 350,000 international students in German universities in 2022. However, the country has seen a rise of close to a 90% increase in international students since 2010.

This figure means that you may have more opportunities to meet new people of various nationalities when studying in Spain versus Germany. However, Germany is increasingly becoming more attractive for international students in recent years due to its free higher education and good quality of life.


9. Location

Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, France, and Portugal. The country has a diverse landscape with a long stretch of beaches and great mountains for hiking trips.

Germany is located in Central Europe and shares borders with the North Sea, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This location makes Germany a great place to study if you want to travel around Europe during your free time.


10. Safety

While both Spain and Germany are considered to be very safe countries, Germany is the clear winner. In a global safety ranking for safety and peace, Spain ranks 32nd while Germany ranks 15th. Violent crimes are rare in both countries. However, street or petty crimes are still happening in larger cities like Berlin or Barcelona. Everyone should be extra vigilant when living in big cities, no matter what country.


11. Health system

The health care systems in Spain and Germany are both excellent. Even though healthcare is free for Spanish citizens, international students can still get the same access by getting health insurance coverage from private providers.

In Germany, everyone is covered by mandatory health insurance, either by public or private insurers. This requirement ensures anyone living in Germany access to affordable healthcare at monthly health insurance rates.


12. Employability after graduating

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU as of August 2023, at around 11.5%. 

Germany is doing better in this regard with its low unemployment rates (just 3% as of August 2023) and high employability for graduates. Germany is home to many multinational companies, billion-dollar startups, and thousands of new jobs every year.

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13. Language barrier

The official language in Spain is Spanish, while the official language in Germany is German. However, English is only widely spoken in Germany.

In Spain, nearly 60% of the population cannot speak, read, or write English. Of course, this number doesn't reflect tourist-dominated cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, where you can get by without speaking Spanish.

On the other hand, Germany ranks 10th on the English Proficiency Index. You would have no trouble communicating with the locals in Germany, especially in big cities. However, you would still need some basic German when dealing with German bureaucracy.


14. Weather

Spain is known for its hot, sunny weather. The country enjoys an average of 3,000 sunshine hours per year. Germany has a more temperate climate, with average temperatures ranging from negative degrees Celsius in winter and 30 degrees Celsius in summer. It also rains more in Germany than in Spain, but you can still enjoy plenty of sunshine throughout the year.


15. Culture

Spain is a renowned tourist destination for its sunny beaches, tasty food, and vibrant culture. There is no shortage of things to see and do in Spain, from Flamenco dancing to bullfighting.

Germany is an excellent place for history and culture lovers. The country is home to many famous composers, writers, and artists. You can explore the rich culture of Germany by visiting its many beautiful villages, ancient castles, and lively cities.


Spain vs. Germany? Which is the best study destination?

While both Spain and Germany are great study destinations, they do have some differences. Both countries are affordable and have plenty to offer to international students wanting to study in Europe. Germany clearly wins for job prospects post-graduation, as well as ranks higher for safety. Whereas Spain arguably has better weather for those who love the sun. 

There is no clear winner when it comes to choosing between Spain and Germany as the best study destination.

Deciding what the best study destination is ultimately comes down to finding the right fit that you think is best for you.

Consider your budget, preferred learning environment, and personal interests before deciding. There are online groups where you can talk to current students or expats who live in both countries to get their insights and opinions. Whatever country you choose, make sure to enjoy your time there and learn as much as possible!

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