As the two powerhouses of the European Union, France and Germany play a central role in the politics of continental Europe. They also boast two of the top economies in the world, which is why learning French or German is often useful for pursuing an international career.
Yet, for all these neighboring countries have in common, each has its own distinct geography, industries, culture and way of life. If you’re considering a move but haven’t made up your mind between France vs. Germany, consider the following aspects before making your final decision.
- The natural outlook of France vs. Germany
- Living conditions in France vs. Germany
- The economy and cost of living in France vs. Germany
The natural outlook of France vs. Germany
As the third-biggest country in Europe, France spreads across roughly 213,000 square miles. That’s about 1.5 times the size of Germany, which covers about 137,838 square miles.
France’s geography and climate
With such a large surface, it’s perhaps no surprise that France shares its borders with eight countries, one of them being Germany itself. Beaches and dramatic coastlines lend appeal to France’s western, northern, and southern edges, whereas its physical geography is dotted with farmland, forests and stunning mountain ranges such as the Alps and the Pyrenees.
This mosaic explains the varied weather throughout France. The continental climate is defined by cold winters and hot summers, while the oceanic climate features milder temperatures and heavier rainfall. In the south, the Mediterranean Sea plays a big part in the appeal of the French Riviera with its sunny beaches. Of course, if you prefer the cold and snow, the alpine mountain climate might be more to your taste.
Germany’s geography and climate
Though smaller, Germany remains one of the largest countries in Europe and benefits from a central position. It actually surpasses France in the number of countries it shares borders with.
Like France, Germany features a wide and diverse variety of landscapes, with plains in the north and east, mountains in the south and forested hills in the west. Overall, Germany has a fairly mild, marine climate, though the regions in the south are better known for their warm summers and cold winters.
Living conditions in France vs. Germany
Though actual diets and ways of life vary between individual people, the French and Germans are sometimes described in terms of stereotypes (which can be partly true, if incomplete).
Longevity and life expectancy
In terms of health and longevity, life expectancy in Germany is slightly lower than in France. According to official figures from 2023, German women live an average of 83.2 years and German men an average of 78.3 years. By contrast, according to 2022 data from Statista, the life expectancy is 85.3 years for French women and 79.4 years for French men.
French people also enjoy more space on average than their German neighbors. This is because, although Germany is smaller than France, its population is larger. In 2022, Germany recorded nearly 85 million inhabitants, whereas France counted just over 68 million inhabitants as of January 2023. This means the population density in Germany is more than twice that of France!
Both countries are highly developed and benefit from great infrastructure. Both can boast a beautiful countryside with plenty of historical sites, from the grand Loire Valley castles in France to the fairytale-like castles of Germany, such as Neuschwanstein Castle, Eltz Castle and Hohenzollern Castle. Germany has also led the way in protecting the environment and developing the use of renewable energy.
The economy and cost of living in France vs. Germany
As the largest national economy in Europe and the fourth-largest economy in the world, it’s fair to say Germany is the powerhouse of the European continent. According to data from the International Monetary Fund, the German Gross Domestic Product reached $48,640 per capita in 2022. The unemployment rate is also fairly low, at 5.6% as of July 2023. Germany is particularly famous for its technologically advanced industries, which famously include auto manufacturing, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering.
As the seventh-largest economy in the world, France follows not too far behind. In 2022, its GDP amounted to $42,410 per capita. Though the unemployment rate has decreased in recent years, it’s still higher than in Germany. In the second quarter of 2023, it inched up to 7.2%. The economy is diverse, although the service sector clearly dominates. From tourism and hospitality to fashion and cinema, many industries have allowed France to shine abroad.
Based on detailed figures from Numbeo, the cost of living is higher in France than in Germany. This is especially true when it comes to consumer prices for clothing, groceries and restaurants. In addition, the average salary after tax is lower in France, which means French people have a smaller local purchasing power than their German neighbors. However, certain essentials, such as rent, utilities and transport, may be less expensive overall in many parts of France.
Living in Germany vs. living in France: Spot the difference!
When comparing France vs. Germany, it quickly becomes clear that these two top European players are incredibly different. Set on each side of the Rhine River, the two countries feature unique geographies, cultures, ways of life and economies. Which only makes the choice easier, depending on your personal interests and circumstances!