In 2006 about 155 000 Germans left their country - more than ever before apart from the postwar wave of emigration in the 1950s. However, many recent German emigrants return to their home country. Although the question of why this rise has occurred is now arousing much attention from the general public and in research, comprehensive analyses have not so far been possible owing to the lack of an adequate data base. As part of two special surveys for the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study more than 2 000 persons aged over 16 were questioned in the first half of 2007 about emigration and living abroad. Many Germans have at one time seriously thought about moving abroad, but very few have concrete plans to emigrate, and a good half of these only intend to spend a certain length of time abroad. A more detailed analysis of the characteristics of Germans who are willing to emigrate shows that existing social ties in the country of destination and past experience abroad play a crucial role in the emergence of ideas of emigrating. Persons who are self-employed are particularly likely to leave Germany for ever, but university graduates do so particularly rarely.