In these ten countries, expats feel the most at home
In 2023, according to a study by the InterNations network, Mexico, Spain, and Panama are the top countries for expatriates to enjoy a high quality of life. Let's take a closer look at what makes these countries stand out for expats.
1. Mexico: (Once again) the best country for expats
Mexico's top ranking doesn't come as a big surprise, as the country has consistently been among the top 5 since the very first survey in 2014. Additionally, Mexico has consistently ranked among the best in the Expatriate Insider Index for Adaptation over the ten years of conducting the survey (1st place in 2023). Expats consistently rate the friendliness positively: Most describe the population as very friendly in general (91 percent vs. 67 percent worldwide) and towards expats in particular (89 percent vs. 65 percent worldwide).
It is also easy to make friends. About three out of four expats think it is easy to make friends with locals in Mexico, compared to only 43 per cent worldwide. This is probably one of the reasons why expats in Mexico have a personal social network and are satisfied with their social life overall. Mexico also ranks first in the Culture & Welcome subcategory. Expats quickly manage to get used to Mexican culture.
The country also shines in the Expat Essentials Index. The topic of housing stands out in a particularly positive light. According to expats, housing in Mexico is not only easy to find, but also affordable. In general, expats can afford to live well in Mexico. It ranks second in the index on personal finances, with 71 per cent satisfied with the general cost of living, compared to only 44 per cent worldwide. Overall, 80 per cent rate their financial situation positively (vs. 58 per cent worldwide).
Mexico also scores quite well when it comes to working abroad. Expats are particularly satisfied with their personal career opportunities, fair pay and work-life balance (7th place). In the quality of life index, however, the results are mixed (26th place). On the one hand, Mexico ranks only 45th in political stability, and 18 per cent of expats do not feel safe there, more than double the global average (8 per cent). On the other hand, Mexico's recreational opportunities are among the best in the world. Overall, 90 per cent of expats are satisfied with their life in Mexico, compared to 72 per cent worldwide.
2. Spain: Where expats feel at home and happy
Since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, Spain has consistently ranked in the top 10 for quality of life abroad. For example, it has always been among the countries with the best ratings for leisure activities and once again takes the top spot in 2023. The majority of expats (88 percent) are satisfied with Spain's culture and nightlife, compared to 68 percent worldwide. Furthermore, over nine out of ten respondents are happy with leisure sports opportunities (vs. 75 percent worldwide).
Fortunately, Spain's climate and weather make it easy for expats to enjoy outdoor activities. While Spain just misses a top 10 placement in the Adaptation Index, it comes close. It ranks 6th in the Culture & Welcome subcategory. Four out of five expats feel at home in Spain, which is 18 percentage points higher than the global average (62 percent).
However, Spain performs less favorably in the Working Abroad Index (ranked 34th). Less than half of expats (49 percent) believe their career prospects have improved through the move abroad (compared to 59 percent worldwide), and 36 percent are dissatisfied with the local job market (vs. 26 percent worldwide). Nevertheless, the country excels in the Work & Leisure subcategory, particularly in terms of work-life balance (73 percent satisfied vs. 63 percent worldwide).
Financially, Spain does not pose significant issues for expats. It ranks 13th in the Personal Finance Index, and more than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) are content with the cost of living, compared to only 44 percent worldwide. In the Expat Essentials Index, Spain also secures the 13th spot in housing costs out of 53 countries. Overall, 87 percent of expats are satisfied with their life in Spain, compared to a global average of 72 percent.
The top ten countries for expats are located outside of Europe, with the exception of Spain and Portugal.
3. Panama: Where expats can easily find a flat
Expats in Panama experience a particularly smooth transition to life abroad. The country ranks in the top 3 worldwide in the subcategories of Making Friends and Culture & Welcome. Most expats (82 percent) have a personal social network (compared to 58 percent worldwide) and quickly make local friends (74 percent vs. 43 percent worldwide). Additionally, they feel at home (81 percent vs. 62 percent worldwide) and welcome (84 percent vs. 67 percent worldwide) in Panama.
Although Panama receives average ratings in the Quality of Life Index, expats appreciate the climate, weather, and air quality. Panama performs least favorably in the Working Abroad Index. It ranks among the ten lowest-scoring countries, particularly due to issues with the local job market and job security. However, Panama excels in the Work & Leisure subcategory. Panama also achieves excellent results in the Personal Finance Index, with 80 percent of expats content with their financial situation (compared to 58 percent worldwide).
The Expat Essentials Index is another highlight for Panama. While expats sometimes face challenges when opening a bank account, they find it easy to locate and afford housing (83 percent satisfied vs. 49 percent worldwide). Overall, 81 percent of expats are content with their life in Panama, compared to 72 percent worldwide.
4. Malaysia: Where life is affordable for expats
Malaysia stands out in the Personal Finance Index and ranks 3rd in terms of cost of living. Expats in Malaysia believe their household income is sufficient for a comfortable life and are satisfied with their financial situation (69 percent vs. 58 percent worldwide). In the Quality of Life Index (29th place), Malaysia receives mixed results. Expats are very satisfied with travel opportunities and culinary diversity but face challenges with safety, with 26 percent finding it difficult to express their opinions openly (vs. 15 percent worldwide). Another 22 percent are dissatisfied with political stability (vs. 13 percent worldwide).
In the Adaptation Index, Malaysia performs better than average (ranked 17th) and excels in the Making Friends subcategory. Over three-quarters of expats (77 percent) find it easy to adapt to the local culture. Malaysia lands in the middle of the Working Abroad Index (ranked 31st). Expats rate their working hours poorly (ranked 37th) but believe they are fairly compensated for their work. Malaysia shines in the Expat Essentials Index, with expats being highly satisfied with their housing situation. The majority describes it as easy to find (79 percent satisfied vs. 49 percent worldwide) and afford.
5. Taiwan: Expats can expect excellent health care
Since 2016, when Taiwan first appeared in the Expat Insider survey rankings, it has been in the global top five for healthcare, with the majority of expats satisfied with both the cost (91 per cent vs. 62 per cent globally) and quality (86 per cent vs. 70 per cent globally) of healthcare. About nine out of ten also describe it as readily available, compared to a global average of 71 per cent. The result: first place in the healthcare category. In addition, almost all expats feel safe in Taiwan (98 percent vs. 83 percent worldwide).
In the index on settling in abroad, the country at least scores better than average (17th place) and shines on the topic of working abroad (9th place). In addition to job security, Taiwan also makes it into the top 10 for economic situation and fair pay. However, according to 31 per cent of expats, the local work culture lacks flexibility. Another 40 per cent believe that the work culture also does not promote independent working and flat hierarchies. Despite these drawbacks, Taiwan has the highest overall job satisfaction in the world (number 1). Overall, 78 per cent of expats are happy with their life in Taiwan.
6. Thailand: Expats without financial worriesThailand: Expats ohne finanzielle Sorgen
Expats in Thailand don't need to budget their finances tightly: 76 percent of them rate the overall cost of living positively. Additionally, nearly nine out of ten respondents believe that their household income is sufficient for a comfortable life in Thailand, with some even considering it more than enough (compared to 73 percent worldwide). Therefore, it's not surprising that Thailand ranks 4th in the Personal Finance Index. The affordability of living costs also plays a role in the Expat Essentials Index, with 76 percent describing housing as reasonably priced—double the global average of 38 percent.
Ranked 7th for leisure opportunities, Thailand proves to be a fantastic destination for expats who prioritize relaxation and enjoyment. The country impresses them with its culinary diversity, gastronomy, culture, and nightlife. However, environmental and climate concerns arise. Only 35 percent of respondents are satisfied with Thailand's air quality, and 43 percent believe that the government is not taking adequate environmental protection measures (compared to 17 percent worldwide). Another 28 percent express concerns about the country's political stability.
A large majority of expats (82 percent) appreciate the general friendliness in Thailand, and 78 percent feel at home there. However, the country receives its lowest rating in the Working Abroad Index. For instance, 42 percent indicate that the corporate culture does not promote creativity and unconventional thinking (compared to 26 percent worldwide).
For this reason, Thailand claims the 1st place in the Housing subcategory: expats can easily find and afford apartments. Overall, 86 percent of expats are satisfied with their life in Thailand.
7. Costa Rica: An extraordinarily (hospitable) culture
Costa Rica receives its highest rating in the Adaptation Index. In the subcategory of Friendliness, it ranks 7th. The majority of expats (82 percent) appreciate the friendliness of the local population. Additionally, in the Making Friends subcategory, Costa Rica achieves an excellent result (7th place). Expats have a personal network (69 percent satisfied vs. 58 percent worldwide), are content with their social lives (71 percent vs. 56 percent worldwide), and find it easy to make friends (60 percent vs. 43 percent worldwide). Costa Rica also shines in the Culture & Welcome category (7th place). Expats quickly adapt to the culture and feel both welcome and at home there.
On the other hand, Costa Rica doesn't perform as well in the Working Abroad Index (ranked 38th). In the Career Opportunities subcategory, the country even falls among the ten lowest-ranking countries worldwide (48th place). Expats are particularly disappointed with the job market in Costa Rica (48th place) and report that their career prospects have not improved due to their move abroad (49th place). However, they do enjoy a good work-life balance.
8. Philippines: an affordable life with high job satisfaction
The Philippines excels in the Personal Finance Index, securing an outstanding 3rd place, and ranks 5th in terms of cost of living. Respondents also state that their available household income is more than sufficient for a comfortable life, and 75 percent are satisfied with their financial situation (compared to 58 percent worldwide).
The Philippines also achieves excellent results in the Adaptation Index, whether it's regarding friendliness, making friends, or in the Culture & Welcome category. Expats feel at home (79 percent satisfied vs. 62 percent worldwide) and welcome (88 percent vs. 67 percent worldwide). However, the Quality of Life Index is the Philippines' weakest point, especially in the subcategories of Environment & Climate, Leisure Activities, and Healthcare.
The Working Abroad Index is another challenge for expats in the Philippines. When it comes to career opportunities, the Philippines ranks among the three lowest-ranking countries globally. Only 27 percent of expats view the job market positively (compared to 47 percent worldwide), and 25 percent perceive their career prospects as poor (compared to 18 percent worldwide).
9. Bahrain: A place for very outgoing expats
Bahrain ranks 9th in the Adaptation Index. In short, it's an excellent place to make friends. In fact, 64 percent of expats in Bahrain find it easy to make friends with locals (compared to 43 percent worldwide). Furthermore, 82 percent describe the population as generally friendly towards expats.
Bahrain also excels in the Expat Essentials Index. Administrative matters are straightforward for expats in Bahrain. In fact, nearly nine out of ten respondents (86 percent) easily opened a local bank account (compared to 62 percent worldwide), and 59 percent describe dealing with local authorities as simple and effortless (compared to 39 percent worldwide). Finding accommodation is easy in Bahrain (75 percent satisfied vs. 49 percent worldwide), but it's not as easy to afford. More than two in five expats feel that their available household income is insufficient for a comfortable life in Bahrain (compared to 27 percent worldwide).
However, 24 percent of expats in Bahrain are dissatisfied with their working hours. With an average of 49.3 hours per week for full-time jobs, these hours are indeed much longer than the worldwide average of 42.7 hours. Overall, 71 percent are satisfied with their life in Bahrain.
10. Portugal: Excellent Quality of Life but Poor Job Prospects
The Adaptation Index, especially the Culture & Welcome category, is one of the major highlights for expats in Portugal. Expats feel at home (78 percent vs. 62 percent worldwide) and welcome (81 percent vs. 67 percent worldwide) in Portugal. The majority (80 percent) describes the population as generally friendly towards expats, which is 15 percentage points higher than the global average (65 percent).
Since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, Portugal has consistently performed well in the Quality of Life Index. In 2023, the country ranks 7th worldwide. Some of the long-standing highlights include the climate, weather, and air quality. However, Portugal falls in the middle of the pack in the Expat Essentials Index. More than half of expats (56 percent) encounter difficulties dealing with local bureaucracy (compared to 38 percent worldwide). Additionally, a quarter of them are dissatisfied with the availability of online government services (compared to 21 percent worldwide). In the Working Abroad Index, Portugal narrowly avoids a spot among the bottom 10 (ranked 43rd).
The lowest rating for the country is in the Career Opportunities subcategory (49th place). Portugal ranks 45th in terms of career opportunities for expats, with more than a third (36 percent) being dissatisfied with the job market. Interestingly, expats perceive workplace salaries as inadequate, yet 78 percent believe their household income is sufficient or more than enough for a comfortable life in Portugal (compared to 73 percent worldwide). Overall, Portugal receives a highly positive rating in the Personal Finance Index. In total, 85 percent of expats are satisfied with their life in Portugal.