UK markets closed

The 10 best places in the world to live as an expat

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Keelung, Taiwan cityscape and temples at dusk. Photo: Getty

The greater the world becomes globalised, the easier it has been for people to move abroad for work. And whether it’s for a better quality of life or for greater earning power, becoming an expat can offer a solution to your personal aspirations that being at home can’t provide.

InterNations, the world’s largest expat networking group, released its benchmark Expat Insider 2019 report revealing where the best places are in the world to live as an expat.

An expat is defined as an employee sent abroad on a corporate assignment or classed as a new international hire. This will also mean that the experiences of that certain demographic could significantly differ from a local — especially being away on corporate assignment can entail bonuses, such as relocation stipends for example.

The Expat Insider 2019 report was conducted by InterNations and surveyed 20,259 expats, representing 182 nationalities, living in 187 countries or territories. The survey ran from 7 to 28 March. Respondents were asked to score 48 different factors — which fall into 17 subcategories — related to living abroad. Those 17 subcategories are then put into five pillars — Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, and Personal Finance.

For a place to be ranked, there needs to be a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per destination. The only exception to this rule is the Family Life Index, where a sample size of at least 40 respondents raising children abroad is necessary.

For 2019, 64 destinations, respectively, met these requirements, although for many countries or territories the sample size exceeded by 75 or even 100 participants.

Here are the top 10 countries in the world to live in as an expat:

10. Czechia (Czech Republic)

View of the Vltava River and Charle bridge with red foliage, Prague, Czech Republic. Photo: Getty

Categorised as Czechia, the country ranked highly in the tables for Career Prospects & Satisfaction, in which it came 2nd overall, and for the Economy & Job Security category (3rd).

Some 84% of expats viewed the state of the economy positively versus the global average of 63%.

Czechia is also scored highly as a destination for families — 90% of expat parents are satisfied with their family life in general and 93% are particularly happy with the leisure activities available for their children.

9. Malaysia

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Getty

Malaysia scored highly in the Cost of Living Index, meaning affording a good life won’t be difficult for expats. It scored 7th out of 64 countries in that subcategory.

One respondent in the survey from Britain said, there are “earning opportunities compared to very reasonable cost of living”.

Expats also scored Malaysia in 7th place for personal finance with 62% reporting that their household income is more than enough to cover daily costs versus the global average of 49% globally.

8. Ecuador

View of the historical part of Quito in Ecuador. Photo: Getty

Expats in Ecuador are the happiest in the world — 86% say they are generally happy with their life versus the global average of 74% globally.

One expat from the US said: “Life is just simpler and more enjoyable.”

Ecuador rated third best in the world for cost of living, with 85% of respondents being satisfied with this factor versus the global average of 47%. Healthcare was also considered affordable by 78% of expats versus 55% globally.

However, the biggest issues expats had were the country for digital life and work. Ecuador scored the worst in the world for cashless payments and Ecuador dropped 34 places in Career Prospects & Satisfaction to 48th from 5th last year.

7. Bahrain

Skyline of Manama at sunset. The capital of Bahrain. Photo: Getty

Bahrain was in the survey’s pole position in 2018 and 2017, but it lost six places this year after a sudden drop in the Working Abroad Index.

Expats seem to be less satisfied with their working hours (3rd in 2018 to 27th in 2019) and their job security (5th to 19th).

One expat from India said “the economy’s instability and the fact that there is no growth” was the reason for the low scores.

However, the country still scored highly with parents — 93% rate the friendly attitude towards families with children positively versus 81% globally.

Expats also say they have no issues with settling in in their new country (2nd) — 82% say it is easy to settle down in Bahrain and 68% say they find it easy to make friends.

6. Singapore

Singapore skyline cityscape at night. Photo: Getty

Expats in Singapore continue to be very happy with their quality of life, ranking fourth for the third year in a row in that sub-category.

Infrastructure and extreme connectivity also propels the country up the charts as almost every expat in Singapore (95%) finds it easy to get high-speed internet access at home versus the global average of 75% while 98% of expats say they feel well connected through transportation.

In addition, every respondent in Singapore (100%) feels safe versus the global average of 81% globally, making it the best country for personal safety.

The only areas Singapore did badly on were across healthcare and cost of living — it ranked 59th for affordability of healthcare and 28th out of 36 countries for childcare and education. Singapore ranked 53rd out of 64 countries for cost of living.

5. Spain

View of the city from Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain with moving clouds. Photo: Getty

Spain ranks highly after performing across a wide range of indexes.

It came in 2nd for best quality of life and ranked 1st and 2nd for its climate and weather as well as the availability of leisure options, respectively.

Some 82% of expats find healthcare in Spain affordable while 86% are satisfied with the quality of medical care versus the global average of 65%.

It also polled highly for affordability, after placing 9th in the Cost of Living Index.

However, the biggest concerns for expats centre on their career prospects — ranking 45th overall — and the country’s economy (43rd).

4. Mexico

Casas De Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo: Getty

Expats love Mexico for the ease of settling in — 84% say they feel at home in the local culture versus 60% globally. Some 92% of respondents also say consider Mexicans to be very friendly and 80% say they also find it easy to make friends with them.

Mexico also ranks first in the world for socialising and leisure activities with 84% versus the global average of 65%.

The country also provides a extremely positive scores for personal finance, ranking 4th globally as 78% of people are satisfied with their financial situation.

However, it doesn’t hit the top of the table due to its bad performance in the Safety & Security subcategory (54th). The same rings true for expats with children, with 36% being worried about their children’s safety — four times the global average (9%).

3. Portugal

Porto, Portugal old town skyline from across the Douro River. Photo: Getty

Portugal provides the best quality of life for expats.

It is one of the world’s best countries for leisure with more than four in five expats saying they are happy with the socialising and leisure activities available to them. Almost every expat (95%) rates the climate and weather positively as well.

Portugal also secures the 8th spot in the top 10 countries in the Cost of Living Index.

However, it was held back from the overall best country ranking by expats scoring it relatively low for career prospects (50th) and their job security (47th).

2. Vietnam

View of the buildings in Ho Chi Minh city or Saigon in Vietnam at night. Photo: Getty

After ranking 14th out of 68 destinations in 2018, Vietnam shot up the table this year.

Expats there are particularly happy with their career prospects (68% satisfied versus the global average of 55%). Some 74% also said they were happy with their jobs in general and the country ranked number one for the best destination for personal finance.

Some 75% also said that their disposable household income is more than they need to cover daily costs versus the global average of 49%.

However, Vietnam missed the top spot for its low scores for digital life — just about half the expats (52%) find it easy to pay without cash versus 79% globally.

1. Taiwan

Kaohsiung's famous tourist attractions. Photo: Getty

Taiwan came out on top for impressive scores across nearly every factor.

It came in 3rd for best quality of life and 1st for the affordability of healthcare — 92% of expats in Taiwan said they were happy with the quality of medical care (92% versus 65% globally).

The country also scored highly for personal safety — 96% versus 81% globally. Settling in also was a hit with expats. A Canadian expat said: “I have found my home in Taiwan. On this friendly island, I have found peace, love, and health.”

Taiwan also ranked in the top 10 for personal finance (6th) and working abroad (8th). It also came in second for career prospects.

However, the only glaring obstacle from the report for expats in Taiwan was learning the local language — 52% said they struggle with it.