Humans have been migrating for thousands of years, and we will probably never see the end of it. Many of the people leaving their countries of origin may never go back home. They’ve moved to a new country for a variety of reasons: to advance their career, to have access to new job opportunities, to live in a place that better suits their lifestyles, to study, to be with their partner or loved ones, etc. Similar to their motivations, their backgrounds and preferred destinations also show great diversity. There is not just one story but many… In March 2019, a survey with 20,259 people participating. They represent 182 nationalities and reside in 187 countries and territories. They were asked to rate a total of 48 factors regarding different aspects of their lives abroad on a scale of one to seven. The responses received allowed the team to create 17 subcategories, and then use those mean values to come up with five topical indices (Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and Family Life). The overall ranking of the countries and territories is the result of the average rate of those five indices and the question “How satisfied are you with life abroad in general?” To include a country or territory in the list, at least 75 survey participants needed to answer in the case of the first four indices, and 40 in the case of the fifth one. The index Cost of Living has no impact on the ranking.
The 15 Best Countries for Expats in 2020
1. Taiwan 2. Vietnam 3. Portugal 4. Mexico 5. Spain 6. Singapore 7. Bahrain 8. Ecuador 9. Malaysia 10. Czechia 11. Bulgaria 12. Luxembourg 13. Panama 14. Israel 15. New Zealand
It’s a comeback for this East Asian island state. It’s ranked number one in 2016 as well. Despite the fact that foreigners struggle to learn the local language, they highlight how friendly the locals are. Taiwan may not have landed in the top ten in the case of all indices, but people do enjoy their lives. They praise the cost of living (ranks 11th), the quality of life (ranks 3rd), the healthcare system, and work opportunities (ranks 8th). Over 60% of the participants are satisfied with their jobs and career prospects and rated the work-life balance positively. Did you know that Taiwan is the first Asian state that has legalized same-sex marriage? And the capital is considered one of the best cities for students. When reading the news about Taiwan in mainstream media, you may have stumbled upon articles about the tension between China and Taiwan. Before making the decision of moving to this island also known for its food markets, you may want to learn more about its history, culture, and follow the news closely. Some expats take the political situation into account before moving somewhere. The more you know about the past, the better you understand the present.
Expats might have expressed their negative feelings about the quality of life in Vietnam, but the Southeast Asian country secured its second place among the best countries for expats. You may hear people complaining about the streets full of trash and the lack of awareness about using plastic, but that’s just one side of the coin. (You may want to broaden your knowledge about which countries manage huge amounts of plastic waste received from other countries.) The Vietnamese language may challenge foreigners, but expats still find it easy to make friends. Based on the results, Vietnam is the perfect destination for people who would like to save up money, have a good job with the opportunity to progress, and live a balanced life. In numbers, the survey shows that 74% of expatriates answered are generally satisfied with their jobs and 71% of them are content about their work-life balance in Vietnam.
Portugal, located on the Iberian Peninsula, demanded a place in the top ten in the past two years. More than half of the expats surveyed say they would stay in this country rich in history, traditions and leisure activities forever. It ranks first regarding the Quality of Life. While locals approach foreigners with a friendly attitude, Portugal is not necessarily for those who would like to advance their careers. “The people are the friendliest I’ve met in the world,” says a U.S. American. Interestingly, it’s a place for millennials and retirees thanks to its pleasant climate and vivid nightlife. An expat from the Netherlands likes the “weather, food, plenty of sites and events, the people, proximity to the beach, everything.” Expats with children share that they experience difficulty accessing childcare, yet they feel welcomed in Portugal. 83% of people agree that settling down goes with ease in Portugal where they can get by with speaking English. Of course, learning Portuguese would probably enhance your chances to get hired by local companies—as in many other countries and territories. Looking for extra jobs in Portugal? Read about the jobs available in Lisbon.
Mexico has kept its fourth place since last year. it’s been among the top four countries and territories for years now: in 2015 it placed second, for example. Friendly locals have such a positive impact on locals that Mexico tops the list in terms of settling in. It’s the best country for expats to make friends and people generally feel at home. Expats don’t think they need to spend much money to live a comfortable life in this culturally and historically rich place. Expats may choose Mexico as their destination to shake up or improve their career prospects, yet Mexico fails to get in the top 15 regarding the index Working Abroad. It performs even more poorly when the Quality of Life is in focus. Foreigners worry about safety and security, especially about their children’s safety. (To give you some perspective, Mexico is usually named the most dangerous place for journalists.) In need of an extra job in Mexico? Read about the jobs available in Guadalajara, León, Mexicali, Mexico City, or Monterrey.
Looking at the result of previous years’ surveys, we may say that Spain has taken a rollercoaster ride. In 2015, it slipped down to 30th place from the 7th. Among this year’s survey participants, quite a large number of them reside in Spain, which might not be the ideal destination for work but leisure or retirement. Expats are generally satisfied with the quality of life and families also enjoy their time on the Iberian Peninsula. Despite the hardship of making friends, foreigners feel at home and find it easy to settle in. Although the cost of living may attract people, they may face challenges to find employment offering prosperity. (Knowing Spanish and other local languages may increase your chances to get hired in the desired position.) If you’re keen on following the news, you may hear about the Catalan independence movement and the demonstrations in Barcelona. It’s advised that you become familiar with the history of the country, especially if you decide to move to Catalonia. An expat from Sweden thinks the problem is in the “somewhat corrupt political system and the independence movement in different areas.” Do you want to do some extra work in Spain? Read about the jobs available in Barcelona, Madrid, or Valencia.
Besides Taiwan, Singapore is the other Asian Tiger landing in the top best countries for expats—for years now. Being a travel hub, the dense city-state opens a window to the rest of Asia. What makes Singapore such a preferable destination? It offers excellent opportunities for young professionals to boost their careers, especially in the finance sector, while feeling safe and at home. A German expat explains that “you can go out at any time to almost any place without having to fear anything.” In addition to young ambitious foreigners who may never experience good work-life balance, 86% of expat parents are satisfied with their lives. Singapore has developed a world-class educational system but schooling and raising a child can cost a fortune. Singapore is also one of best cities for students. You will probably struggle to save money for your retirement years, and you may complain about the lack of leisure opportunities. Are you planning to take up an extra job? Read about the jobs available in Singapore!
Despite losing its first place, Bahrain has still managed to remain in the top 10 best countries for expats. Aside from its high ranking in terms of Personal Happiness, expats don’t feel so satisfied regarding the quality of life. The only index Bahrain occupies a top place on is the Ease of Settling In. While 40% of the expats make friends with other expats, they think it’s easy to find friends in Bahrain. The island nation has lost a lot of appeal in terms of Working Abroad. According to expats, families with children are more likely to find what they’ve been looking for than young people dreaming about a flourishing career. That being said, Bahrain still lands in the top 10 for career prospects. However, an Indian expat expressed dislike about the “economic instability and the increase in the cost of living.” In recent years, oil prices have dropped and Bahrain tries to boost the economy with a new sales tax among other things. If you live a lifestyle full of parties and other leisure activities, you should probably move to Dubai instead.
Do you also automatically think about the Galápagos Islands when you read or hear about Ecuador? You’re not alone… While Ecuador remains one of the best countries for expats to move to, this South American nation state has fallen five places, from third to eight. It’s in the top 10 for Ease of Settling In, Personal Finance and Cost of Living, but it ranks only 45th on the index Working Abroad. It’s said bye to its 11th place. Yet considering all the positives and negatives, expats living in Ecuador are the happiest in the world. An expat from the USA loves the “the tranquility of life” and another one talks about “the slower, relaxed pace of life and focus on friends and family.” Similar to Portugal and Spain, foreigners love it because of its climate and leisure options. Once in Ecuador, you may travel to other South American countries to see ancient ruins and learn about the history of this continent. And not only about the Incas. In Ecuador, you can enjoy life in modern cities, such as in Quito or Cuenca, or inhale the fresh air coming from the Andes while sitting on your balcony doing nothing. If you work online, you may need to reconsider whether or not to move to Ecuador.
Besides Vietnam, Malaysia is the other newcomer among the top ten in 2019. While expats don’t encounter any language barriers as English is enough, knowing the specificities of a culture can help everyone to understand how life works in this vibrant Southeast Asian country. Although it ranks 24th on the index of Quality of Life, expats don’t consider it so safe. 76% of the respondents find it generally easy to settle down. “In Malaysia, it is easy to integrate into the local society and culture.” Foreigners may feel at home but they don’t see a bright future when it comes to career prospects. The Malaysian government intends to restrict foreigners working in the country to protect its local workforce. Despite this, people may move to Malaysia because of the promise of a low-cost life and first-rate health care system. Not to mention, you could travel to other Asian countries cheaply from Malaysia. Are you interested in doing some extra and weekend jobs in Malaysia? See what Kuala Lumpur can offer.
Czechia or the Czech Republic has been favored by expats for years. This small country in the heart of Central Europe has great connections to Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, and European cities. It attracts millions of tourists every year, and also some international film productions. Besides Berlin and Budapest (and soon Bucharest), Prague welcomes several film crews every year, thus creating plenty of job opportunities for local film professionals. (Did you know that Jojo Rabbit was filmed there?) It’s also considered (by InterNations) the best country for women to work. Czechia might not welcome foreigners with open arms, but it still occupies a spot among the top ten countries on the index of Quality of Life (7th), Working Abroad (2nd), Family Life (4th). It still goes strong when it comes to career prospects and job security. 79% of the expats answered rate work-life balance highly. It turns out expats struggle with the language and finding friends. These two might be connected, as speaking Czech can help you meet locals and could also open some doors for you. Do you want an extra or weekend job while residing in the Czech Republic? Look for jobs in Prague! 11. Bulgaria
Bulgaria has an emerging start-up scene with new companies being launched across industries. Some may consider it a hub in the region. But this is not the main motivation for foreigners to move to the Balkans. 12% of respondents cited financial reasons to do that. Bulgaria tops the index of Cost of Living and places third in the Personal Finances subcategory, so no wonder why 79% of expats are satisfied with their financial situation. Although not knowing the language (with Cyrillic alphabet) might prevent foreigners from fully immersing themselves in the Bulgarian culture, expats find it pretty easy to make friends and feel at home. Several multinational companies have offices in Bulgaria, so language may not be an obstacle to get a job there but it would probably give a boost to your CV. Even though Bulgaria doesn’t get close to the top 10 on the index of Working Abroad, it managed to reach the seventh place in terms of career prospects. What about work-life balance? Expats rate it unfavorably, yet you’ll find personal happiness and a range of leisure options in Sofia, Plovdiv, Montana, Varna, or wherever you go. While expats believe transportation can be improved, the diverse landscape of Bulgaria can delight both nature and city lovers. It’s one of the best countries for expats, for sure.
This tiny state in Europe offers great career prospects and job security but it is one of the most expensive countries. Companies situate their headquarters in Luxembourg because of the favorable tax rates for corporations. We may draw a parallel between Singapore and Luxembourg, as both states have become an international financial hub. In addition to the three official languages French, German, and Luxembourgish, one can simply initiate conversations in English in most places—at least in the capital that is home to many European Union institutions and bodies. As an expat explains, “Luxembourg is a well-balanced country. Job, friends, travel. You have it all.” Despite the high cost of living, the lack of disposable income and the difficulties in settling in, expats report about the high quality of life. Families should start looking for childcare centers before the baby’s birth, but education and family life are rated positively by expats. While leisure options are scarce in Luxembourg, you can end up in another country within 30 minutes or so.
Panama could be grouped with Spain and Portugal because it’s a popular destination for retired people, especially among U.S. Americans. Many foreigners consider it one of the best countries for expats because of its climate and excellent work-life balance. The country may not have landed in the top 10 regarding the Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, and Cost of Living, but foreigners can live a comfortable life without worrying about bills. Of course, the cost of living differs depending on where one lives. Panama ranks 9th on the index of Work Abroad, with 76% being generally satisfied with their jobs and 73% of them rate their job security positively. You may think people can establish new friendships easily in this Central American country, but that’s not the case. Yet you won’t struggle so much because of your lack of Spanish speaking skills. As always, learning about the history, culture and language of a country will help you cherish your stay in Panama even more. You might be also glad to hear that Panama is below the hurricane belt.
Just like in Bulgaria, the start-up scene is booming in Israel with numerous companies being on the rise. Does this have anything to do with the fact that it positions among the top ten when it comes to the subcategory Digital Life? Maybe. All in all, expats surveyed say that they find Israel too expensive and hardly have any disposable income. Yet they are satisfied with the quality of life (ranks 9th) and their work (ranks 10th on the index Work Abroad). Israel also lands among the top three regarding career prospects and satisfaction. 84% show satisfaction with the affordability of healthcare, only expats in Taiwan rate it higher. You may choose from a wide range of leisure options in Israel but may need to act patiently to find new friends and feel at home. It’s also recommended to dive into the history of the region to understand the current events—especially if you’re concerned about politics. Interested in getting a side job in Israel? Look for jobs in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
15. New Zealand
While some may move to New Zealand because of The Lord of the Rings, plenty of other reasons could pull expats to live on this island. When it comes to work/life balance, it’s in the top 10. Regarding disposable income and savings (ranks 57th for Personal Finance), the expats answered the survey aren’t so pleased with New Zealand. Nonetheless, it nurtures people with great entrepreneurial opportunities. Kiwis value families, nature and health. An expat praises “the childcare arrangements and financial support from the government” in New Zealand. It places 9th on the index Family Life. If you are from Canada or have ever lived or studied there, you may see some similarities between the two countries. (Not only Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto but also Auckland is listed among the best cities for students.) Expats also appreciate the work-life balance and the leisure options in the country, although they need to put more effort into finding new friends. If you’re a film buff, we recommend you to explore Māori cinema that has started to receive worldwide recognition recently.
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