The Best Destinations For Expats In 2023
Find out the best and worst destinations worldwide for expats, according to the latest Expat Insider survey.
Global expat community InterNations conducts one of the biggest annual surveys on life abroad, Expat Insider. In 2023, close to 12,000 expats representing 171 nationalities took part. Covering key areas such as working abroad, the ease of settling in, quality of life, personal finances, and expat essentials, the findings are a must-read for anyone interested in living abroad.Sunny & Spanish-
Speaking: Common Themes in the Top 3
Mexico Is #1 — Again.
Mexico’s top performance is unsurprising, as the country has always ranked in the top 5 since the first Expat Insider survey was conducted in 2014.
And for the last ten years, Mexico has also consistently ranked among the best in the Ease of Settling In Index — even placing 1st out of 53 global destinations in 2023. For instance, Mexico performs well when it comes to the friendliness of locals: most find the local residents to be friendly in general (91% vs. 67% globally) and towards foreign residents in particular (89% vs. 65% globally).
But the positive outcomes don’t end there. The Expat Essentials Index is all about the basics of living in a country. Here, Mexico ranks 12th. Housing (6th) is a particular highlight, as expats say that accommodation in Mexico is not only easy to find, but also affordable (7th for both). Affordability is a general trend in Mexico. It ranks 2nd in the Personal Finance Index. And 71% of expats are happy with the general cost of living, compared to only 44% globally. Overall, 80% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally).
However, the Quality of Life Index (26th) reveals rather mixed results. On the negative side, Mexico only ranks 45th for political stability, and 18% of expats do not feel safe there, more than double the global average (8%). On the positive side, the country’s Leisure Options (2nd) are among the best worldwide.
Overall, 90% of expats are happy with their life in Mexico, compared to 72% globally.
Want to Feel at Home Quickly? Try Living in Spain.
Spain is the 2nd best-ranked country for living abroad in 2023.
Since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, Spain has always ranked in the top 10 of the Quality of Life Index. For example, the country has consistently featured among the best worldwide for its Leisure Options, placing 1st again in 2023. The majority of expats (88%) is happy with the culture and nightlife in Spain, compared to 68% globally. Additionally, over nine in ten (91%) are happy with their opportunities for recreational sports (vs. 75% globally). Luckily, Spain’s climate and weather (3rd) makes it easier for expats to get out and enjoy these activities.
However, Spain performs worst in the Working Abroad Index (34th). Less than half the expats (49%) agree that moving there has improved their career prospects (vs. 59% globally), and 36% are unhappy with the local job market (vs. 26% globally). On the positive side, the country ranks 10th in the Work & Leisure Subcategory, largely due to expats’ satisfaction with their work-life balance (73% happy vs. 63% globally).
Finances do not appear to pose many problems for expats in Spain. It ranks 13th in the Personal Finance Index, and more than two in three expats (69%) are happy with the general cost of living, compared to only 44% globally. Similarly, in the Expat Essentials Index (16th), Spain comes in 13th place (out of 53) for the affordability of housing. Overall, 87% of expats are happy with their life in Spain, compared to 72% globally.
Expat Life Is a Breeze in Panama
Panama rounds out the top expat destinations of 2023, coming in 3rd.
Expats are especially happy with the Ease of Settling In (4th). The country ranks among the top 3 in both the Finding Friends (1st) and Culture & Welcome (2nd) Subcategories. Most expats (82%) have a personal support network (vs. 58% globally) and face few difficulties finding local friends (74% vs. 43% globally). They also feel at home (81% vs. 62% globally) and welcome (84% vs. 67% globally) in Panama.
Despite the country’s average performance in the Quality of Life Index (28th), expats really like its climate and weather (11th) and air quality (10th). Panama performs worst in the Working Abroad Index (30th), ending up in the bottom 10 of the Career Prospects Subcategory (45th). The local job market (47th) and lack of job security (45th) are particular lowlights. However, the country does well when it comes to Work & Leisure (11th).
Panama also does very well in the Personal Finance Index (8th) — 80% of expats are happy with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally). The Expat Essentials Index (7th) is another highlight. Despite difficulties with opening a bank account (47th), expats say it is easy to find (83% happy vs. 49% globally) and afford (65% vs. 38% globally) housing. Overall, 81% of expats are satisfied with their life in Panama, compared to 72% globally.
Other countries in the top 10 include Malaysia (4th), Taiwan (5th), Thailand (6th), Costa Rica (7th), the Philippines (8th), Bahrain (9th) and Portugal (10th).
The Lowest-Ranking Places to Live Abroad
Last Overall: Kuwait
Kuwait ranks last out of 53 destinations in 2023, following a trend of very poor performances across the past 10 years of the survey. Only 43% of expats are happy with their life in Kuwait, compared to 72% globally.
The country ranks last globally for Quality of Life (53rd). Expats are especially dissatisfied with their Leisure Options (53rd). And about half (49%) feel like they cannot openly express themselves and their opinions, more than triple the global average (15%). The availability (47th), affordability (45th), and quality (46th) of healthcare also leave a lot to be desired.
Bottom 3 rankings in the Local Friendliness (52nd), Finding Friends (51st), and Culture & Welcome (53rd) Subcategories lead to a last place in the Ease of Settling In Index (53rd). More than one in three expats (36%) find it hard to get used to the local culture (vs. 18% globally), and only 37% are happy with their social life in Kuwait, compared to 56% globally. Kuwait does not escape the bottom 10 in the Working Abroad Index either (48th). Three in ten (30%) feel that they are not paid fairly for their job (vs. 19% globally), and 45% say the local work culture does not support flexibility (vs. 18% globally).
Norway Is Unfriendly and Expensive
Norway places second to last in 2023, and its poor performance starts with finances. It ranks 52nd in the Personal Finance Index: more than three in five expats (62%) rate the local cost of living negatively, compared to 35% globally. What is more, 37% say that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 27% globally).
The country also does not do well in the Ease of Settling In Index (48th). Close to a third of expats (32%) describe the locals as unfriendly towards foreign residents, compared to 18% globally. They also find it hard to make local friends (51% unhappy vs. 36% globally) and are unhappy with their social life (38% vs. 25% globally). Overall, 37% do not feel at home in Norway (vs. 20% globally).
Norway struggles in the Quality of Life Index (31st), too. This is mainly due to expats being unhappy with the affordability of public transportation (29% vs. 15% globally) and the opportunity to travel (14% vs. 6% globally). Additionally, it ranks last worldwide for the culinary variety and dining options (53rd) and 51st for culture and nightlife. On the plus side, expats in Norway value the political stability (88% happy vs. 63% globally), the high air quality (88% vs. 66% globally), and the natural environment (95% vs. 84% globally).
Lastly, the Working Abroad Index (18th) is Norway’s strongest area. Expats in Norway appreciate the high job security (1st) and the state of the economy (9th), but they are unhappy with their personal career opportunities (48th).
Not a Favorite among Expats: Türkiye
Türkiye comes in 51st place. Here, 60% of expats are happy with their life abroad (compared to 72% globally).
Türkiye ranks last worldwide in the Working Abroad Index (53rd): 30% of expats are unhappy with their working hours, about twice the global average (16%). Expats do not feel much better about their job security and their personal career opportunities (52nd for both). So, it may not be surprising that nearly one in four (24%) are not satisfied with their job in general (vs. 16% globally).
The destination ends up among the bottom 10 in the Expat Essentials Index (45th) as well: 16% rate the unrestricted access to online services negatively (vs. 6% globally), and 15% find it difficult to get high-speed internet access at home (vs. 10% globally). Türkiye still ranks somewhat below the average in the Quality of Life Index (39th). The destination comes second to last for Safety & Security (52nd).
In the Personal Finance Index (34th), 44% of expats are satisfied with the general cost of living, the same as the global average, while less than half (48%) are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally). The country has its best — but still fairly average — performance in the Ease of Settling In Index (27th): 45% find it easy to make local friends, slightly more than the global average (43%).
Other countries in the bottom 10 include South Korea (50th), Germany (49th), South Africa (48th), Italy (47th), Malta (46th), New Zealand (45th), and Japan (44th).
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