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Living Abroad

The Best & Worst Places For Expats In 2021

Taiwan, Mexico, and Costa Rica are the best expat destinations worldwide in 2021 according to the Expat Insider survey.

The Best & Worst Places For Expats In 2021

Plane over water.

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Global networking community InterNations conducts one of the biggest annual surveys of expat life, Expat Insider. This year, over 12,000 expats representing 174 nationalities participated. Covering key indices such as Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living, the findings are a must-read for anyone interested in living abroad.

This Year's Winners

Taiwan ranks 1st out of 59 destinations for the third year in a row in the survey, thanks in large part due to its first place in the Quality of Life and Working Abroad Indices. Expats stress their satisfaction with their job security (83% satisfied vs. 61% globally), the state of the local economy (85% vs. 62% globally), and the quality of medical care positively (96% vs. 71% globally). Taiwan is also the best-ranking destination worldwide in the Friendliness subcategory (1st), with 96% of expats describing the Taiwanese population as friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 67% globally).

Second-placed Mexico does even better when it comes to the ease of settling in (1st): 85% of respondents find it easy to settle down in Mexico (vs. 62% globally), and 78% say it is easy to make local friends (vs. 44% globally). Mexico also does well in the Personal Finance (2nd) and Cost of Living (4th) Indices. In fact, four in five expats (80%) are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally), and 90% say their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover their living expenses (vs. 77% globally).

Costa Rica, which places 3rd overall, receives some of its best results in the Ease of Settling In Index (3rd). More than nine in ten expats (91%) describe the population as generally friendly (vs. 69% globally), and 70% find it easy to make local friends (vs. 44% globally). Costa Rica comes in second place worldwide for personal happiness — just behind Mexico (1st) —makes it into the top 10 of the Personal Finance Index (7th). Over four in five expats (84%) consider their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover all expenses (vs. 77% globally).

The Worst-Ranked Destinations

For the seventh time in eight years, Kuwait comes in last place in the Expat Insider survey (59th out of 59 countries). The country ranks last in the Quality of Life (59th) and Ease of Settling In (59th) Indices, with 46% of expats not feeling at home in the local culture (vs. 20% globally) and 45% finding it difficult to settle down in this country (vs. 22% globally). Around a third are also dissatisfied with their job in general (31% vs. 16% globally) and their work-life balance specifically (34% vs. 17% globally).

Italy is the second-worst country for expats and even lands in last place worldwide in the Personal Finance Index (59th). It also performs poorly in the Working Abroad Index (58th): more than half the expats (56%) rate their local career opportunities negatively (vs. 33% globally), and 31% are dissatisfied with their job (vs. 16% globally). An Iranian expat shares: "Finding a job is not easy for foreigners."

Expats in South Africa (57th overall) are similarly dissatisfied with their working life (54th in the index) and their finances (55th): over one-third (34%) do not consider their disposable household income enough to cover all their expenses (vs. 24% globally). And only about three in ten (31%) are happy with the state of the local economy — exactly half the global average (62%). What's more, just about one in four respondents in South Africa (24%) feel safe there (vs. 84% globally), with the country coming in last worldwide in the Safety & Security subcategory (59th).

Find out more in the complete Expat Insider 2021 report.

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