https://static.theceomagazine.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/05110108/expat-410x330.jpg The 10 best countries for expats revealed
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The 10 most ‘expat-friendly’ countries in the world revealed

Most of us at some point in our lives are looking for that fresh start in another country, but like any change, doing your homework before embarking down a new path can make the relocation period a lot smoother.

The truth is, factors such as affordable housing, language barriers, work culture, friendliness and bureaucracy are both emotional and factual aspects that are understood through lived experience.

For this reason, we’ve turned to The Expat Insider 2022 Survey undertaken by InterNations, which captures the thoughts and opinions of 11, 970 expats across 181 countries around the globe in order to determine the top players in the global expat index.

While no nation can offer a perfect score across the healthcare, quality of life and personal finance categories, having some insights into what awaits you can help you to assess which country best aligns with your expectations and values.

Key findings:

  • Taiwan ranks first for its affordable and accessible healthcare.
  • Spain surpasses all other nations for its quality of life with a good balance of leisure, cultural and nightlife options available to expats.
  • Mexico is the easiest nation to adapt to as an expat, boasting a vibrant social scene and friendly local residents.
  • Australia ranks second globally in the Work Abroad Index, which measures expats’ overall career satisfaction.
  • Vietnam takes first place as a destination where your finances are likely to go a long way.

Mexico: The happiest nation for expats

As one of the most welcoming and easiest countries to obtain a residency visa, expat living in Mexico is considered to be laid-back and a paradise for foodies. As a bridge between the United States and Latin America, Mexico’s diverse landscape – beaches, mountains, forests and deserts – and close proximity to neighboring countries makes it an ideal destination for traveling as opposed to spending money on consumer goods.

Quality of life

While Mexico isn’t known for its safety, according to the Global Peace Index 2022, this year it has recorded a 0.5 per cent improvement in peacefulness, taking 137th position globally. More than 90 percent of expats appreciate Mexico’s varied dining options and its natural beauty. And, while Central America’s largest nation might not be the cleanest in terms of air quality, 91 percent of expats are satisfied with their lives. Not only do they have a healthy work-life balance that is only rivaled by Denmark, but many expats enjoy access to a rich culture, nightlife and recreational sports outside of work.

Ease of settling in

One of the biggest advantages of settling in Mexico is the hospitable local residents. Around 90 percent of expats believe this to be true and more than 80 percent feel they have a support network and find it easy to adjust to the local culture. This is most likely why Mexico ranks first globally for ‘ease of settling in.’ However, expats also noted that daily administrative tasks such as opening a bank account and digital transactions were more difficult to accomplish. It’s also important to note that a mere 12 percent of Mexicans speak English. This minority is based in wealthy areas – Cancun, Mexico City – where the population is more educated, suggesting that it is indeed worth making the effort to learn Spanish.

Personal finance

Some choose to fly specially to Mexico to undertake a medical procedure that would cost them more in their home country and for expats the story is no different – except that the benefits extend beyond healthcare. The nation ranks second after Vietnam for personal finance. Depending on your currency and salary, expats arriving from the US find their dollars go a lot further to enjoy life’s luxuries, including an upgrade in their living circumstances, high-end restaurants and live-in household help. Around 70 percent of expats reported finding housing both affordable and easy to find while 77 percent are satisfied with their financial situation.

Indonesia: A welcoming destination for expats

Like Mexicans, Indonesians are some of the friendliest people you'll encounter, which is extended to foreign residents. The other advantage of living in the world’s largest archipelago is that close to half of expats can get by with speaking English and more than 70 percent agree that learning the local language is relatively easy.

Quality of life

Indonesia scored 41 out of 52 for quality of life – 17 points ahead of Mexico and while this is certainly not a reflection of its healthcare system, expats can enjoy a more laid-back approach to work and opportunities for traveling. Where Indonesia scores particularly high for expats is its culinary experiences (84 percent) and the low cost of living (73 percent).

Ease of settling in

Despite the great social life that can be enjoyed in Indonesia, there are some barriers to feeling completely at home for foreign residents accustomed to efficient administrative processes. For instance, 57 percent of expats struggle to deal with local bureaucracy and authorities coupled with a local business culture, which they perceive as not fostering enough creativity and independent work. Where Indonesia seems to excel the most is in offering expats a good work-life balance and a culture that appeals to 70 percent of expats.

Personal finance

Taking 401st position in the Cost of Living Index 2022, the capital Jakarta is one of the most affordable cities in the world. This is good news for expats looking to live comfortably, as 64 percent reported having plenty of disposable income and 73 percent are satisfied with the cost of living. Expats also find it easy to find and afford housing. For this reason, Indonesia ranked third with regard to Personal Finance and second for Ease of Settling In.

Taiwan: A nation that boasts a high standard of living

Famous for its delicious street food, cycling paths and temples, Taiwan attracts expats working for major global companies, including Nike, Ørsted and Corning. The island can easily be used as a springboard to explore Okinawa, Seoul and Manila, to name a few.

Quality of life

Expats in Taiwan enjoy having access to green goods and services, including organic and sustainable products and the night markets are also some of the most popular within Asia. High-quality affordable healthcare and personal safety are two areas that Taiwan performs the strongest in, according to expats. In fact, the nation ranks first in the world in terms of safety.

Ease of settling in

Taiwan came in sixth place for its ease of settling in with more than three-quarters of expats reporting feeling welcome there and many able to easily make friends with locals. While the vast majority of expats enjoy taking advantage of the affordable and reliable public transport, 90 percent agree that commuting on foot or with a bicycle are safe and convenient. For expats who plan to give birth in Taiwan, the good news is that fees are remarkably low compared to the United States and the same goes for other types of medical treatments. However, one of the biggest challenges for expats is learning Mandarin – the language locals use to converse in. Between July and September, Taiwan also experiences a rainy season that requires some serious wet weather gear.

Personal finance

Despite the fact that Taiwanese cities are densely populated and crowded, resulting in high pollution, 55 percent of expats confirm that their disposable income enables them to lead a comfortable life with access to health services and modern fitness facilities. But, while they are satisfied with their finances, the work culture in Taiwan could be more flexible in accommodating remote work, particularly given the availability of high-speed internet.

Portugal: A relaxed lifestyle

Portugal attracts expats to its warm climate, laid-back lifestyle and low cost of living. And, unlike many of the top-ranking nations for expats, 89 percent of expats are happy with the air quality. Not only is it the sixth most peaceful nation in the world behind Austria, but more than 80 percent of expats feel comfortable voicing their opinions and safe commuting by foot.

Quality of life

Ranking fourth out of 52 countries in the Quality of Life Index, expats living in Portugal find their money goes far and that there are no restrictions on purchasing property. Depending on the amount the property is worth, investing in this can fast-track the process of becoming a citizen if you intend to make Portugal your permanent home. While not every expat feels a desire to set roots there, 45 percent are intent on doing so for a very long time.

Ease of settling in

With its relaxed cafe culture surrounded by friendly locals and age-old traditions, it’s easy to see why 67 percent of expats are happy with their social life. However, close to 30 percent of expats believe that relocating to Portugal impacted their career for the worse and they struggle to deal with local bureaucracy.

Personal finance

While the cost of living in Portugal is low – so are the salaries. Around 64 percent of expats earn less than US$50,000 a year, as the nation’s main industries are manufacturing and agriculture. However, some top executives can expect to earn more than US$100,000. Some of the most luxurious properties can be found in the Portuguese countryside, which is increasingly stirring the interest of expats looking to seize some rustic charm and escape the hustle and bustle (not to mention the prices) of the nation’s coastal cities.

Spain: A lifestyle some wait until retirement for

Spain ranks first both in the Quality of Life Index and in terms of its Leisure Options. As one of the sunniest destinations in Europe, it boasts stunning architecture, impressive nature and ancient forests.

Quality of life

If you’re a night owl and enjoy spending your evenings either shopping or dining out, you’re likely to feel at home in Spain where the siesta (between 2pm and 5pm) breaks up the day. More than 90 percent of expats are fond of the dining options available and the nightlife. They’re also satisfied with the affordability and availability of healthcare services and Spain’s strong point, which is housing.

Ease of settling in

Although you can get by speaking English in Spain, you’ll find that not every local is able to converse in English and that this will greatly depend on the location. While expats find it easy to adjust to the local culture, more than half find it difficult to deal with local authorities.

Personal finance

Compared with Portugal, expats in Spain can expect to spend around 8.2 percent more on eating out, groceries, housing and entertainment. Nevertheless, Spain still managed to secure the 11th position in the Personal Finance Index. Like Portugal, local job prospects aren’t great, but the culture, climate and lifestyle make up for this. Around 24 percent of expats in Spain are retirees and those that do work are working four hours less a week than the global average.

UAE: A world of glamor awaits

Renowned for its shopping malls, world-class restaurants and highly-developed infrastructure, the UAE offers a luxurious lifestyle for those who can afford it. Once expats become accustomed to a more conservative culture and indoor existence, the UAE proves itself to be a politically safe place with plenty of modern comforts.

Quality of life

Around 83 percent of expats find it easy to obtain a visa to move to the UAE and while dining options and a vibrant nightlife are things to look forward to, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are some of the most expensive cities in the Gulf region. With one in three expats earning less than US$12,000 a year, budgeting is a wise idea.

Ease of settling in

With its sweltering temperatures, the UAE might not be the most cyclist-friendly destination. With one of the busiest airports in the world, many expats enjoy the prospect of traveling and the proximity to Europe. However, while the UAE provides high-speed internet access, both its citizens and visitors will find that the internet is heavily censored. The type of content that is restricted ranges from social media platforms to news, dating and pornography sites. Additionally, almost half of expats feel restricted to voice their opinions. It is also advisable to show respect for local customs by dressing modestly and avoid eating and drinking in public during Ramadan.

Personal finance

Close to 80 percent of expats living in the UAE believe that moving there has improved their career prospects. However, 36 percent find that their disposable income does not enable them to live comfortably. In fact, personal finance is the area in which the UAE performs the worst with a ranking of 34. Some of the biggest expenses for expats are international school fees (local schools are taught in Arabic) and accommodation. Investing in a car is more of a necessity than a nice-to-have given that cities in the UAE are connected by freeways. The one expense that’s covered by companies based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is medical insurance.

Vietnam: Watch your finances grow

Vietnam is known for its low cost of living and decent average salary of US$78,000 for expats, which could easily exceed this figure when taking on a position within a high-growth industry. However, if you’re planning to hire or invest in a car, you’ll be in for a surprise, as Vietnam restricts expats from driving with a foreign license and owning their own home.

Quality of life

While chaotic traffic, air pollution and excessive rain during the wet season aren’t the nation’s most favorable aspects, Vietnam offers a high standard of education in both international and public schools, warm weather and cheap flights to surrounding countries for those addicted to travel.

Ease of settling in

Vietnam is a one-party state where the ruling Communist Party inhibits certain freedoms that Westerners wouldn’t think twice about in their home countries. It ranks 174th out of 180 countries for press freedom and some Western expats find that a lack of privacy and space are notable cultural differences. English is spoken in more urbanized areas in Vietnam, but expats are likely to find it easier to settle into Vietnam with some knowledge of Vietnamese or at the very least French – the second most commonly spoken language.

Personal finance

For those who live by the motto of making the most of what life has to offer, 92 percent of expats are satisfied with their income, which enables them to live comfortably. This is 20 percent higher compared to the global average. Expect to find luxury rental accommodation with a reasonable price tag attached and access to food, entertainment and transport in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living Survey, Hanoi takes 150th place on the world map for most-to-least expensive cities totaling 227 countries.

Thailand: Exotic surroundings paired with modern comforts

Thailand is an attractive destination for both retirees and those seeking employment abroad. Expats have reported satisfaction with their financial situation, their ability to forge connections with local residents and their access to healthcare.

Quality of life

While expats in Thailand rate the country highly for the social life and affordability, 43 percent are unhappy with the availability of government and administrative services online. In a similar vein, around the same number of expats have complained about the air quality and lack of government interventions for protecting the environment. The local business culture, according to foreign workers surveyed, could also improve in the areas of creativity and promoting independent work where the dissatisfaction rates are double the global average.

Ease of settling in

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist and while you’ll be able to get by speaking English, especially in urban areas, an understanding of Thai culture, its language and local customs will help with integration. It’s also worth keeping up-to-date with the latest information on safety, as some of the southern provinces that border Malaysia are considered unsafe areas.

Personal finance

In Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living Survey, Bangkok takes 106th place, which is good news for expats looking for an affordable location – plus, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding suitable rental accommodation in the form of a luxury villa, townhouse, apartment or bungalow.

Australia: Promising career prospects

Blessed with clear blue skies and outdoor pursuits on the doorstep of major urban cities, Australia takes 2nd place ahead of Ireland in the Working Abroad Index, which indicates its favorable job market and career prospects. This sunny nation additionally boasts an excellent healthcare system and work-life balance.

Quality of life

More than three quarters of expats view Australia’s economy favorably and are satisfied with their jobs, both in terms of pay and job security. More than half of expats surveyed were also happy with the Australian business culture, which is perceived as promoting flexibility and creative thinking. While you may be able to get away with using public transport in major cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, if you’re planning to explore the nation’s vast and varied landscape, it’s best to book a flight or drive yourself. If you’re not a permanent resident, you can drive with your current license for three months. Australia also scores well for its natural environment and air quality, both of which are important indicators for quality of life.

Ease of settling in

While Australia offers easy access to online services, 41 percent of expats have found it difficult to obtain a visa. There are a variety of visa types available to skilled professionals and the following tool enables you to choose the best visa that suits your purposes: http://www.immi.gov.au/visawizard. However, if you’re not a permanent resident, you won’t be eligible for Medicare, the nation’s public healthcare system.

Australia ranks ninth globally for its Leisure Options and more than 70 percent of expats confirm the ease of adjusting to the local culture and the friendliness of residents. If you’re relocating with kids, Australia offers a combination of private and international schools where you can take the International Baccalaureate as well as government-funded public schools, depending on your budget.

Personal finance

Sydney, Australia’s picturesque harbor city, takes 58th place in Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, which indicates that expats can enjoy the perks of being in a bustling urban setting without the high cost of living in cities like Hong Kong, Zurich and Geneva that top the list. However, housing is costly if you decide to make Australia your home and finding a rental property can be difficult due to high demand. It’s best to bring the necessary documentation to viewings in case you wish to sign up on the day. It’s useful to keep in mind that Sydney is Australia’s most expensive city, closely followed by Melbourne and Brisbane. The national minimum wage is A$21.38 per hour.

Singapore: The city of expats

This former British colony is the ninth safest country in the world with a melting pot of different cultures. Expats comprise close to 30 percent of Singapore’s population and it’s easy to meet other expats. However, expat life in Singapore isn’t cheap. The city ranks within the top 10 in Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2022 alongside Tel Aviv, New York City and Zurich.

Quality of life

More than 80 percent of expats are happy with both the political stability and the quality of medical care on offer. However, only citizens and permanent residents are granted access to the public healthcare scheme, referred to as Medishield Life. Foreigners on a work permit can access health insurance via their employer. For those working on an employment pass, private health insurance is recommended. One of the best indicators for quality of life is arguably the ease of transportation. In Singapore, the metro and buses are great options to avoid the humid and hot weather. Not only is the public transport system affordable, but it’s also clean, efficient and reliable.

Ease of settling in

Singapore performs particularly well when it comes to covering the essential needs that expats have. High-speed internet, online services and local bureaucracy fall within this category and make settling in quite easy. And, while you’ll be able to get by with English, it is a good idea to learn Malay, the national language. Not only will this help you to connect with clients and employees at work, but also people you encounter in your daily life.

Personal finance

Despite its high cost of living, the vast majority of expats living in Singapore feel that their income enables them to lead a comfortable life, as salaries are generally high.

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