It's not always easy to live in a new country. In a survey of 20,000 expats living around the world, some expats say they struggle with work, finances, communicating with locals, making friends and raising families as they settle into a new place.
Taiwan, Vietnam, and Portugal are the best expat destinations in the world, according to the Expat Insider 2019 survey by InterNations, a global network and information site for people who live and work abroad. These countries are among those that appeal to expats for their ease of settling in and good personal finances.
Other countries top the list for things like making new friends -- expats say they found the locals in places like Bulgaria, above, Taiwan, Mexico, Spain and Bahrain to be very friendly.
In some of the worst countries, expats fear for their safety or for political stability. In Nigeria, for example, which is in the bottom 10, one Hungarian expat said, "We are not really free to walk everywhere, there is not much to do, and there is always a possibility of danger."
The InterNations survey asked 20,259 expats representing 182 nationalities and living in countries around the world to provide information on various aspects of expat life, using the responses to rank 64 countries for expat living. Participants were asked to rate up to 48 different factors of living in a new country; categories include Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living.
For a country to be featured in the ranking, a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per destination was necessary, except in the Family Life index, where a sample size of at least 40 respondents raising children abroad was required.
Based on the InterNations survey, these are the best and worst countries for expats.
The Best Countries for Expats
Taiwan, ranked No. 1 overall, stands out for its great quality of life, landing in third place in that category in the Internations survey. Taiwan is rated best in the world for healthcare affordability, with 89% of survey respondents saying they are satisfied with this factor, compared with 55% globally. Many expats in Taiwan said it's easy to settle down there and 88% find the locals generally friendly. The biggest obstacle for expats settling in Taiwan seems to be learning the local language.
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Expats in Vietnam are particularly happy with their career prospects and their jobs in general, according to Internations. Vietnam is the highest-ranking country in both the working abroad category and the personal finance category. In fact, 75% of expats surveyed said that their disposable household income is more than they need to cover daily costs. Pictured is Hanoi.
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Third overall, Portugal offers an excellent quality of life, ranking first worldwide in that category, and a "relaxed lifestyle," according to one British expat. More than four in five expats are happy with the socializing and leisure activities available to them in Portugal, and 95% of expats rate the climate and weather positively.
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Mexico is the world's easiest country to settle in as an expat, and more than four in five expats feel at home in the local culture, finding the people there to be very friendly. Regarding personal finance, Mexico ranks fourth worldwide. On the downside, the country performs poorly in the safety and security subcategory (54th), with personal safety being a main concern.
Spain among the leading countries for quality of life, ranking second out of 64 countries. Two of Spain's best features are its climate and weather as well as the availability of leisure options. Healthcare in Spain is affordable, and it's also a great destination for families with children.
Many expats in Singapore say they are happy with their quality of life, find it easy to get high-speed internet access at home, feel well-connected through transportation and are happy with the opportunity to travel. In addition, 100% of respondents in Singapore say they feel safe.
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While Bahrain is still in the top 10 countries for career prospects and job satisfaction, expats seem to be less satisfied with their working hours and job security. More than four in five respondents say it is easy to settle down in Bahrain and that it's easy to make friends.
Expats in Ecuador are the happiest in the world: nearly 86% are generally happy with their life, compared with 74% globally. Healthcare is considered affordable in Ecuador. Two of the biggest challenges for expats there are digital life (ranking No. 47) and work (No. 45.)
Affording the good life in Malaysia is easy there: 62% report that their household income is more than enough to cover daily costs.
Czechia (Czech Republic) is a great 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. Czechia comes in seventh place for quality of life, and stands out in particular for its good results in the travel and transportation category.
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Bulgaria ranked No. 1 in the cost of living category, and third in the personal finance category. The country also is in the top 10 for ease of making friends and feeling at home.
More expensive to live in, Luxembourg ranks the sixth worst in the cost of living category, and No. 24 out of 64 countries for personal finance. Despite the cost, it has its positives: a Peruvian respondent working in Luxembourg says: "It is a well-balanced country. Job, friends, travel. You have it all."
Panama ranked No. 8 in the personal finance category.
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Israel was in the top 10 countries for quality of life, and in the top five for leisure options, as well as health and well-being.
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15. New Zealand
New Zealand ranked No. 4 for digital life and No. 10 of 64 countries in the work and leisure category.
The Worst Countries for Expats
These are the worst countries of the 64 countries in the Internations ranking, from better to worst.
Pollution, media censorship, and language difficulties negatively affect expat life in China. The country is very affordable and has a serviceable transportation infrastructure. More than eight in 10 expats (81%) said that their access to online services, such as social media, is restricted - nine times the global average.
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A positive for Ukraine is its ranking of No. 5 for cost of living. Above, women wear national costumes during a festival in Slavuta, Ukraine.
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52. South Africa
South Africa falls in the middle range of cost of living, at No. 26. Pictured is Capetown.
Peru ranked No. 38 for ease of settling in, No. 35 for language, and No. 47 of 64 countries in the "feeling at home" category. Pictured is Lima, Peru.
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Argentina comes in at No. 17 for finding friends.
55. South Korea
Settling down is a real challenge for expats in South Korea, with some struggling to get used to the local culture; 37% of expats rated their work-life balance negatively, and one expat pointed out the poor air quality in the country. Pictured is Daegu, South Korea.
Russia ranks 50th out of 64 countries for quality of life, with expats there struggling with the weather and climate and the restricted access to online services, among other things. Many find it hard to learn the language and live in the country without speaking Russian.
About 39% of expats in Greece worry about their financial situation, and 42% say that their household income is not enough to cover daily costs. Two-thirds rate the state of the Greek economy negatively and more than one-third of expats are unhappy with the political stability. On the bright side, expats enjoy the Mediterranean climate in Greece, the available leisure activities, and many find it easy to feel at home in the local culture.
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58. The United Kingdom
The U.K. ranks 58th out of 64 countries in the survey amid the ongoing Brexit uncertainty: it has fallen 14 places in terms of political stability since Internations' last survey in 2018. As one German expat puts it: "Brexit makes our future uncertain."
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Coming in nearly at the bottom in the quality of life category, India especially lags behind digitally, with many expats struggling with getting a local mobile phone number and accessing administrative and government services online. India also ranks among the worst countries in terms of safety and security: One American expat said, "As a female, I do not feel safe." India is the survey's world's worst country in terms of quality of environment. However, for 63%, their disposable household income is at least more than they need to cover daily costs.
Turkey ranks as the worst country in the world for expat families and the worst country for children's general well-being. Nearly a third of expats are unsatisfied with their job and Turkey comes in No. 56 out of 64 countries for safety and security, with 47% worrying about the country's political stability.
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About 41% of expats in Brazil do not find the country peaceful, 61% do not feel safe, and 53% are dissatisfied with the political stability. An expat from New Zealand describes having the "underlying feeling of people always living in fear" in Brazil. It is rated the worst destination for family well-being, and the quality of education is also rated negatively.
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Ranking 62nd out of 64 countries overall, Nigeria has the world's worst quality of life for expats. It ranks last in the travel/transportation and health/well-being subcategories. Many say that healthcare is low quality and not affordable. More than half the expats do not feel safe in the country, and 58% worry about the political stability.
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Despite its appeal to tourists, Italy hits rock bottom for working abroad in 2019, with its "economy in dire straits," as a Russian expat described it. Only 16% of expats rate Italy's economy positively while 39% worry about their job security. While 85% of expats appreciate the good weather and climate, Italy still performs mediocre in terms of quality of life overall due to its results for digital life and the country's political stability. Two-thirds find it hard to live there without speaking the local language.
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Kuwait has consistently been ranked as one of the worst countries for expats, it also comes in last in the world for the ease of settling in, -- more than half of the respondents said they do not feel at home in the local culture and 63% say that making local friends is hard. "The locals are not friendly towards expats, and they seem to resent foreigners being here," said a British respondent. The country ranks near the bottom for quality of life, and Kuwait is also not a top scorer in terms of working abroad.
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