Want to Retire Abroad? These Are the Friendliest Countries for Expats

Thinking of working or retiring abroad? Some countries look upon foreign residents with suspicion or unease. Wherever you go, you'll probably want to make new friends, fit in to a local community, and settle down without trouble.

Feeling at home abroad comes easily when you're surrounded by warm-hearted locals. Expats living in the destinations on this list find it easy to make local friends, and most feel at home in the local culture. Portugal, Taiwan, and Mexico are among the friendliest countries for expats, based on a survey of nearly 13,000 expats from 188 countries by InterNations, a network for people who live and work abroad. 

Participants were asked to rate 43 different aspects of expat life abroad, including Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living. The Ease of Settling in category included the friendliness of locals, the ability to find friends, feeling welcome, and the ability to settle in without having to learn the local language.

Of the 65 countries ranked in the survey, Kuwait was last when it comes to friendly attitude toward foreign residents, and the U.S. ranked 36.

Based on the Internations Expat Insider survey, these are the 30 most welcoming countries for expats.

1. Portugal
1. Portugal

1. Portugal

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 94%
  • Ease of making local friends: 58%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 47%

Portugal claims the title of the most welcoming country for expats. "The local population is friendly and helpful," said one Australian in the survey, while a Dutch expat values that "people look after each other." In fact, 79% of expats describe the Portuguese as welcoming.

Above, Aveiro, Portugal.

Photo: S-F / Shutterstock

2. Taiwan
2. Taiwan

2. Taiwan

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 86%
  • Ease of making local friends: 61%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 30%

Nearly three-quarters of expats living in Taiwan agree that the Taiwanese are welcoming. "The people are wonderfully friendly and welcoming to foreigners," said one U.S. expat in the survey. The majority of expats found it easy to settle down in the country (74%) and feel at home in the local culture (69%).

Photo: twospeeds / Shutterstock

3. Mexico
3. Mexico

3. Mexico

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 87%
  • Ease of making local friends: 73%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 39%

In Mexico, 30% of expats surveyed said their friends are mainly locals, 81% found it easy to settle down and to get used to the local culture. One American expat especially likes "how easy it is to adapt, and the people are incredibly friendly."

Above, vendors at a market in Acapulco.

Photo: NadyaRa / Shutterstock

4. Cambodia
4. Cambodia

4. Cambodia

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 92%
  • Ease of making local friends: 59%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 23%

More than four in five expats in Cambodia find the local population welcoming (85%) and think that it is easy to settle down (83%). Many felt at home nearly straight away, (39%) which is the highest share across all surveyed countries and more than twice the global average of 19%.

Photo: Shutterstock

5. Bahrain
5. Bahrain

5. Bahrain

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 86%
  • Ease of making local friends: 55%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 11%

Close to seven in 10 (69%) find the Bahrainis welcoming, and another 73% feel at home in the local culture. This might be thanks to the lack of a significant language barrier: 91% find it easy to live here without speaking the local language. "Bahrain is a beautiful melting pot of many different cultures," said an expat from the U.S.

Photo: Dr Ajay Kumar Singh / Shutterstock

6. Costa Rica
6. Costa Rica

6. Costa Rica

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 87%
  • Ease of making local friends: 78%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 48%

Out of 65 countries, Costa Rica is the number one destination when it comes to making local friends. In fact, 85% of expats describe Costa Ricans as welcoming.

Photo: Shutterstock

7. Oman
7. Oman

7. Oman

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 86%
  • Ease of making local friends: 60%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 12%

"Oman is very expat friendly. The locals are warm and welcoming," says an Indian living in Oman, and most expats in the country seem to agree: close to three-quarters describe the locals as welcoming (73%). Only 3% are mainly friends with locals -- but the majority (58%) is part of a mixed social circle.

Above, a traditional cattle market Nizwa, Oman.

Photo: clicksahead / Shutterstock

8. Colombia
8. Colombia

8. Colombia

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 87%
  • Ease of making local friends: 62%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 33%

Out of the 10 most welcoming countries, expats in Colombia are the most likely to be mainly friends with locals (34%). In fact, more than four in five expats describe the Colombians as welcoming and find it easy to settle down in the country. One American finds the Colombians "open, warm, and friendly," and an expat from the Netherlands adds that they "are always willing to help."

Above, horse drawn carriages in Cartagena.

Photo: Shutterstock

9. Vietnam
9. Vietnam

9. Vietnam

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 83%
  • Ease of making local friends: 56%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 16%

More than four in five expats describe the Vietnamese as welcoming, and 73% find it easy to settle down in the country. "I love the friendly vibe in the city," said an expat from South Korea about life in Ho Chi Minh, "people are mostly nice and gentle."

Photo: Vietnam Stock/Shutterstock

10. Canada
10. Canada

10. Canada

  • Friendly attitude towards expats: 81%
  • Ease of making local friends: 43%
  • Expats likely to stay forever: 45%

Canadians are perceived as welcoming by 62% of expats in the country, or as a French expat puts it: they are "open-minded, tolerant, and benevolent." Above, Petit Champlain Street in Quebec City.

Photo: Rob Crandall / Shutterstock

11. Philippines
11. Philippines

11. Philippines

In the survey, the Philippines ranked No. 8 in the "personal happiness" category and No. 9 for "finding friends." Above, the Sinulog festival in Cebu.

Photo: Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

12. Peru
12. Peru

12. Peru

Peru is one of the 10 countries in which expats reported having mostly local friends.

Photo: Shutterstock

13. Ecuador
13. Ecuador

13. Ecuador

Ecuador ranked 9th of 65 countries for expats feeling welcome, and 11th for finding friends.

Photo: Shutterstock

14. Brazil
14. Brazil

14. Brazil

Expats ranked Brazil 11th for "friendliness", and the country was one of the top 10 where they reported having mostly local friends.

Above, a street carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Photo: A.PAES / Shutterstock

15. United Arab Emirates
15. United Arab Emirates

15.  United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is one of the top five countries in the survey in which expats found it easy to settle in without having to learn the local language. Above, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Photo: Daniel Leppens / Shutterstock

16. Uganda
16. Uganda

16. Uganda

Uganda was in the top four for "finding friends," 8th in the language category, and in the top 20 for "friendliness" and "feeling welcome."

Photo: GUDKOV ANDREY / Shutterstock

17. Spain
17. Spain

17. Spain

Among survey respondents in Spain, 82% are generally happy with their socializing opportunities. It ranked 6th in the "feeling welcome" category.

Photo: Tutti Frutti / Shutterstock.

18. Myanmar
18. Myanmar

18. Myanmar

Myanmar ranked 12 in the "friendliness" category.

Above, Bagan, Myanmar. Photo: Shutterstock

19. Romania
19. Romania

19. Romania

Romania was in the top 20 in all the categories of "language," "finding friends," "feeling welcome," and "ease of settling in." Above, the historical center of Sibiu, Romania.

Photo: Dziewul / Shutterstock

20. Thailand
20. Thailand

20. Thailand

Above, women make jasmine garlands for the new year festival in Bangkok. Thailand ranked No. 18 for friendliness.

Photo: Waravut Wattanapanich / Shutterstock

21. Indonesia
21. Indonesia

21. Indonesia

Indonesia was in the top 20 for "language," "finding friends," and "ease of settling in."

Photo: Andreas H / Shutterstock

22. Malaysia
22. Malaysia

22. Malaysia

In Malaysia, 78% of expats said they find it easy to settle down here, compared to 69% in 2016. Seven in nine said it's easy to get used to the local culture. Above, the old town of Malacca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo: Shutterstock

23. Cyprus
23. Cyprus

23. Cyprus

Cyprus was ranked 13th for ease of settling in, 12th for feeling welcome, and 10th in the "language" category.

Photo: Shutterstock

24. Israel
24. Israel

24. Israel

More than any other country in the survey, expats in Israel found local residents to be "passionate and outgoing." Above, a market in Tel Aviv.

Photo: Lerner Vadim / Shutterstock

25. Malta
25. Malta

25. Malta

Malta ranked in the top five of all 65 countries for finding friends and feeling welcome, and was No. 11 in the "ease of settling in" category.

Photo: Shutterstock

26. Argentina
26. Argentina

26. Argentina

Argentina ranked No. 3 for finding friends, and was one of the top 10 countries in which expats reported having mostly local friends.

Photo: sunsinger / Shutterstock

27. Kenya
27. Kenya

27. Kenya

Getting by without the local language is easy in Kenya, and expats ranked the country No. 12 for ease of settling in.

Photo: Shutterstock

28. Kazakhstan
28. Kazakhstan

28. Kazakhstan

Sixty percent of expats in Kazakhstan said making local friends is easy there.

Photo: Sivenkov / Shutterstock

29. Turkey
29. Turkey

29. Turkey

Political stability is challenging for foreigners in Turkey, but expats reported generally finding the people there to be "emotional and welcoming."

Photo: EvrenKalinbacak / Shutterstock

30. Ireland
30. Ireland

30. Ireland

Expats living in Ireland are almost twice as likely to have mainly local friends compared to expats worldwide. "Ireland is good for living, very welcoming and peaceful," one Russian expat said.

Photo: Semmick Photo / Shutterstock

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This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

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