Best and Worst Countries to Live in as an Expat

There's a science to moving overseas. For all the adventure of expat life, the new rules and unexpected expectations that come with adjusting to a new culture, it still takes a lot of planning to get it right.

Unless you're willing to settle for pouring drinks in a tourist bar and crashing at a backpacker hostel, you'll need to find a job. Housing, bank accounts, retirement plans -- to be honest, those are all hard enough to manage in your home country. It takes that much more effort when setting up that life involves moving to another country altogether.

That project will add visas, complex working and finance laws, tax headaches and logistical questions to your many personal complications.

There are at least a few ways to make this all easier on yourself, and the best method is to start by picking the right place to live. Here, courtesy of Internations' annual "Expat Insider" survey, are the five best places in the world for your expat adventure… and the five worst.

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5. Portugal
5. Portugal

Quiet, sunny Portugal manages to make nearly every one of our "Best Places" lists. It's practically the Meryl Streep of where-to-travel articles.

There's good reason, though. From its perch on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal manages to combine basically the best of all worlds. Expats who move there can indulge in their dream of an old-world European lifestyle, wandering the canals of Aveiro and visiting the old university town of Coimbra.

At the same time they can enjoy a cost of living that few other parts of Europe can offer, making Portugal one of the rare exceptions to Western Europe's soaring costs of living.

Oh, and did we mention you can even fall in love? According to Internations 95% of expats in Portugal say they are "very happy" with their relationship. Just something to think about the next time Valentine's Day rolls around.

4. Taiwan
4. Taiwan

Taiwan boasts efficiency.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with this nation-state off the coast of China, but the expat community there enjoys life in a city that just works.

"'Convenience,' 'efficiency,' and 'easy transportation' are the advantages of life in Taiwan that respondents emphasize," said to the Expat Insider report. "Only 2% have something negative to say about the transport infrastructure… [And] the country truly excels in terms of peacefulness and personal safety."

With one of the largest economies in Asia despite its small size, Taiwan has always offered particularly strong opportunities for professional expats looking to work in its global trade, finance and legal scenes. Combine that with their effective city management and you have a strong entry for the fourth best expat destination in the world.

3. Mexico
3. Mexico

For many Americans, this large, diverse nation amounts to little more than cautionary tales about political corruption and crude jokes about the tourist traps down in Tijuana.

Then you visit the airport and realize that Mexico has no time for your attitude. They've got a low-latency wifi network to upgrade and an Oaxacan restaurant opening up down the street.

"Ranking in the top 5 of the Expat Insider survey every year, Mexico retakes its place in the top 3 in 2017," the survey said. "In fact, it's in the top 5 for three indices: Ease of Settling In, Personal Finance and Cost of Living."

"One Filipino respondent summed up their experience saying, 'The climate is almost perfect, the people are friendly, and the food is to die for," the survey added.

2. Costa Rica
2. Costa Rica

In most expat surveys, it's a toss-up as to which Central American nations will come out ahead. Panama, the Dominican Republic, even Ecuador all circle through the list. This time, Costa Rica has come out on top of those.

There are a lot of reasons why, but three jump to the top of the pile: friends, money and weather.

According to foreigners who live there, this is simply a fantastic country for making friends. Unlike in most destinations, where your primary social network will consist of other visa holders, in Costa Rica nearly a fifth of all expats say that they hang out mostly with locals. Almost two thirds say that they have a healthy social life that combines local friends with other expats.

Throw in balmy, Central American weather and the fact that nearly 80 percent of expats say their happy with their finances (considerably better than we do in the States) and you have a great case for the second best expat destination on Earth.

1. Bahrain
1. Bahrain

Who doesn't love a Cinderella story?

Bahrain barely made it into the top 20 places to live in last year's Expat Insider survey, with many people critical of culture fit and finding work in the Gulf state. Well, those problems have eased, causing the nation to leap all the way to first place in our list.

"Bahrain really excels in making expats feel at home," Internations said in its survey, "and the country tops the Ease of Settling In Index… In fact, a quarter of expats in Bahrain say they started feeling at home almost straight away. This is particularly impressive given that a third of respondents in Bahrain have never lived abroad before."

Want more proof? More than one in ten expats living in Bahrain today say they might never go home.

61. Saudi Arabia
61. Saudi Arabia

Right next door geographically but all the way on the other side of our list, Saudi Arabia marks the first of our five worst entries.

There's no getting around it… for many expats, this is a very difficult country in which to live. Current political instability has caused detentions and arrests, but these have only sharpened a sense of political and lifestyle unease that expats have long reported when it comes to living in the powerful Gulf state.

Expats of almost every stripe report that they have a very hard time settling in and making friends in Saudi Arabia, instead generally sticking to their own enclaves and fellow foreign residents. Women in particular report feeling unwelcome, and nearly a third of all expats who move to this country leave their spouses and partners at home.

62. Brazil
62. Brazil

Brazil… well, Brazil is a surprise. At first.

On the surface, Brazil should have many things going for it. The beaches that run along the country's vast Atlantic coast (where most of the population lives); the lively communities in major cities like Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza and Sao Paulo; the restaurants that offer everything from feijoada to sushi -- it should all have expats clamoring for an entry visa.

So why don't they? In a word: safety.

"I don't like the lack of respect people show towards others and the lack of peacefulness," one expat reported, and the results show it. With Brazil coming in almost dead last for both peacefulness and personal safety, as rated by the foreigners who live there, the country's ongoing issues with crime raise several red flags for any potential immigrants.

63. Nigeria
63. Nigeria

Nigeria has been in the bottom three nations surveyed by Internations since 2015. Unfortunately, this trend continues.

"Quality of life is… an issue for expats in Nigeria, and the country is in last place for three of the subcategories in this index," found the Expat Insider survey. The three categories in question are travel and transport, health and well-being, and safety and security, three of the most important and universal categories that this survey measures.

Many of the metrics that expats use to measure their quality of life are, in fact, pretty situational. Educational opportunities don't really apply to families without young children, and job opportunities have no bearing on the digital nomads (see below). Even costs of living don't matter all that much to the well-off or workers being seconded by an employer.

Health, safety, transportation though… they hang over every aspect of day-to-day life. Those are the parts of the system that have to be there for everything else to work. In Nigeria, according to the expats who live there, that system is broken.

64. Kuwait
64. Kuwait

It is damning with faint praise to say that Kuwait has improved its position since 2016's survey, but that's where we are. This year the country has advanced to only the second worst place for expats to consider living, driven largely by marginal improvements in just about every single area.

That, however, is the end of the good news. Those improvements remain marginal, and the best that can be said is Kuwait has a middling rank when it comes to job security.

However at the same time the country comes in last place for both leisure options and personal happiness, and that pretty much says it all. Coming in No. 65 out of 65 countries surveyed for personal happiness, it's mostly impressive that Kuwait avoided dead-last.

65. Greece
65. Greece

Welcome to the bottom of the barrel, where we find Greece. It deserves, however, some clarification.

First the bad news: expats who live in Greece don't have a lot of nice things to say about it. Half the foreign-born residents say that they don't earn enough to live on, and 27% say that their income is not "nearly enough to get by." Work, finance and job security all suffer as this small nation continues to try and dig out of one of the longest running financial catastrophes of the modern world. As a result social services like education, health care and child care all suffer too.

However, there is still a place in Greece for the right kind of expat.

This country still has its fabulist's spirit, and the clear light and long nights that rightfully made it famous. There is a lifestyle to be had in Greece for the digital nomads and passive-income expats, the people who don't need to find a job in Greece because they earn their money elsewhere and who are unlikely to yet need to worry about schools or children.

For them, there may be a rooftop in Oia and a bottle of Mythos just waiting, because that's the thing about finding a place to live: you can do all the research you want, but it's ultimately about finding the right place for you.

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