When retirees contemplate where they want to live, exotic locales such as Mexico, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean often beckon. But there's a new place to consider: Taiwan.

The small east Asian island nation was voted the top place to live abroad, according to global networking and information provider InterNations this week.

Its third annual survey, which had more than 14,000 respondents representing 174 nationalities living in 191 countries or territories, ranks countries by a variety of factors, including the quality of life, personal finances and ease of settling in.

Taiwan took the top spot from Ecuador, which won the two previous years. The South American country came in third, while Malta in the Mediterranean ranked second.

So how did Taiwan--which China still claims to be its province, despite becoming independent in 1950--become the most-favored nation? Mainly for ex-patriots' financial situations--85% of its respondents said they were satisfied, versus a global average of 64%--along with their quality of life, both of which ranked first in the survey. An even higher percentage of expats in Taiwan praise the quality and affordability of the local healthcare system at 94% and 95%, respectively, a key consideration for retirees, along with quality of life. And nine out of 10 of the respondents give the friendliness of the residents toward foreigners a positive rating.

One of the drawbacks: The language barrier, with only 23% agreeing that learning the local language is easy and about a third saying living in Taiwan without learning at least some of the local tongue is problematic.

Second-ranked Malta is praised for expats' view of their personal finances there, including general cost of living and affordable housing, which both rated very well by 30% of the survey's respondents versus a global average of 14% and 13%, respectively. Ecuador dropped to third mostly because of its struggling economy--oil is its key export--and quality of life issues, including personal security.

InterNations said it's not surprising that Americans, particularly retirees, opt to move to Latin American countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica and Ecuador, considering they rank in the top 10 overall best destinations for expats (Mexico is fourth; Costa Rica is sixth). Indeed, about 20% of American expats are retirees, more than twice the global average of 8%, and the survey found that they are generally happier living abroad, with 85% saying they are happy overall.

Other counties making the top 10 expat list include New Zealand (fifth), Australia (seventh), Austria (eighth), Luxembourg (ninth) and the Czech Republic (10th). The bottom three were Kuwait, Greece and Nigeria.

So how did the U.S. do in the survey? Not very well--it ranked 26th out of 67 countries. InterNations found that despite the friendliness of the American people toward foreign residents, the political stability of the country, along with the high costs of healthcare and education, make it a less-than-perfect choice for moving abroad. Almost six out of 10 thought that healthcare wasn't easy to afford, more than double the global average. No news there.