Did you know that since 1960, the number of expats has tripled?

In 1960 there were approximately 70 million expats worldwide, today there are 230 million and counting!

Additionally, it seems like no matter who we talk to, everyone has a dream of living abroad at some point in their life.  

As a result of these significant numbers of expats living their lives in other countries, we are finally getting a comprehensive sample of what life is like in a variety of countries for people moving abroad.  

There is an increasing amount of evidence going into researching what makes a good and not-so-good voice when deciding to move abroad.

Below we will list some of the top five rated countries for expats, as well as the bottom five.  We will take a look into some of the reasons these countries rank high (or low) to better understand what helps determine the factors for a successful move abroad.

But before we get into the specific countries, let’s first look at some of the reasons people decide to move abroad in the first place.  The different factors and influences that play a part in someone leaving their old way of life and home country are vast and varied.  

Here Are Some of the Top Reasons People Move Abroad

Top Reasons People Move Abroad

See which ones may resonate with you!

Career Opportunities

Many people find moving abroad for career advancement a significant driver. Many people decide to move to a particular region to explore opportunities and pursue industries that are thriving in a specific country. Recently some of the most in-demand industries worldwide include healthcare, trade, hospitality, Information Technology, and hospitality.  

Quality of Life

Searching for a high quality of life is one of the biggest factors driving people to move abroad.  Tired of the rat race, corporate grind, or high cost of living motivates millions of people each year to seek out a new home in a new country.  Individuals are often seeking more work-life balance, quality healthcare, and overall improved quality of life and well-being.  

Research and Education

individuals pursuing higher education, specialized courses, advanced degrees, or engaging in research opportunities drive countless people to move abroad each year. Countries with a variety of universities, trade schools, and research institutions attract students, professors, and scholars from all over the world.

Adventure and Exploration

Many people are motivated by a sense of adventure and a desire to explore new cultures, environments, and experiences. Moving abroad allows them to immerse themselves in a different way of life and see the world in a new way and from a completely different location.  

Retirement

Many retirees seek a lower cost of living and a warmer climate as they head into their retirement years.  Being retired gives flexibility in location and way of life allowing more options for those entering the nonworking phase of life.  Additionally finding a lower cost of living, and when children have normally left the home allows people to downsize and reduce their overhead.  Climate and healthcare options also play a role in where retirees are motivated to move and the desire for more ease in their day-to-day lives.

Relationships, Marriage, and Love

Relationships of all kinds including romantic, and friendship as well as wanting to be close to family drive many people to move abroad.  People often join family members, follow a loved one, or relocate to a partner’s country of origin. Family considerations, such as being close to extended family members or providing better opportunities for children, can influence the decision to move abroad.

Political Instability or Upheaval

Many people facing political upheaval, unrest, or conflict may choose to move abroad in search of calmer waters and more security and stability.  

Entrepreneurship and Business Opportunities

Starting a business or exploring entrepreneurial opportunities can lead people to move to countries with thriving economies, supportive business environments, and potential markets for their products or services.

Climate and Environment

Seeking a specific climate or environment is a factor for some individuals. Some prefer warmer or cooler climates, proximity to the ocean, or access to natural landscapes for outdoor activities.

Cultural or Language Immersion

A desire to immerse oneself in a new culture, learn a new language, or simply experience life in a different part of the world motivates some individuals to move abroad.  Many individuals are passionate about exploring different parts of the world and learning a new language.  

Tax Considerations

Some people move abroad for tax-related reasons, seeking jurisdictions with favorable tax policies, especially for expatriates or entrepreneurs.

Cost of Living

In some cases, individuals may move abroad to reduce their cost of living. This can involve finding a location where housing, transportation, and daily expenses are more affordable. Finding a location where your disposable income goes much further, allowing for a higher work-life balance or quality of life is a big driver in motivating many people to move countries.  

Globalization and Connectivity

The increasing interconnectedness of the world has made international travel and communication more accessible. This, coupled with the rise of remote work, has made it easier for people to consider living somewhere new and different.  Additionally, some people are motivated to move somewhere that is a more central location for travel and work.  

Individual Reasons for Moving Abroad

While the above list is interesting and illuminating in understanding what motivates people to move abroad, it is important to understand that everyone has different reasons for moving.  Your personal and individual reasons for moving will highly influence what country you choose to move to.  A country that works well for you as an expat, might not be at the top of the list for someone else.  

For instance, maybe you need to move to a country that has significant job opportunities, but someone else is retired and does not need to worry about employment prospects.  Or perhaps you are after a slower pace of life and seeking a more rural location, but someone else is seeking a bustling city life with great public transportation.  

So taking into account your own personal reasons and needs is critical in deciding where you want to move.  

That being said, here is a list of the common issues affecting expats and the major factors that go into ranking countries as good (or bad) expat destinations.

Factors and Influences That Expats Use to Rank Countries

Factors and Influences That Expats Use to Rank Countries

1. Finances and Cost of Living

The cost of living is the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain location.  The cost of living can vary dramatically from one location to another, even within the same country.  The cost of living is also tied to wages and can have a big impact on your quality of life.  For example, if you live in an expensive city, the wages you make must be high enough to cover those expenses.  

2. Quality of Life

Not all cities and locations are created equal when it comes to quality of life and day-to-day living.  Things like public transportation, climate, and environment. Leisure, healthcare, and security all influence your quality of life and how easy or challenging it is to set up life as an expat in a new country.   

3. Working Abroad and Opportunities

Career options, available employment opportunities, thriving industries, salary, and work culture are important factors for expats when ranking a country as good or bad to live in.  

4. Expat Matters

The reality is dealing with red tape and the bureaucracies of a new country is a big part of life as an expat.  Some countries are much easier to navigate than others when it comes to getting settled.  Things like red tape, and housing. Administration, visas, and language barriers play a huge role in how successful an expat’s move abroad is.  

5. Ease of Settling In

Finding happiness and connection is critical once you land in a new country.  Things like finding friends, dating, and if a community is welcoming play a strong role in how high an expat ranks a country.

So now that we understand a bit better not only why expats move and how personal that decision is, as well as the factors that go into making a country rank high on the list of an ideal country for an expat let’s look at some of the top and bottom locations around the globe for expats!

5 Best Countries for Expats

The five countries below are taken from a variety of sources that rank countries as well suited for Expats…

1. MEXICO 

MEXICO

Time and time again Mexico tops the charts as an ideal place for expats.  Foreigners and expats from all over the world report feeling quickly at home in this vibrant country and report some of the highest levels of life satisfaction and happiness, compared to others around the globe.  

Expats report feeling very welcomed by locals and find fitting into schools and communities easy.  Additionally, finding affordable housing, even in the larger cities is easily accomplished with a variety of choices in accommodation ranging from modern flats in Mexico City, to beautiful haciendas close to the beach.  

The cost of living is also a huge advantage of living in Mexico, where over 90% of expats report feeling having enough disposable income to live comfortably.  In fact, United States expats can expect to live a very comfortable life for under $2000 USD.  This budget allows for recreating, quality health care, and indulging regularly in the amazing Mexican cuisine.  

Last but not least the climate and environment in Mexico allow for a sunny climate year-round which ranks high for many expats.  Regardless if you are living in Mexico City at a high altitude or a tropical location like Playa del Carmen or Merida the climate is appealing to many foreigners.  

After spending considerable time in Mexico we certainly understand the draw of living in this remarkable and beautiful country.  

 2. The United Arab Emirates  

The United Arab Emirates

The UAE is firmly established as one of the world’s most popular places for expats and foreigners.  One of the most influential reasons the UAE is so popular among expats is its world-class career opportunities with many jobs for both junior and senior roles across a variety of sectors.  Additionally, there is no income tax in the UAE which means expat workers get to keep 100% of their monthly salary! 

Dubai, the largest city in the UAE is known for its extremely modern economic infrastructure, as well as its modern way of life appealing to many expats including single people and families.  

Safety also tops the charts as one of the main reasons expats love this destination with the UAE boasting an extremely low crime rate. 

Foreigners relocating to Dubai also note the culture, nightlife, and variety of food and entertainment as an enormous plus when moving to this bustling city.  

There are also excellent international schools, quality healthcare, and a nice climate.  And lastly, the UAE makes it easy to buy a house and apply for permanent residence if you so choose.

All these factors make the United Arab Emirates an increasingly and overwhelmingly popular place to move for expats. 

3. Spain

Spain

Spain ranks very high as a desirable location for expats worldwide. Having personally lived as an Expat in Spain we can definitely see why it is a popular destination.  

Spain is a unique country in that it allows for a variety of settings and climates based on your preferences.  There are amazing cities like Madrid and Valencia that are full of ancient rich culture and diversity. There are also beach towns all over the country allowing for a laid-back atmosphere.  Whichever your preference you are sure to find a setting that suits you.

Public transportation in most locations and proximity to other countries allowing for ease of travel were also at the top of the list for Expats.  

Spain also has tax laws designed to support Expats and excellent healthcare.  In fact, Spain’s healthcare is ranked 7th in the world.  

Spain is a family-orientated country and there is a work-life balance that is appreciated and a welcome pace for many expats.  

Having lived in Spain for several years as an Expat and in a variety of locations I can personally say that it is a wonderful spot for Expats for good reason!

Be Aware of These 7 Mistakes When Moving to Spain.

4. Portugal

Portugal

Expats can not say enough good things about the sun-drenched country of Portugal.  The climate and easy way of life play a huge role in the desirability of moving to this Expat haven.  

Expats report a very affordable cost of living with high standards in education and healthcare. 

There is also a very progressive tax structure for ex-pats and an easy-navigate Visa process. Expats in Portugal can obtain Non-Habitual Residents-status (NHR status) which allows them not to pay any taxes on their global income in Portugal. They can enjoy reduced tax rates of 20% on their Portuguese-source income as well, while others have to pay up to 48% of their income.

Expats find the way of life in Portugal both in the larger cities like Lisbon, as well as the smaller cities along the coast ideal for finding an ideal work-life balance and nature-filled lifestyle.  

We have spent considerable time with expats in Portugal, and it becomes obvious the draw of this exceptional location.  

5. Malaysia 

Malaysia

This tropical country in Southeast Asia is rapidly becoming one of the more popular places for working expats.  There are an increasing number of job opportunities for expats, especially in the engineering, banking, and IT world throughout Malaysia.  The local work culture is influenced by the West and expats report this makes the transition into their new ok environment easy.  

Expats report a high quality of life with a low cost of living.  In fact, many expats report being able to live a luxurious lifestyle compared to other parts of the world.  

Whether you are interested in the smaller beach towns or larger cities there is something for everyone.  

5 Worst Countries for Expats

It is important to note that perceptions of a country as good or bad for expatriates is a very individual experience.  

Furthermore, the countries that rank low in satisfaction for expats all happen to be some of the most remarkable locations on the planet.  

However, this list is specifically about how the countries rank when it comes to settling in as an expat and the issues that arise as a result of that unique experience.  

The following list is derived from a variety of sources where the countries below routinely come up as less-than-ideal locations for expats.  

1. Norway 

Norway

Norway is regularly ranked as one of the happiest countries on the globe, but when it comes to Expats this happiness does not seem to translate.  The leading factor that causes Norway to rank low for Expats has to do with finances. The majority of expats claim their disposable income is not high enough to lead a comfortable life. 

Additionally, Norway is said to not be the friendliest location for expats looking to connect with a community.  Expats state that it is a hard country to make friends and that their social life is not ideal.  

Other factors mentioned by Expats that lead to a less-than-ideal experience include a lack of diversity in the population as well as cuisine and culture.  

2. Germany

Germany

I was a little surprised to see Germany come up so many times on the list of lowest-ranking countries for Expats as we know a lot of people who had successful relocations to this European country, but here are a few of the issues expats had with settling in Germany.

Expats report that they have a very hard time making friends and finding a community and felt that Germans kept to themselves making it hard to connect.  They found that not speaking German was a significant hindrance and that learning to speak is also difficult as it is a hard language to learn.  

Additionally, they report finding housing as a difficult process.  Many expats reported it could take months to find even temporary housing and the process is difficult to navigate.  

The lack of digital infrastructure also came up and challenges with red tape and navigating the tricky bureaucracy made for difficulties settling in.  

3. Turkey

Turkey

Turkey is having a big moment when it comes to an increase in travel however that is not necessarily translating to a big shift in the country yet appealing to Expats.  In fact last year alone Turkey saw a 70 percent increase in travel and tourists love what Turkey has to offer. However, when it comes to living and relocating to Turkey the reviews are not as high.  

One of the most significant factors Expats rank Turkey so poorly has to do with career and job satisfaction.  They state that long working hours, lack of job security, and few career opportunities make for a challenging and less-than-ideal environment.  

Additionally, expats stated the quality of life was below their standards and listed safety as a concern.  

4. South Africa

South Africa

South Africa is a spectacular place to visit but when relocating as a foreigner it came in low on the list of ideal places.  Here are some of the reasons why expatriates may find South Africa challenging. 

Crime rates across some regions are a significant concern for many expatriates.  Crime rates vary across many regions of the country.

Economic Inequality is a significant factor affecting expats’ satisfaction with relocating to South Africa.  With one of the highest levels of inequality globally this can have an effect on the quality of life, particularly if not accustomed to such disparity.  

Lastly, the social and political challenges experienced in the country keep expats from navigating the transition easily.  

5. New Zealand 

After having lived and traveled extensively in New Zealand it came as a bit of a surprise that the ratings by expats of this beautiful country located in the South Pacific Country were so low.  

New Zealand is an exceptional country but for expats, it has some significant challenges.

Namely, these challenges come in the form of economics.  Expats report the low wages experienced by the majority of the workforce, coupled with the high cost of living as a major challenge to life as an expat.   Most report their disposable income is not enough to live a comfortable life. The salaries are not enough and the divide between rich and poor is growing.  

New Zealand being a small country also means there are housing challenges.  And lastly, expats report struggling with the weather and the isolation due to the location of the country which can make travel more difficult.  

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In Conclusion

Finding the best country for you as an expat is not just about seeking out the highest-rated country globally for foreigners and expats.  It’s about understanding your own unique motivations for moving and seeing if those align with the most appealing parts of the new country you are seeking out.  

So make sure to understand your motivations and then do some thorough research on how to pick the right place.  In some cases, a country that might not rank high on someone else’s list might be the perfect fit for you!

Things to Remember

  • There are a variety of reasons people move abroad including, relationships, career options, and taxes,

  • Make sure you understand what your motivations are for moving abroad,

  • Make sure your  reason line up well with the country you plan to move to,

  • There are a variety of factors that play into why and how a country is a good place to live for expats. These factors range from housing and cost of living to connecting with a new community,

  • Some high-ranking countries might not be a great fit for you personally,

  • Some low-ranking countries are remarkable and could be the perfect spot for your new home.

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