Mexico is the friendliest country, Spain welcomes expats with open arms despite the economic crisis, and New Zealand also makes expats feel at home.
The Ease of Settling In Index combines several "soft topics" – such as how welcome expats feel in their host country, how friendly the local population is, how easy it is for expatriates to make new friends, and how easy and important it is to learn the local language. Survey participants were asked to evaluate these factors on a scale of one to seven. Each country required a sample size of at least 50 survey participants to be featured in the ranking.
Mexico ranks first place overall in the Ease of Settling In Index. In terms of friendliness, this Latin American country clearly takes the lead: An unrivalled 97% of participants answer positively when asked about the general friendliness of the population, and 94% agree that the local population has a friendly attitude towards foreign residents.
Our survey respondents are also impressed by the welcome they received in Mexico. Four out of five (80%) expats in Mexico feel at home in the local culture. A similar number of expats respond that it’s easy to settle down in Mexico (78%) and get used to the Mexican culture (76%).
Mexico comes in second place for the ease of making friends, whether among locals or expats. Only Ecuador beats Mexico in this category. Over two-thirds of expats (69%) find it easy to make local friends in Mexico. Ecuador only slightly exceeds this result with 70%.
Mexico ranks a bit lower when it comes to how easy and important expats think it is to learn the local language. Luckily, around 70% agree that it is easy to learn Spanish, as half the survey participants (51%) also think that life in Mexico is difficult for those who cannot speak Spanish.
Only 15%, however, say that learning the local language poses problems for them. Indeed, around 83% of the respondents living in Mexico report having Spanish language skills.
Expats in Spain particularly value how "at home" they feel in the country, with 82% giving positive answers. Over one-third (35%) answer that they feel completely at home, which was the highest percentage in the survey, and almost double the global average (19%).
Although most expats quickly feel at home in Spain, the country only comes in eleventh place in terms of overall friendliness. Although 88% of expats respond favorably as regards the general friendliness of Spaniards, only 33% answered that the local population was very friendly towards foreign residents. This percentage is only a bit higher than the global average (25%) and is topped by 14 other survey countries.
Spain also doesn’t rank very favorably in the "ease of making local friends" category. Only slightly more than half (59%) of the survey respondents answer positively when asked if it is easy to make local friends in Spain. This is only a little higher than the global average (45%). About one in ten (13%) expats even finds it quite difficult to make local friends.
A majority of expats (58%) agree that life in Spain is more difficult if you do not speak Spanish. On the bright side, 71% think it is easy to learn the local language and 79% of the survey participants living in Spain can speak the local language.
New Zealand does very well in the Friendliness Index, with an impressive 91% of survey participants agreeing that Kiwis are a friendly bunch. A similar percentage of expats (88%) think that Kiwis have a friendly attitude towards foreign residents. Apart from our front-runner Mexico, only Brazil ranked higher in terms of friendliness.
Despite the apparent friendliness of the Kiwis, it can still be quite difficult to make friends. Less than two-thirds (61%) have been able to find friends easily in New Zealand, slightly below the global average (63%). An even lower number of participants (55%) would agree that it is easy to make friends with New Zealanders.
A third of survey participants (30%) feel completely at home in New Zealand (much higher than the global average of 19%). Making a new home in such a geographically isolated country isn’t a breeze for everyone, however, as 17% of expats gave a negative response.
Over three-fourths of survey participants (76%) are pleased with the ease of settling down in New Zealand. One in three (30%) expats found it very easy to get used to the local culture, a percentage only exceeded by Spain and Ecuador (31% for both).
More than three-fourths of expats in New Zealand (77%) agree that learning the local language is easy. This is hardly surprising, though, as a working knowledge of English was necessary to complete our survey.