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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Where Expats Feel at Home in 2015

Friendly and welcoming Mexico holds on to first place, expats in New Zealand find it easy to make friends, and Ecuador enters the top three due to big gains in friendliness.


In the Ease of Settling In Index, the survey participants were asked questions about how welcome they feel abroad, how friendly the local population is, how easy it is to make new friends, and how easy and important it is to learn the local language. Each question could be answered using a scale of one to seven. A country needed at least 50 respondents to be featured in this index.

Ease of Settling In Index

Ease of Settling In Index 2015
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Comparisons with Expat Insider 2014

Mexico has successfully defended its title this year as the country where it's easiest to settle in abroad. New Zealand rose from third place to second. Ecuador has climbed up five places to come in third. Spain, which ranked second in 2014, has dropped out of the top ten completely and is now down at spot 19. This is mostly due to a big drop in the Friendliness subcategory, where it went from 11th to 26th place. The country also lost ground when it comes to finding friends and feeling welcome. One of the biggest gainers this year is Portugal, which climbed ten spots to claim fifth place.

Mexico Defends Its Title

For the second year in a row, expats in Mexico have confirmed that it is the easiest country to settle down in. Most expats in Mexico (81%) feel at home in this country, with one-third completely satisfied in this regard, nearly double the global average (17%). Expats also find it easy to make local friends in Mexico. Seven in ten expats generally agree that this is easy, and one-quarter are even in complete agreement.

In terms of friendliness, Mexico lost its first-place ranking this year to Myanmar. At second place, however, a high majority of expats in Mexico are still pleased with the general friendliness of the population and the friendliness shown towards foreign residents. A full 94% are generally happy with Mexicans' overall friendliness and 62% are even completely happy (more than double the global average of 30%). Around half of the expats in Mexico (51%) report that the local population is very friendly towards foreign residents, which is also over double the global average of nearly one-quarter (24%).

Speaking the local language is essential when settling down in Mexico, as 46% of respondents say getting by without it is difficult. Luckily, 64% also consider learning Spanish to be quite easy. About one-third of the local respondents (34%) can speak Spanish very well and 27% have fairly good Spanish language skills.

New Zealand Makes Gains

What gave New Zealand the push it needed to reach the second rank this year? The explanation probably lies in its jump from 24th to 8th place in terms of the ease of finding friends. Compared to the global average of 45%, in New Zealand 64% of expats are generally satisfied with the ease of making local friends. Some 23% even find befriending the "Kiwis" to be very easy.

Kiwis are also a very friendly bunch, according to the survey participants. Almost all the expats in New Zealand (94%) generally find the local population friendly, and a majority (56%) even considers Kiwis to be very friendly. This is almost double the global average of 30%. In terms of friendliness towards foreign residents in particular, 84% are generally pleased in this regard, and 35% are completely satisfied.

Expats in New Zealand don't find it very difficult to get used to the local culture, with 77% generally agreeing that they feel at home there. Almost one-third (32%) even feel completely at home, compared to a global average of 17%. Being able to speak the local language is regarded as important, as 57% generally agree that life is difficult in New Zealand if you can't speak English. As the survey was conducted in English and presumed a certain level of English skills, however, there may be some bias regarding language skills in Anglophone countries such as New Zealand.

More Friendly Faces in Ecuador

Ecuador holds the third place for the ease of settling in. Ecuador's rankings either improved or stayed the same compared to last year. The biggest gain was in the Friendliness subcategory, where the country moved up seven spots to ninth place. Almost half of the survey participants in Ecuador (48%) couldn't be happier with the general friendliness they experience in Ecuador. When it comes to friendliness towards foreign residents in particular, 35% of expats are very pleased.

Ecuador remains in first place in this year's survey in the Finding Friends subcategory. It ranks first for the ease of making local friends. Three-quarters of expats (76%) generally agree that this is easy, and two in ten say it is very easy (the global average is one in ten).

The country also distinguishes itself in the Feeling Welcome subcategory, where it comes in first place. Expats living in Ecuador find it the easiest out of all 64 destinations worldwide to settle down in this country. A respectable 84% generally agree (compared to a global average of only 58%) that it is easy to settle down in Ecuador.

Of the survey respondents living in Ecuador, 68% generally regard it as difficult to live in Ecuador without speaking Spanish. In only eleven other countries do expats find it more challenging to get by without speaking the local language. Luckily, 31% can speak Spanish very well and a further 26% can speak it fairly well.

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