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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Quality of Life — There’s a Country for Every Expat

It’s business as usual in the top 3, but life in other countries — Qatar, Poland, and Hungary — has also improved significantly for expats.
  • In 2019, Portugal, Spain, and Taiwan remain in the top 3 but have traded places with each other.
  • Estonia comes out on top for digital life, while Finland is popular for its healthcare system.
  • The happiest expats live in Ecuador, and Oman is appreciated for its safety & security.
  • Singapore is popular for its travel opportunities and infrastructure.
  • Qatar, Poland, and Hungary show the biggest improvement in the Quality of Life Index.

The Top 15


In 2019, the Expat Insider survey includes 64 countries and territories with a minimum of 75 respondents each. The Quality of Life Index covers various factors from six different subcategories: Leisure Options, Health & Well-Being, Safety & Security, Personal Happiness, Travel & Transportation, and Digital Life. The latter was first introduced in 2018. Respondents rate factors on a scale from one to seven.

The Top 3 — Things Stay the Same

There has been little change at the top and bottom of the Quality of Life Index since 2017. Portugal, Spain, and Taiwan have occupied the top spots in varying order. In 2019, Portugal ranks first in the Quality of Life Index (after coming in second in 2018), followed by Spain in second and Taiwan in third place. Nigeria, Kuwait, and India occupy the bottom three places. All three have consistently ranked in the bottom 10 since 2017 (though Nigeria didn’t have enough respondents to rank in the survey in 2018).

Albeit improving by one place, Portugal doesn’t show any big changes in the subcategories. The country has improved by three ranks for safety and security, specifically in terms of political stability — 81% rate this factor favorably, and one expat from Brazil describes Portugal as “friendly and safe”. Portugal also shows better results across the Leisure Options subcategory than in 2018. The country gains five places for available leisure activities, with 49% of respondents even being very happy with this factor. “It’s the combination of things,” an expat from the Netherlands says when talking about what he likes about Portugal, “weather, food, plenty of sites and events, the people, proximity to the beach, everything.”

Spain is still incredibly popular for its climate and weather: 76% of expats in the country are completely happy with this factor (vs. 26% globally). This is part of the reason why Spain ranks first in the Leisure Options subcategory. However, while the country places in the top 10 in almost all other subcategories of the index, it doesn’t make it into the top 20 for Digital Life and Safety & Security. An expat from Sweden sees the problem in the “somewhat corrupt political system and the independent movement in different areas”. In fact, almost two years since Catalonia’s secession vote, the political crisis has still not been resolved and is causing unrest in some parts of the country.

Third-placed Taiwan has consistently shown great results in the Health & Well-Being subcategory: over nine in ten expats (92%) give the quality of medical care a positive rating, and 72% are completely happy with the affordability of healthcare. However, expats are not quite as satisfied with the quality of the local environment. “Sometimes the pollution makes it hard to breathe,” an Australian expat points out. Only 61% of expats in Taiwan rate this factor positively, compared to 67% globally.

Estonia — Where It All Happens Online

The winner of the Digital Life subcategory is Estonia. The country has worked towards digitalization since the 1990s, with free Wi-Fi available in most towns and cities, e-voting possible since 2007, and tax returns only taking minutes to complete online. With its e-residency, the country keeps working towards new digital initiatives. An expat from Portugal says that “the ID card makes everything very easy”, and one Nigerian expat values the simplicity of life in Estonia: “Everything can be done online.”

Everything can be done online in Estonia.

The small country has already occupied first place of this subcategory in 2018 and even managed to further improve when it comes to the online availability of administrative/government services. In 2019, 79% are very satisfied with this factor, compared to 70% in 2018 and only 22% worldwide.

Finland — The Healthiest Nation

Finland comes out on top for expats’ health and well-being. The Scandinavian country has improved across all factors in this subcategory but impresses most with the quality of its environment — 97% of expats in Finland are happy with this factor. One US expat appreciates “the nature, the attitude towards the environment, and healthy living” in Finland, and an expat from India loves the country for “the friendly people and clean environment”.

The country has also made big strides when it comes to the affordability of healthcare: it has improved by eleven ranks compared to 2018, and 75% of expats in Finland give this factor a positive rating. The same is true for the quality of medical care: Finland gains seven ranks compared to the previous year. One Russian expat sums up all the advantages of living in Finland: “Safety, higher quality of living (clean water and air), higher salaries, and better healthcare.”

Ecuador — The Home of Happy Expats

Ecuador seems to be the perfect place for expats’ personal happiness. The country places first, while Portugal ranks second and Spain fourth in this subcategory. Taiwan makes it to eleventh place, just about missing the top 10. All things considered, 42% of the expats in Ecuador are extremely happy with their life: one US expat praises “the tranquility of life”, while another mentions “the slower, relaxed pace of life and focus on friends and family”. The country is also home to a lot of happy couples: 63% are very happy in their relationship with their partner or spouse, a ten-percentage-points improvement compared to 2018.

Oman — A Truly Peaceful Destination

In 2019, Oman receives the most appreciation for safety and security. The country has improved by nine places and made the biggest strides when it comes to personal safety. It has gained 17 places for this factor, with 79% giving it the best possible rating. Moreover, 96% of the expats in Oman appreciate the peacefulness, while 86% are happy with the political stability. “Oman is a peaceful country,” an expat from India points out, “People here are so friendly, and they respect all expats.”

Oman is a peaceful country.

According to the Global Peace Index, Oman is the most peaceful country in the Middle East, and its stable political situation makes it an attractive place both for expats and foreign investors. The top 3 destinations of the Quality of Life Index do not perform quite as well in the Safety & Security subcategory: only Portugal places among the top 10, coming in eighth, while Taiwan ranks 17th and Spain occupies 24th place.

Singapore — The Travel Hub

Singapore places on top in the Travel & Transportation subcategory and has done so consistently since 2015. The city-state’s proximity to popular destinations across Southeast Asia, for instance, as well as its fantastic international airport, makes for many opportunities to travel and explore. Thus, it is not surprising that 74% of expats in Singapore are very happy with this factor. A Chinese expat mentions that the state is a “great location for a weekend getaway to nearby countries”. One expat from Germany, on the other hand praises the “ease of getting around in Singapore”, and 98% of respondents appreciate the transportation infrastructure.

Where the Quality of Life Has Improved

Qatar has improved across all subcategories and factors in the Quality of Life Index and is also among the biggest winners of the Expat Insider 2019 survey overall. Compared to 2018, the country has gained 15 ranks in the index, making it to 27th place. Qatar makes the biggest jump in the Personal Happiness subcategory, climbing from 52nd to 20th in 2019. Just under seven in nine expats in Qatar (77%) are happy with their life in general, and 86% are happy with their relationship with their partner or spouse. An expat from India shares: “Here we can live our life in our own style. I have more friends and social environments are also very good.”

In Qatar, we can live our life in our own style.

Poland has also improved its rank in the Quality of Life Index and makes it from 44th to 33rd place. Although the country still doesn’t rank in the top 20 in the Digital Life subcategory, it seems to have made great strides in this area: for example, 40% of expats in Poland are now happy with the online availability of administrative or government services, compared to 35% in 2018. Unfortunately, things are still not great. As a British expat says, “it is difficult to get good internet and bills are a nightmare. The online utility systems are very difficult to set up, understand, and access.” There is also some improvement in the Health & Well-Being subcategory: 47% of expats in Poland are satisfied with the quality of the environment, compared to 38% in 2018. Here, too, many expats still see some room for improvement: “the smog in Kraków” is one of the downsides of life in Poland, according to a Spanish expat.

The third big winner in the Quality of Life Index is Hungary, which climbed from 29th to 19th place. It has improved across the entire Leisure Options subcategory but particularly regarding the climate and weather: 75% rate this factor positively in 2019. The opportunities to travel also seem to have improved for expats in Hungary: 94% rate this factor positively. An expat from the US appreciates “being in Europe, having all the travel opportunities, and dealing with the challenges of the language and of living here”.

Full Ranking

Further Reading