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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Cities in South America

In 2020, three cities in South America have enough respondents to qualify for the Expat City Ranking:

7. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ranking only three places below Panama City (4th), Buenos Aires (7th out of 66) is the other Latin American destination in the top 10 of the Expat City Ranking 2020. Overall, it gets some excellent results despite its poor performance in the Urban Work Life Index (47th). The latter is mainly due to expats worrying about Argentina’s unstable economy: nearly two in three (65%) rate this factor negatively (vs. 18% globally), which puts the city in last place worldwide for this factor.

The lack of stability might also affect Buenos Aires’s ranking in the Quality of Urban Living Index (38th). While the city is praised for its leisure options (88% happy vs. 71% worldwide), its disappointing 61st place in the Safety & Security subcategory brings the ranking down: 62% of expats are unhappy with the political (in)stability (vs. 17% globally), and 19% feel personally unsafe (vs. 9% globally).

However, expats rate Buenos Aires highly in both the Finance & Housing (11th) and the Local Cost of Living (15th) Indices. In fact, 57% rate the local living expenses positively (vs. 46% worldwide), and seven in ten (70%) are satisfied with their financial situation. “It’s a cheap place, with affordable private health insurance, if (!) you have US dollars,” according to an expat from the US.

Getting settled in Buenos Aires is not a problem, either. The city ranks fifth in this index, even making it to first place for the ease of finding friends: 72% agree that it is easy to make new friends in Buenos Aires (vs. 47% globally). “I just love the people here!”, adds another US expat.

39. São Paulo, Brazil

With São Paulo ranking 39th out of 66 in the Expat City Ranking, its weakest point is the Quality of Urban Living Index (56th). The city performs worst for personal safety (42% unhappy vs. 9% worldwide), but it also has low scores for the urban environment (56th). “The air, water, land, and noise pollution is unbearable,” explains an expat from the US.

In the Urban Work Life Index (40th), São Paulo’s results improve somewhat. Expats are quite satisfied with their own jobs (62% happy vs. 65% globally), but 32% rate the local economy negatively (vs. 18% globally). Nonetheless, expats do not seem to struggle financially — 84% state that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (vs. 79% globally). All in all, São Paulo ranks 31st in the Finance & Housing Index.

Like most other Latin American destinations, São Paulo does best in the Getting Settled Index (19th). Expats are especially enthusiastic about the general friendliness of the local population and the friendly attitude towards foreign residents — São Paulo ranks sixth for both factors. Moreover, about three in four respondents (74%) find it easy to make friends in town (vs. 47% globally). “The happiness here is simply contagious,” adds a female expat from Mexico.

59. Santiago de Chile, Chile

Coming in a disappointing 59th place out of 66 in the Expat City Ranking 2020, Santiago de Chile is the only Latin American destination among the bottom 10.

The Chilean capital performs worst in the Quality of Urban Living Index (54th), mainly because of its poor performance in the Health & Environment (58th) and Safety & Politics (59th) subcategories. Expats in Santiago are particularly worried about political stability, which 57% rate negatively (vs. 17% worldwide). “There are riots, protests, and social unrest everywhere,” a Venezuelan expat complains. Moreover, respondents are concerned about the availability of healthcare (30% unhappy vs. 17% globally), as well as its affordability (62% unhappy vs. 21% globally).

The Urban Work Life Index (52nd) is Santiago’s second-weakest point. While 58% of expats rate their job security favorably — about the same as the global average (59%) — less than half (46%) judge the local economy positively (vs. 63% worldwide). They are also dissatisfied with their working conditions: nearly three in ten (29%) complain about their work-life balance (vs. 18% globally).

Santiago de Chile lags behind in the Getting Settled Index (45th), too. Only 50% of expats feel at home there (vs. 64% globally), and 36% describe the residents as unfriendly (vs. 17% worldwide). Lastly, while it ranks 28th in the Finance & Housing Index, it only comes 53rd for the local cost of living. Among the expats in Santiago, 68% are unhappy with the latter (vs. 36% globally).

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