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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

A Closer Look at Europe

In 2020, over 15,000 expats shared their take on life abroad. Find out what they had to say about the topics environment & sustainability in Europe.

1.      Finland

Coming in at the very top of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, Finland ranks 1st out of 60 countries worldwide. The Nordic country is also voted best in the Quality of Environment subcategory, with almost all expats rating the natural environment (98% vs. 82% globally) and the water and sanitation positively (96% vs. 72% globally). Another factor Finland scores well in is air quality (95% positive ratings vs. 62% globally). In fact, a South Korean expat specifically mentions “nature, clean water, and air” as what she likes most about life in Finland. The country comes second in both the Products & Policies and the Policies & People subcategories, only beaten by Sweden. Showing that the government’s attitude towards the environment is key, 89% of expats in Finland agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). Finally, 90% of expats are happy with the local waste management and recycling efforts (vs. 60% globally).

2.      Sweden

Sweden comes in second place overall in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. It even takes first place in the Product & Utilities subcategory, with 93% of expats rating the availability of clean energy and the ability to save energy positively (vs. 62% globally). Another 93% are satisfied with the local waste management and recycling measures (vs. 60% globally). Additionally, nearly nine in ten expats (88%) are happy with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally). The country is also first in the Policies & People subcategory: not only do expats agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (80% vs. 55% globally), but they also think that the local population is very interested in environmental issues (84% vs. 48% globally). A US American expat specifically mentions the “environmental awareness” as something she likes about living in Sweden. However, the country comes fourth — therefore performing slightly worse than Finland (1st out of 60) — in the Quality of Environment subcategory, where its weakest factor is the natural environment (9th). Still, 95% of expats are happy with the country’s natural environment, compared to 82% worldwide.

3.      Norway

Ranking third worldwide in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, Norway performs best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (2nd out of 60). This is due to expats’ satisfaction with the air quality (93% happy vs. 62% globally), as well as water and sanitation (97% happy vs. 72% globally). A Ukrainian expat says that “the beautiful nature, the clean air and tap water, and the focus on the environment” are what she enjoys most about life in Norway. The country places fifth worldwide in the Policies & People subcategory, with almost nine in ten expats (89%) agreeing that the Norwegian government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). Norway also comes in at fifth place in the Products & Utilities subcategory, with its weakest factor being the local availability of green goods and services (11th). However, 76% of expats are still happy with these services, which is not enough for Norway to lead the ranking, but still 13 percentage points above the global average (63%).

4.       Austria

Austria ranks 4th overall in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, making it the first non-Nordic country among the global top 10. There is not a single factor for which Austria does not rank in the top 10 worldwide. It comes in third place for the Products & Utilities subcategory, even ranking first globally for the availability of green goods and services: 90% of expats rate this factor positively (vs. 63% worldwide). What is more, expats are also happy with Austria’s energy supply (90% vs. 62% globally), as well as the country’s waste management and recycling efforts (91% vs. 60% globally). In the Quality of the Environment subcategory (5th), most expats (95%) rate the factor water and sanitation positively (vs. 72% globally), and 97% like the natural environment (vs. 82% globally). A British respondent — like several other expats — mentions the “environment and the mountains” as things he especially likes about living in Austria. Lastly, the country ranks sixth in the Policies & People subcategory: More than three in four expats (78%) agree that the population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally), with more than one quarter (26%) agreeing completely. A Philippine expat even says that Austria is “the most organized, the most environmentally friendly, and the most beautiful country” he has lived in so far.

5.      Switzerland

Just like its neighbor Austria, Switzerland (5th) also features in the global top 10 for every single factor of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. The country even comes in first for its natural environment, with an almost perfect rating (98% positive responses vs. 82% globally) — including 83% of expats who are very happy with the natural environment. The majority of expats is also satisfied with the factor water and sanitation (95% vs. 72% globally), as well as the air quality in Switzerland (91% vs. 62% globally). This results in Switzerland’s third place in the Quality of the Environment subcategory, right after Finland and Norway. A US American expat living in Zug especially likes the “beautiful nature that is easy to access”, and a Malaysian respondent in Geneva mentions “the parks, lakes, and air quality” as Switzerland’s best features. The country also does well in the Products & Utilities subcategory (6th), with 88% of expats rating the energy supply positively (vs. 62% globally) and 83% being happy with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally). Switzerland ranks lowest in the Policies & People subcategory; however, it still comes in an excellent 7th place. Exactly five in six expats (83%) agree that the Swiss government supports policies to protect the environment, which is significantly higher than the global average of 55%.

6.       Denmark

Denmark comes in 6th place overall, doing best in the Policies & People subcategory (3rd). Expats agree that the local population is very much interested in environmental issues (83% vs. 48% globally) and also think that the government supports policies to protect the environment (84% vs. 55% globally). A South African expat notes that “the Danish are environmentally conscious. Organic food and products are easily available, and they are good with recycling.” In fact, Denmark ranks 4th out of 60 countries in the Products & Utilities subcategory, with 89% of expats being satisfied with the waste management and recycling efforts (vs. 60% globally), the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally), and the energy supply (vs. 62% globally). The country ranks just a little lower in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (10th), where the ranking is affected by the natural environment (38th). Yet, 87% of expats still rate this factor positively, five percentage points above the global average (82%). What is more, most expats are happy with Denmark’s air quality (94% vs. 62% globally), as well as water and sanitation (93% vs. 72% globally).

8.      Germany

Germany ranks 8th out of 60 countries in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, coming in seventh place worldwide for the Products & Utilities subcategory. Expats in Germany are really satisfied with the availability of green goods and services (86% vs. 63% globally), with the country ranking among the global top 5, behind Finland (4th), Denmark (3rd), Sweden (2nd), and Austria (1st). Moreover, expats are happy with Germany’s energy supply (83% vs. 62% globally), as well as its waste management and recycling efforts (85% vs. 60% globally). The country also ranks among the top 10 in the Policies & People subcategory (9th): Three in four expats (75%) agree that the population is very interested in environmental issues — compared to 48% globally. A Colombian expat specifies: “I enjoy the rising awareness about environmental issues and the alternatives the government and society are developing.” In fact, 80% of respondents in Germany also agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). Germany performs worst — though still above average — in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (14th), which is mainly due to the natural environment (28th). Even so, nine in ten expats are happy with the natural environment (vs. 82% globally) and 90% rate the factor water and sanitation positively (vs. 72% globally).

10.  Luxembourg

Luxembourg places 10th out of 60 countries worldwide in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, as well as in the Products & Utilities subcategory (10th). Exactly four in five expats (80%) rate the country’s energy supply positively (vs. 62% globally), and another 84% are satisfied with the waste management and recycling infrastructure (vs. 60% globally). Luxembourg also does well in the Policies & People subcategory (11th); 83% of expats agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). And the majority of expats (70%) also thinks that the local population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). Luxembourg’s lowest-ranking subcategory is the quality of environment (13th); however, it still ranks in the global top 20 here. A Belgian expat especially likes “the green and lush scenery”, and a US American also points out the “access to nature for hiking and bicycling” as a clear benefit of living in Luxembourg. In fact, 92% of respondents like the natural environment (vs. 82% globally). Moreover, almost nine in ten expats (89%) rank the quality of water and sanitation in Luxembourg positively, 17 percentage points above the global average (72%), and 78% of expats are happy with the air quality (vs. 62% globally).

12. Netherlands

The Netherlands comes in at 12th place overall in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. The country performs best in the Products & Utilities subcategory (9th), with 82% of expats expressing their satisfaction with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally), as well as the energy supply (vs. 62% globally). An expat from Kazakhstan even lists “green energy” among the things she likes most about living in the Netherlands. The country also does well in the Policies & People subcategory (12th), with 68% of expats agreeing that the population cares a lot about environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). On top of that, nearly four in five expats (77%) consider the Dutch government supportive of policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). However, the Netherlands does not make it into the top 20 in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (22nd). Even though just 13% of expats rate the natural environment negatively, this is still four percentage points above the global average (9%), which leads to a low 46th rank for this factor. Luckily, the great results for air quality (18th) and water and sanitation (9th) balance this out. In fact, nine in ten expats (90%) rate the latter positively (vs. 72% globally).

13. Portugal

Portugal ranks 13th out of 60 destinations in total, well ahead of its neighbor Spain (20th). The country gets its best results in the Quality of Environment subcategory (7th). “I like the good air quality and having the opportunity for gardening and growing our own food, says a British expat, and a Swedish respondent explains: “I also like the nature, the rivers, and the mountains.” In fact, more than nine in ten expats in Portugal (91%) rate the air quality positively (vs. 62% globally), and an even higher share (95%) is happy with the country’s natural environment (vs. 82% globally). Portugal comes 13th in the Products & Utilities subcategory, with more than three in four expats (77%) rating the availability of green goods and services positively (vs. 63% globally), while 81% are satisfied with the waste management and recycling infrastructure (vs. 60%). Portugal shows its weakest performance in the Policies & People subcategory (16th), but it still ranks well above average: almost three in five expats (57%) agree that the population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally), and 71% believe that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally).

14. Estonia

Estonia places 14th out of 60 in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, making it into the top 20 worldwide for every single ranking factor. However, it lags behind other Northern European countries, such as Finland (1st), Sweden (2nd), Norway (3rd), and Denmark (6th). It does best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (9th), with almost all expats (99%) being satisfied with the natural environment (vs. 82% globally). Moreover, nine in ten expats (90%) rate the air quality in Estonia positively (vs. 62% globally). An Indian expat says: “It is a beautiful country with excellent air quality and open spaces.” Regarding the Policies & People subcategory (15th), expats in Estonia perceive a slight difference between the attitudes of the government and the population: 78% of respondents think that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally); however, only 56% of expats agree that the local population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). Lastly, Estonia comes 16th worldwide in the Products & Utilities subcategory. Close to four in five respondents (78%) rate the availability of green goods and services positively (vs. 63% globally), and 65% are satisfied with the local energy supply (vs. 62% globally).

16. Czechia

Coming in at 16th place out of 60 countries in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, Czechia ranks 15th in both the Products & Utilities and the Quality of Environment subcategories. Nearly all expats (97%) rate the country’s natural environment positively, compared to 82% globally. A Russian expat points out ‘’the beauty of the environment’’ as one of the best things about living in Czechia. Additionally, almost nine in ten expats (89%) are satisfied with the factor water and sanitation (vs. 72% globally). A lower share of expats are satisfied with the local air quality (74%); however, this is still significantly above the global average (62%). In the Products & Utilities subcategory, Czechia performs better than average for all factors: the availability of green goods and services (75% happy vs. 63% globally), the energy supply (73% vs. 62% globally), and the local waste management and recycling infrastructure (77% vs. 60% globally). Lastly, Czechia comes in at 23rd place in the Policies & People subcategory: close to three in five respondents (57%) agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally).

17. France

France (17th out of 60 countries) lands in the top 20 of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. Over three out of four expats in France (77%) are satisfied with the availability of green goods and services, which is 14 percentage points above the global average (63%). Additionally, almost three-quarters of the respondents (73%) are happy with the local waste management & recycling efforts (vs. 60% globally). This results in the country’s placing in14th position in the Products & Utilities subcategory. When it comes to the Policies & People subcategory (19th), France also performs better than average: 64% of expats think that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally), and 52% agree that the French population is very much interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). Finally, France ranks 23rd in the Quality of Environment subcategory, with nine out of ten expats (90%) rating the natural environment positively (vs. 82% globally). An Iranian expat explains that the country is well known for its ‘’good, clean, and green environment’’. Moreover, 81% of expats are happy with the local water and sanitation infrastructure, compared to 72% globally.

20. Spain

Coming 20th out of 60 countries in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, Spain does well across the board. It performs best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (19th), with over nine in ten respondents (91%) rating the natural environment positively (vs. 82% globally). ‘’The scenery, the diversity of places to visit, and the healthier environment” are what a British expat likes most about living in Spain. Most expats (70%) are also happy with the local air quality (vs. 62% globally). On the other hand, Spain’s weak point is the Policies & People subcategory (26th), where it still does better than average, though. Almost three in five expats (58%) agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally), and slightly more than half the respondents (51%) consider the local population to be very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). Lastly, the country just misses out on a spot among the top 20 in the Products & Utilities subcategory (21st). Exactly seven out of ten respondents (70%) rate the local waste management and recycling infrastructure positively (60% globally), and 68% are happy with the availability of green goods and services (vs 63% globally).

26. Ireland

With Ireland ranking 26th out of 60 countries in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, it performs slightly better than its neighbor, the United Kingdom (28th). Expats seem particularly satisfied with the country’s air quality (16th) and its natural environment (19th). In fact, nine out of ten respondents (90%) are happy with the latter (vs. 82% globally), while nearly four out of five expats (78%) rate the air quality positively (vs. 62% globally). An Indian expat even lists ‘’the good quality of the air’’ as one of the things he likes most about life in Ireland. However, only close to two-thirds (65%) are satisfied with the quality of water and sanitation, which is seven percentage points below the global average (72%). This results in Ireland’s 25th position in the Quality of Environment subcategory. When it comes to the Policies & People subcategory (30th), Ireland lands right in midfield, with nearly half the expats (49%) agreeing that the local population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). Additionally, more than half (55%) also think that the Irish government supports policies to protect the environment. This is the exact same share as the global average. Regarding the Products & Utilities subcategory (30th), Ireland’s performance is also just about average: 64% of expats are happy with the availability of green goods and services, which is nearly the same as the global average (63%).

27. Belgium

Coming in 27th place out of 60 destinations worldwide, Belgium places slightly above average in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking overall. The country’s strongest point is the Policies & People subcategory (21st), with 57% of expats perceiving the local population as highly interested in environmental topics (vs. 48% globally). Belgium also performs well in the Products & Utilities subcategory (22nd): three in four expats (75%) are satisfied with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally). Additionally, around two in three expats rate both the country’s energy supply (66% vs. 62% globally) and its waste management and recycling efforts positively (65% vs. 60% globally). However, Belgium does rather poorly in the Quality of Environment subcategory (41st). Especially the ratings for the country’s air quality are below the global average (54% satisfied vs. 62% globally). “With only a few green spaces in the city, there is not enough fresh air”, a Swedish expat points out. A respondent from Denmark also complains about the “poor green infrastructure”. While five in seven expats (71%) are satisfied with the natural environment, this is more than ten percentage points below the global average (82%).

28. United Kingdom

Following right after Belgium, the United Kingdom also lands in a slightly above-average place in the Environment & Sustainability ranking overall (28th out of 60 countries). The country's weakest point seems to be its natural environment (43rd) too: while 79% of expats rate this factor generally positively (vs. 82% globally), just 36% are completely happy with it (vs. 49% globally). “The city is very polluted and noisy”, says a Swiss expat living in London. Additionally, 30% of respondents are unhappy with the UK’s air quality (vs. 24% globally). All of this results in a 34th place in the Quality of Environment subcategory. On the upside, the UK performs better in the Products & Utilities subcategory (26th). Close to two in three expats (65%) rate the availability of green goods and services positively, which is, however, just two percentage points above the global average (63%). “I like the access to organic and healthy food,” states an expat from Serbia. Expats also give an about average share of positive ratings to the waste management and recycling efforts (62% satisfied vs. 60% globally) and the country’s energy supply (61% satisfied vs. 62% globally). Finally, the UK comes in 28th place in the Policies & People subcategory, with the respondents describing the local population as just slightly more interested in environmental issues than the average worldwide (49% of expats agree vs. 48% globally).

32. Italy

Coming 32nd out of 60 overall, Italy ranks best in the Products & Utilities subcategory (28th). Expats are happy with the waste management and recycling infrastructure (68% vs. 60% globally), and exactly the same share of respondents as the global average (63%) rates the availability of green goods and services positively. However, the country’s energy supply does not do quite as well, with just 53% of expats rating this factor positively (vs. 62% globally). Italy places 31st in the Quality of Environment subcategory, showing mixed results for the different factors. More than nine in ten expats (92%) like the natural environment (vs. 82% globally), and 59% even agree that it could not be any better (vs. 49% globally). A Finish expat mentions “the beautiful landscapes and natural areas” as her favorite things about Italy, but she also complains about “air pollution and heavy traffic”. In fact, 34% of expats are dissatisfied with Italy’s air quality (vs. 24% globally), ranking the country 41st for this factor. The country’s lowest-ranking subcategory, however, is policies and people (33rd): according to one out of three expats (33%), the Italian government does not support policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally). Additionally, fewer than three in seven respondents (42%) say that the local population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally).

35. Hungary

Hungary lands in the lower half of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking (35th out of 60 countries) ranking below average for most factors featured in the survey. It does best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (32nd): Expats rate the factor water and sanitation better than the global average (76% positive ratings vs. 72% globally). However, only three in four respondents (75%) like the natural environment in Hungary (vs. 82% globally), and less than half (49%) are satisfied with the air quality (vs. 62% globally). Hungary places 34th in the Products & Utilities subcategory, with around four in seven expats (57%) expressing their satisfaction with the country’s waste management and recycling measures, which is also just below the global average (60%). And there are also fewer expats who are happy with Hungary’s energy supply (57% vs. 62% globally) and the availability of green goods and services (59% vs. 63% globally). Lastly, the country performs rather poorly in the Policies & People subcategory (38th): according to expats, the population does not seem to be very interested in environmental issues (33% vs. 30% globally). Moreover, the government does not appear to be supporting policies to protect the environment either, with only 36% of expats agreeing that they do (vs. 55% globally).

36. Poland

Poland comes 36th out of 60 countries in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, and its performance in all subcategories of the survey is rather mediocre: It ranks 32nd in the Policies & People, 33rd in the Products & Utilities, and 43rd in the Quality of Environment subcategories. With regard to the latter, Poland even ends up among the bottom 10 countries worldwide when it comes to air quality (54th): 60% of expats are unsatisfied with this factor (vs. 24% globally), and several expats mention the “air pollution” and the “quality of the air” as their least favorite things about life in Poland. On the other hand, water and sanitation (22nd) is the highest-ranking factor in the Quality of Environment subcategory, with 82% of expats rating it favorably (vs. 72% globally).

The country also has a rather lackluster performance in the Products & Utilities subcategory: only 45% of expats are happy with the energy supply (vs. 62% globally). However, around two out of three respondents are satisfied with the waste management and recycling infrastructure (65% vs. 60% globally), as well as the availability of green goods and services (66% vs. 63% globally). When it comes to the Policies & Politics subcategory, 42% of expats are dissatisfied with the government’s support of policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally). A German expat explains that “the lack of environmental protection by the government” bothers him. According to 47% of the survey participants, the population seems to be very interested in environmental issues — which is just around the global average (48%).

44. Cyprus

Ranking 44th out of 60 countries, Cyprus performs best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (33rd). The country does particularly well with regard to its air quality (26th), which 68% of expats rate positively (vs. 62% globally). What is more, 81% like the natural environment (vs. 82% globally) but more than one in five (21%) are unsatisfied with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 15% globally).

When it comes to the Products & Utilities (48th) and Policies & People (45th) subcategories, Cyprus performs rather below average. Regarding the latter category, 34% do not agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally), and 44% say that the population is not very interested in environmental issues either (vs. 30% globally). An Italian expat dislikes that there is “little awareness about environmental issues”, and a British respondent complains that “garbage is left just anywhere”. In fact, 43% of expats are dissatisfied with the local waste management and recycling efforts, compared to 28% globally. Moreover, 28% of respondents are unhappy with the country’s energy supply (vs. 18% globally), and only 42% rate the availability of green goods and services positively (vs. 63% globally).

46. Greece

Landing in the bottom half of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking (46th out of 60 countries), Greece shows mixed results for different factors. In the Products & Utilities subcategory, the country places among the bottom 10 worldwide (51st), receiving its worst results for waste management & recycling (53rd): 58% of expats are unsatisfied with this factor (vs. 28% globally), with 22% even describing it as very bad (vs. 9% globally). Greece does not perform well for energy either (53rd), with 31% of respondents rating this factor negatively, compared to 18% globally. Additionally, just 45% are happy with the available green goods and services (vs. 63% globally).

Greece performs far better in the Quality of Environment subcategory (28th): 74% of expats are satisfied with the air quality (vs. 62% globally), which makes this factor the country’s highest-ranking one (19th). Eight in nine expats (89%) are also satisfied with the natural environment (vs. 82% globally), but Greece does not perform well for water and sanitation, with only 57% favorable ratings (vs. 72% globally). What is more, almost half the expats (47%) think that the population is not very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). A South African expat shares that “environmental issues and animal welfare are surely lacking,” and a Canadian respondent states that the country is “not environmentally conscious”. In fact, Greece ranks only 50th out of 60 for this factor.

52.  Malta

Coming in at 52nd place out of 60 countries, Malta is the only European country in the bottom 10 of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. The country performs poorly in every subcategory, with its weakest point being the Policies & People subcategory (55th). In fact, 67% of expats think that the Maltese government does not support policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally), with 24% even stating they do not agree at all (vs. 8% globally) — only Brazil (59th) and India (60th) perform even worse for this factor. Additionally, more than half the expats (52%) also believe that the local population is not very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). One British summarizes: “It is a shame that they have not embraced environmental issues as much as they could. For example, wind farms and electric buses would be a good idea.” Malta also ranks in the bottom 10 for the Quality of Environment subcategory (51st), with 28% of respondents dissatisfied with the natural environment. This is 19 percentage points more than the global average (9%).

Malta does best in the Products & Utilities subcategory, but still only manages to come in at 46th place. Four in nine expats (44%) are not satisfied with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 21% globally), and 40% are unhappy with the energy supply (vs. 18% globally). A Portuguese expat points out the “lack of greenery, the air pollution, and the lack of environmentally friendly transportation options” as the worst part about living in Malta. The factor for which Malta ranks highest is waste management and recycling (32nd), with 61% of expats rating it favorably, about the same as the global average (60%).