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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

India: Low Quality of Life but Great for Personal Finance

Expats in India are happy with their personal finances and the local cost of living. It’s also easy to find friends, but the quality of life is extremely poor.

Top Findings

  • India (51st) ranks among the bottom 10 destinations of the Expat Insider 2021 survey.
  • 82% of expats in India are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally).
  • But 51% find it difficult to settle down in India (vs. 22% globally).
  • Four times the global average are dissatisfied with the natural environment in the country (32% vs. 8% globally).

Happy with Incomes & Making Friends

Coming in 51st place out of 59 countries, India ranks among the bottom 10 of the Expat Insider 2021 survey. Despite the poor result overall, the country ranks fourth worldwide in the Personal Finance Index: 82% of expats in India are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally), and 89% say their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (vs. 77% globally). Interestingly, 37% of expats in India have a gross income of 75,000 USD or more per year (vs. 33% globally). Additionally, India places 13th in the Cost of Living Index, with 69% of expats rating the cost of living positively (vs. 48% globally). A US American expat shares: “Generally, the cost of living here is way better than at home. I felt like I could never earn enough back in the United States. Now I feel comfortable and happy.”

Hard to Settle despite Friendly Locals

India performs slightly below average in the Ease of Settling In Index (34th). More than three in five expats (62%) feel at home in the local culture (vs. 63% globally), and 79% say the local population is generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 67% globally). A US American expat claims that the “people seem generally very nice and willing to help”. Moreover, 57% find it easy to make local friends (vs. 44% globally), and almost three-quarters of expats (74%) say it is easy to live in India without speaking the local language(s) (vs. 54% globally). However, over half the expats (51%) find it difficult to settle down in India, which is more than twice the global average (22%).

People seem generally very nice and willing to help.

Very Low Quality of Life

India receives the second-worst results worldwide in the Quality of Life Index (58th) — only ahead of Kuwait (59th) — and performs especially poorly in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (59th): 67% of expats rate the air quality negatively (vs. 20% globally), and more than half (54%) are unhappy with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 12% globally). What is more, close to one in three expats (32%) are dissatisfied with the natural environment in the country (vs. 8% globally). A US American expat says that “environmental efforts are lacking”, and another one shares: “The pollution is a problem. Sometimes I go for weeks without being able to walk or run outdoors, so it is hard to find a substitute kind of exercise.”

The pollution is a problem.

The overall quality of life is also lowered by India’s poor performance in the Safety & Security subcategory (56th). Just around three in ten expats (29%) are satisfied with the country’s political stability, compared to 64% globally. Moreover, 28% rate its peacefulness negatively (vs. 9% globally), and less than three-quarters (72%) feel personally safe in India’s cities (vs. 84% globally).

India also lands in the bottom 5 of the Digital Life (55th) and Travel & Transportation (57th) subcategories: a quarter of expats (25%) finds it difficult to get high-speed internet access at home (vs. 12% globally), and 62% rate the transportation infrastructure negatively (vs. 15% globally). An Iranian expat says: “I do not like the animals in the streets and the traffic problems.” And a Japanese expat also thinks that “the road conditions are terrible”.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Expat Life

More than three out of ten respondents in India (31%) intend to stay there for two or three years, while a further 25% want to stay abroad forever. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 51% have not changed their plans for moving back home or to another country (vs. 63% globally). Another 21% are now planning to leave India due to the ongoing pandemic, about twice the global average of 11%. In fact, just 41% of expats in India are satisfied with the official communication regarding COVID-19 and related regulations (vs. 66% globally). Maybe this is why close to two in five (39%) rely on expat news and international media as their sources of information, compared to a worldwide average of fewer than one in three (32%).


Please note that the Expat Insider 2021 questionnaire ran from 7 to 31 January, before the devastating second wave of the pandemic hit India.


Further Reading