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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Where Expat Life Is Great: The Quality of Life Index

Even compared to pre-pandemic times, the top 3 don’t offer many surprises. They don’t come first in all subcategories, though. Here, the respective winners are surprisingly diverse.

Top Findings 

  • #1 Taiwan has an exceptionally strong performance for Health & Well-Being (1st).
  • #2 Austria offers the best travel opportunities worldwide.
  • Expats living in #3 Portugal are particularly happy.
  • Seven of the top 10 destinations in this index are located in Europe.

The Top 10


In 2021, the Expat Insider survey includes 59 countries and territories with a minimum of 50 respondents each. The Quality of Life Index covers 20 factors from seven different subcategories: Leisure Options, Health & Well-Being, Safety & Security, Personal Happiness, Travel & Transportation, Digital Life, and Quality of the Environment. Respondents rated factors on a scale from one to seven.

Taiwan: Still Going Strong

In the Quality of Life Index, Taiwan places first for the fourth time. In the Expat Insider 2021 survey, it lands again among the top 10 in two subcategories that have always been among its strongest points: Health & Well-Being (1st) and Travel & Transportation (8th). Expats in Taiwan appreciate both the affordability of healthcare (94% positive replies vs. 61% globally) and its quality (96% positive vs. 71% globally). “I love the excellent and affordable healthcare system!” says a French expat in Taipei. Another 90% give the transportation infrastructure a positive rating, compared to 76% worldwide.

I love the excellent and affordable healthcare system!

Taiwan gets above-average results in three more subcategories. However, all these rankings are somewhat negatively affected by one specific factor. For example, Taiwan places 14th in the Digital Life subcategory. Its ratings for high-speed internet access, for instance, are excellent, with 94% of expats judging this factor favorably (vs. 79% globally). However, they are less satisfied with the cashless payment options: 85% rate them positively, about the same as the global average (83%). Though this is still a good result, it is not an amazing one, which leads to Taiwan not ranking quite as highly as it might have. Similar trends emerge in the Safety & Security (14th) and Leisure Options (17th) subcategories.

Last but not least, Taiwan only lands in an average 29th place in the Quality of the Environment subcategory. This is mainly due to the local air quality, which a mere 56% rate positively, compared to 66% worldwide. Nonetheless, expats in Taiwan are pretty happy with their life in general — four out of five (80%) say so (vs. 75% globally).

Austria: More Than Just Great Travel

Expat life in Austria offers some great benefits with regard to Travel & Transportation (1st), Quality of the Environment (5th), and Health & Well-Being (7th). For example, 95% of respondents in Austria are satisfied with their travel opportunities (vs. 84% globally), an impressive 98% like the natural environment (vs. 84% globally), and 82% consider healthcare affordable (vs. 61% globally). Such outstanding results in these subcategories boost Austria to a 2nd place out of 59 in the Quality of Life Index. “I enjoy the central location of Austria and the opportunities to travel. I also like the environment and the proximity to nature,” an expat from Russia comments.

I like the environment in Austria and the proximity to nature.

While Austria doesn’t make it into the top 10 for Safety & Security (15th), the vast majority of expats (95%) does feel safe there (vs. 84% globally), while a further 93% find the country peaceful (vs. 80% globally). In the three other subcategories — Leisure Options (27th), Personal Happiness (28th), Digital Life (29th) — Austria’s results are a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, expats love the local leisure options, which 81% rate positively (vs. 72% globally). However, when it comes to their own socializing and leisure activities, only 65% give them a favorable rating, a little less than the global average (67%).

Portugal: Home to Happy Expats

Portugal is home to some of the happiest expats worldwide: 84% are happy with their life in general, compared to a global average of 75%. They enjoy the high quality of life, ranking Portugal 3rd out of 59 destinations in this index. Expats particularly appreciate the local leisure options (87% positive replies vs. 72% globally) and the sunny climate and weather (90% vs. 66% globally). Nearly four in five (79%) are also happy with their own socializing and leisure activities (vs. 67% globally). A further 96% describe the country as peaceful (vs. 80% globally), and 97% feel safe there (vs. 84% globally). “It’s a safe and peaceful place,” a British expat confirms. “It’s very beautiful with great food, music, culture, and scenery.”

While Portugal narrowly misses out on a top 10 spot in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (11th), the response regarding Health & Well-Being (21st), Travel & Transportation (22nd), and Digital Life (24th) is not quite as enthusiastic. However, most results in these subcategories are still better than average: for example, about three in four expats (73%) are satisfied with the affordability of healthcare in Portugal (vs. 61% globally), 86% are happy with the travel opportunities (vs. 84% worldwide), and 93% agree it is easy to get a local mobile phone number (vs. 87% globally).

The Three Worst-Rated Destinations

Not only does Kuwait (59th) come last in the Quality of Life Index, but it also lands among the bottom 5 in most subcategories. Nearly three in five expats in Kuwait (58%) are dissatisfied with the local leisure options, compared to 14% worldwide; 29% are unhappy with the travel opportunities (vs. 7% globally), another 58% rate the natural environment negatively (vs. 8% globally), and 37% consider healthcare too expensive, compared to about one in five (21%) worldwide.

Ranking 58th out of 59 destinations in the index, India is even the worst-rated country worldwide when it comes to the Quality of the Environment (59th): two out of three expats (67%) rate the local air quality unfavorably, compared to 20% globally, and more than half (54%) give the factor water & sanitation a negative rating (vs. 12% worldwide). “I hate the pollution!” an expat from the USA complains. “Sometimes I go for weeks without being able to go for a run outdoors.” Expats in India are also dissatisfied with their personal safety (18% negative answers vs. 8% globally) and the country’s political stability (32% vs. 16% globally).

I hate the pollution in India.

Egypt — which places 57th out of 59 countries in the Quality of Life Index — ranks last (59th) in the Digital Life subcategory. For example, around one in three expats (34%) struggle with getting high-speed internet access at home (vs. 12% globally), about the same share (32%) is unhappy with the cashless payment options (vs. 9% worldwide), and as many as three in five (60%) are dissatisfied with the availability of government services online, compared to 21% globally. On top of this, Egypt also ends up among the bottom 10 for Personal Happiness (55th), Quality of the Environment (55th), and Health & Well-Being (52nd).

Regional Trends in the Top & Bottom 10

Most top 10 destinations are located in Europe, though they are spread across the continent. In Central Europe, Austria (2nd) is followed by Czechia (7th) and neighboring Switzerland (9th). Like Austria, Czechia does very well in the Travel & Transportation (4th) and Health & Well-Being (6th) subcategories. Switzerland even beats Austria with regard to Quality of the Environment (4th): 99% of expats love the natural environment in Switzerland (vs. 84% globally).

In Southern Europe, the Iberian Peninsula is doing great. In addition to Portugal (3rd), Spain (8th) also makes it into the top 10. It even ranks 1st out of 59 in the Leisure Options subcategory, a few places ahead of Portugal (4th). With Finland (4th) and Denmark (10th), there are also two Northern European countries featured among the top 10 of the index. Both land among the top 5 for Safety & Security, as well as Digital Life.

Outside of Europe, Taiwan (1st) and Australia (6th) represent the Asia-Pacific region. Though Taiwan lands in first place, Australia gets stronger results in a few subcategories, especially for its Leisure Options (5th vs. 17th for Taiwan). In Australia, nearly nine in ten expats (87%) rate the local leisure activities positively (vs. 72% globally). Canada is the only geographical outlier. Coming fifth for the general quality of life, it performs best in the Digital Life subcategory (4th).

However, there are no such clearly discernible trends among the bottom 10 — with one exception. While there are expat destinations in Europe, North and sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia featured in this group, the Americas aren’t represented at all. Here, Brazil is the worst-rated country in 46th place.

On the Podium: The Subcategory Winners

Due to the relatively high number of rating factors that make up the Quality of Life Index, the overall winners don’t necessarily come first in each and every subcategory. Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at the various top-rated destinations.

In both the Digital Life and the Quality of the Environment subcategories, the top 3 are dominated by Northern European countries. Finland is the worldwide number one for both. For example, it has the best ratings for unrestricted access to online services (95% positive vs. 84% globally) and local air quality (97% positive vs. 66% worldwide). It is followed by Estonia (2nd) and Denmark (3rd) in the Digital Life subcategory, and by Norway (2nd) and Sweden (3rd) for the Quality of the Environment.

The top 3 countries in the Leisure Options subcategory are all located in warmer and sunnier climes. As mentioned above, Spain ranks first worldwide, thanks to the local climate and weather, among other things: 94% of expats in Spain rate this factor positively (vs. 66% globally). Mexico (2nd) and Greece (3rd) follow not far behind. Mexico is the destination where expats are most satisfied with their personal socializing and leisure activities (80% positive vs. 67% worldwide), and many respondents in Greece enjoy “the easy-going pace, where you’re actually able to enjoy life”, as an expat from the USA puts it.

In Greece, you’re actually able to enjoy life.

As the number one in the Health & Well-Being subcategory, Taiwan’s strong performance has already been discussed above. Ranking second and third, respectively, both South Korea and France also combine an affordable healthcare system with a high quality of medical care. In both countries, more than eight in ten expats rate these factors positively.

The top destination for Travel & Transportation has also been mentioned before. Austria (1st) is followed by neighboring Switzerland (2nd) and expat hub Singapore (3rd) in this subcategory. Singapore also gets the best ratings worldwide for its transportation infrastructure: an astounding 99% judge this factor favorably, compared to 76% globally.

And while the number one for Safety & Security does not appear among the top 3 in the index ranking, it has emerged as the winner in several other subcategories — it’s Finland (1st) again! This time, however, it’s followed by two expat hotspots: Singapore (2nd) and the UAE (3rd). Singapore even places 1st out of 59 for personal safety: not a single respondent (0%) feels unsafe in the city-state (vs. 8% globally).

Lastly, Mexico (1st), Costa Rica (2nd), and Portugal (3rd) do best in the Personal Happiness subcategory. While Portugal also places third in the overall index, Mexico only lands in a slightly below-average 31st place. It even ends up among the bottom 10 destinations for Safety & Security (51st), but it has some of the happiest expats worldwide regardless: 89% of respondents in Mexico are happy with life in general, compared to 75% globally.

Further Reading

Full Ranking