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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Hospitable or Hostile? The Ease of Settling In Index

While two of the bottom 3 can be found in Northern Europe, two of the three most welcoming expat destinations are located in Southeast Asia. But the clear number one is … Mexico.

Top Findings

  • #1 Mexico is the uncontested winner here, placing first for each rating factor.
  • #2 Indonesia also has a very strong performance in all three subcategories.
  • #3 The Philippines does especially well with regard to Finding Friends.
  • #52 Kuwait, #51 Sweden, and #50 Norway make up the bottom 3 of this index.
  • The top 10 are geographically diverse, but European countries predominate among the bottom 10.

The Top 10

Methodology

The Expat Insider 2022 survey features 52 destinations with a minimum sample size of 50 respondents. The Ease of Settling In Index is based on three subcategories with two or three rating factors each. The respondents were asked to rate each factor on a scale of 1 to 7.

The Local Friendliness Subcategory is based on the general friendliness of the local population and their friendliness towards foreign residents. Finding Friends includes making local friends and expats’ satisfaction with their social life. For this subcategory, the respondents were also asked if they have a personal support network in their current country of residence. Lastly, the Culture & Welcome Subcategory covers feeling at home, feeling welcome, and getting used to the local culture.

Mexico: The Friendliest People Worldwide

Mexico is the uncontested number one in the Ease of Settling In Index. It ranks 1st out of 52 destinations for all three subcategories and eight rating factors. Mexico has the world’s friendliest population — at least according to expats: 90% describe the local residents as generally friendly (vs. 66% globally), and 89% consider them friendly towards foreign residents in particular (vs. 65% globally). “The local residents around here are the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever known,” stresses a US expat.

This friendliness also seems to help expats easily find friends abroad. Three in four respondents in Mexico (75%) consider it easy to make local friends, 33 percentage points more than the global average (42%). Actually, only 18% of those living in Mexico are mainly friends with other expats, compared to 33% worldwide. Another 75% are happy with their social life (vs. 56% globally), while 80% have a personal support network in Mexico (vs. 59% globally).

Moreover, expats have few troubles adjusting to the local culture: 84% describe it as easy to get used to, 22 percentage points more than the worldwide average (62%). Nearly nine in ten (89%) feel welcome in Mexico as well (vs. 66% globally). It’s hardly surprising that 86% feel at home there (vs. 62% globally). By the way, Mexico is also the country where expats are the happiest (91% vs. 71% globally). Though this question does not feature in the Ease of Settling In Index, these two topics are still connected: when asked which reasons have contributed significantly to their happiness, 58% of respondents in Mexico mention enjoying the local culture (vs. 35% globally).

Indonesia: Where Expats Feel Welcome

Indonesia (2nd) follows right behind Mexico in the Ease of Settling In Index. It also has a very strong performance for all subcategories (2nd in each) and rating factors, though just a little less strong than Mexico’s.

When it comes to Local Friendliness (2nd), 90% of expats in Indonesia consider the local population friendly (vs. 66% globally). The same share (90%) also describes them as friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 65% globally).

Just like in Mexico, expats in Indonesia find it easy to make local friends (71% vs. 42% globally): 66% are friends with both locals and expats (vs. 49% globally), whereas 19% have mostly Indonesian friends (vs. 17% globally). A mere 16% are mainly friends with other expats, about half the global average (33%). All in all, 77% are happy with their social life (vs. 56% globally), and 66% have a support network to ask for help, if necessary (vs. 59% globally).

Lastly, Indonesia does very well in the Culture & Welcome Subcategory (2nd). At 69%, the share of expats who find it easy to get used to the local culture is a little lower than Mexico’s, but still above the global average of 62%. Four in five (80%) feel at home there (vs. 62% globally), with an even higher percentage of 89% feeling welcome (vs. 66% globally). “I just love Indonesia’s friendly people, the welcoming culture, and the opportunities for traveling within the country,” an expat from Switzerland summarizes.

Feeling at Home in the Philippines

With the Philippines (3rd), another Southeast Asian destination makes it onto the podium. It does best in the Finding Friends Subcategory, also ranking 3rd out of 52.

For instance, 71% of expats agree that making local friends is easy, nearly 30 percentage points more than the global average (42%). Indeed, only 14% are mostly friends with other expats, compared to 33% worldwide. Moreover, expats in the Philippines are really happy with their social life, which 68% rate positively (vs. 56% globally). However, just 58% have a personal support network, about the same as the global average (59%).

Regarding Local Friendliness (4th), the Philippines narrowly misses out on the top 3. Still, 83% describe the local population as generally friendly (vs. 66% globally), with another 85% considering them friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 65% globally). “I think the Filipino people are the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world. I feel blessed to be living among them,” shares an expat from the US.

In the Culture & Welcome Subcategory (5th), the country features among the global top 5, too: 80% feel welcome there (vs. 66% globally), and 78% feel at home (vs. 62% globally). About three in four (74%) also think the local culture is easy to get used to (vs. 62% globally).

Where Expats Struggle with Settling In

Kuwait (52nd) comes last in the Ease of Settling In Index (52nd). It is the very opposite of Mexico, placing last for each subcategory and rating factor. Among other things, expats are unhappy with their social life (50% vs. 26% globally). They perceive the local residents as unfriendly (44% vs. 17% globally) and do not feel at home (56% vs. 21% globally). “The locals here aren't as friendly as in other Middle Eastern countries,” complains an expat from the UK.

The other two countries in the bottom 3 are Sweden (51st) and its neighbor Norway (50th). In Sweden, expats struggle most with Finding Friends, ranking the country 51st in this subcategory: 63% find it hard to make local friends (vs. 37% globally). Nearly two in five (38%) are not satisfied with their social life (vs. 26% globally), and 33% do not have a personal support network (vs. 24% globally). “I don’t like the fact that you can’t make friends with the Swedes easily,” a Nigerian respondent shares.

In Norway, it is the Culture & Welcome Subcategory (51st) that is the biggest pain point for expats. Nearly three in ten (29%) respondents do not feel welcome (vs. 16% globally). Two in five (40%) also find it difficult to get used to the local culture, compared to an average of 19%. Unsurprisingly, 31% of expats do not feel at home in Norway, ten percentage points more than the global average (21%). “Norway has been the most difficult country to settle in, and I have lived on five different continents,” a Swiss expat says.

Trends in the Top 10

  1. Mexico
  2. Indonesia
  3. Philippines
  4. Brazil
  5. Oman
  6. Taiwan
  7. Portugal
  8. Kenya
  9. Vietnam
  10. Spain

The top 10 for settling in are a geographically diverse mix of destinations across four continents. However, it is striking that there are only two European countries on this list: Spain ranks 10th out of 52, and neighboring Portugal lands in 7th place. The Iberian Peninsula is joined by two Latin American countries. In addition to Mexico (1st), there is also Brazil (4th), which just misses out on a top 3 ranking.

With Indonesia (2nd) and the Philippines (3rd), two of the top 3 are located in Southeast Asia, and a third one — Vietnam — comes ninth. There is also an East Asian destination in the top 10: Taiwan ranks 6th out of 52. The rest are two geographical outliers: Oman (5th) is the only Middle Eastern country that does very well here, while Kenya (8th) represents the African continent.

Trends in the Bottom 10

  1. Kuwait
  2. Sweden
  3. Norway
  4. Austria
  5. Germany
  6. Denmark
  7. Luxembourg
  8. Japan
  9. Finland
  10. Switzerland

Like the top 10, the bottom 10 of the Ease of Settling In Index also consist of distinct regional clusters, as well as a couple of outliers. But here the European destinations predominate.

Apart from Sweden (51st) and Norway (50th), the other two Nordic countries featured in the Expat Insider 2022 survey also end up among the bottom 10. Denmark lands in 47th place, while Finland ranks 44th. Moreover, all three German-speaking countries perform very poorly. Switzerland does best in 43rd place, whereas both Germany (48th) and Austria (49th) are among the bottom 5. Finally, Luxembourg (46th) is one more European country on this list.

As the only Middle Eastern expat hub, Kuwait (52nd) is one of the outliers at the bottom of the Ease of Settling In Index. The other one is Japan — 45th out of 52 and the only East Asian destination bringing up the rear.

Further Reading

Full Ranking