Where Expats Love (& Hate) Living in 2023
- #1 Mexico has continuously ranked in the top 5 since 2014.
- Expats in #2 Spain appreciate the leisure options & culture.
- Housing in #3 Panama is both easy to find and afford.
- The reasons may vary, but expats are not happy in #53 Kuwait, #52 Norway, or #51 Türkiye.
The Top 10 Expat Destinations
- Costa Rica
#1 Mexico: The Best Place for Expats (Again)
Mexico’s top performance might not come as a surprise, as the country has ranked in the top 5 since the first survey was conducted in 2014. And throughout the 10 years of Expat Insider, Mexico has always ranked among the best in the Ease of Settling In Index (1st in 2023). Expats have consistently enjoyed the Local Friendliness (1st): most find the local residents to be friendly in general (91% vs. 67% globally) and towards foreign residents in particular (89% vs. 65% globally).
Finding Friends (2nd) is also no problem. About three in four expats (74%) say that it is easy to make local friends, compared to only 43% globally. This is probably one reason why expats in Mexico have a personal support network (2nd) and are happy with their social lives overall (4th). Mexico secures another 1st place in the Culture & Welcome Subcategory. Expats report that it is easy to get used to the Mexican culture (1st).
The country has another strong performance in the Expat Essentials Index (12th). Housing (6th) is a particular highlight, as expats say that accommodation in Mexico is not only easy to find, but also affordable (7th for both). Affordability is a general trend in Mexico. It ranks 2nd in the Personal Finance Index. And 71% are happy with the general cost of living, compared to only 44% globally. Overall, 80% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally).
Mexico has positive results in the overall Working Abroad Index (22nd). Expats are especially happy with their personal career opportunities (4th), fair pay (5th), and work-life balance (7th). The Quality of Life Index (26th) reveals rather mixed results. On the negative side, Mexico only ranks 45th for political stability, and 18% of expats do not feel safe there, more than double the global average (8%). On the positive side, the country’s Leisure Options (2nd) are among the best worldwide. Overall, 90% of expats are happy with their life in Mexico, compared to 72% globally.
Expats Feel at Home & Happy in #2 Spain
Since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, Spain has always ranked in the top 10 of the Quality of Life Index. For example, the country has consistently featured among the best worldwide for its Leisure Options, placing 1st again in 2023. The majority of expats (88%) is happy with the culture and nightlife in Spain, compared to 68% globally. Additionally, over nine in ten (91%) are happy with their opportunities for recreational sports (vs. 75% globally). Luckily, Spain’s climate and weather (3rd) makes it easier for expats to get out and enjoy these activities.
Though missing out on a top 10 spot in the Ease of Settling In Index (12th), Spain does come 6th in the Culture & Welcome Subcategory. Four in five expats (80%) feel at home there, 18 percentage points more than the global average (62%).
Spain performs worst in the Working Abroad Index (34th). Less than half the expats (49%) agree that moving there has improved their career prospects (vs. 59% globally), and 36% are unhappy with the local job market (vs. 26% globally). On the positive side, the country ranks 10th in the Work & Leisure Subcategory, largely due to expats’ satisfaction with their work-life balance (73% happy vs. 63% globally).
Finances do not appear to pose many problems for expats in Spain. It ranks 13th in the Personal Finance Index, and more than two in three expats (69%) are happy with the general cost of living, compared to only 44% globally. Similarly, in the Expat Essentials Index (16th), Spain comes in 13th place (out of 53) for the affordability of housing. Overall, 87% of expats are happy with their life in Spain, compared to 72% globally.
#3 Panama: Where It’s Easy to Settle In
Panama comes 3rd out of 53 destinations in 2023. Expats are especially happy with the Ease of Settling In (4th). The country ranks among the top 3 in both the Finding Friends (1st) and Culture & Welcome (2nd) Subcategories. Most expats (82%) have a personal support network (vs. 58% globally) and face few difficulties finding local friends (74% vs. 43% globally). They also feel at home (81% vs. 62% globally) and welcome (84% vs. 67% globally) in Panama.
Despite the country’s average performance in the Quality of Life Index (28th), expats really like its climate and weather (11th) and air quality (10th). Panama performs worst in the Working Abroad Index (30th), ending up in the bottom 10 of the Career Prospects Subcategory (45th). The local job market (47th) and lack of job security (45th) are particular lowlights. However, the country does well when it comes to Work & Leisure (11th).
Panama also does very well in the Personal Finance Index (8th) — 80% of expats are happy with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally). The Expat Essentials Index (7th) is another highlight. Despite difficulties with opening a bank account (47th), expats say it is easy to find (83% happy vs. 49% globally) and afford (65% vs. 38% globally) housing. Overall, 81% of expats are satisfied with their life in Panama, compared t0 72% globally.
The Bottom 10 Expat Destinations
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
Unhappy Social Lives in #53 Kuwait
Kuwait ranks last in 2023, following a trend of very poor performances across the past 10 years of the survey. The country ranks last globally for Quality of Life (53rd). Expats are especially unhappy with their Leisure Options (53rd). And about half (49%) feel like they cannot openly express themselves and their opinions, more than triple the global average (15%). The availability (47th), affordability (45th), and quality (46th) of healthcare also leave a lot to be desired.
Bottom 3 rankings in the Local Friendliness (52nd), Finding Friends (51st), and Culture & Welcome (53rd) Subcategories lead to a last-place spot in the Ease of Settling In Index (53rd). More than one in three expats (36%) find it hard to get used to the local culture (vs. 18% globally), and only 37% are happy with their social life in Kuwait, compared to 56% globally. Kuwait does not escape the bottom 10 in the Working Abroad Index either (48th). Three in ten (30%) feel that they are not paid fairly for their job (vs. 19% globally), and 45% say the local work culture does not support flexibility (vs. 18% globally).
The destination does not perform that much better in the Expat Essentials (40th) and Personal Finance (38th) Indices: just 34% are happy with the general cost of living (vs. 44% globally). On the positive side, only 15% of expats in Kuwait struggle to find housing, compared to 31% globally, and more than half (54%) find it easy to live there without speaking the local language (vs. 50% globally). Overall, only 43% of expats are happy with their life in Kuwait, compared to 72% globally.
#52 Norway: Unfriendly & Expensive
Norway comes 52nd in the Personal Finance Index, as more than three in five expats (62%) rate the local cost of living negatively, compared to 35% globally. What is more, 37% say that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 27% globally).
The country also does not perform well in the Ease of Settling In Index (48th). Close to a third of expats (32%) describe the locals as unfriendly towards foreign residents, compared to 18% globally. They also find it hard to make local friends (51% unhappy vs. 36% globally) and are unhappy with their social life (38% vs. 25% globally). Overall, 37% do not feel at home in Norway (vs. 20% globally).
Norway struggles in the Quality of Life Index (31st), too. This is mainly due to expats being unhappy with the affordability of public transportation (29% vs. 15% globally) and the opportunity to travel (14% vs. 6% globally). Additionally, it ranks last worldwide for the culinary variety and dining options (53rd) and 51st for culture and nightlife. On the plus side, expats in Norway value the political stability (88% happy vs. 63% globally), the high air quality (88% vs. 66% globally), and the natural environment (95% vs. 84% globally).
Lastly, the Working Abroad Index (18th) is Norway’s strongest area. Expats in Norway appreciate the high job security (1st) and the state of the economy (9th), but they are unhappy with their personal career opportunities (48th). Overall, only 61% of expats are happy with their life in Norway, compared to 72% globally.
Low Job Satisfaction in #51 Türkiye
Türkiye ranks last worldwide in the Working Abroad Index (53rd): 30% of expats are unhappy with their working hours, about twice the global average (16%). Expats do not feel much better about their job security and their personal career opportunities (52nd for both). So, it may not be surprising that nearly one in four (24%) are not satisfied with their job in general (vs. 16% globally).
The destination ends up among the bottom 10 in the Expat Essentials Index (45th) as well: 16% rate the unrestricted access to online services negatively (vs. 6% globally), and 15% find it difficult to get high-speed internet access at home (vs. 10% globally). Türkiye still ranks somewhat below the average in the Quality of Life Index (39th). The destination comes second to last for Safety & Security (52nd).
In the Personal Finance Index (34th), 44% of expats are satisfied with the general cost of living, the same as the global average, while less than half (48%) are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally). The country has its best — but still fairly average — performance in the Ease of Settling In Index (27th): 45% find it easy to make local friends, slightly more than the global average (43%). Overall, 60% of expats are happy with their life in Türkiye, compared to 72% globally.
- Expat Insider 2023: Get the full PDF report
- Methodology & Ranking Factors
- Survey Demographics
- Quality of Life Index 2023
- Ease of Settling In Index 2023
- Working Abroad Index 2023
- Expat Essentials Index 2023
- Personal Finance Index 2023
- Mexico Is the Best Country for Expats (Again)
- Expats Feel at Home & Happy in Spain
- Finland Outperforms Sweden, Denmark & Norway in the Eyes of Expats