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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Your Map to Settling In: Where It’s Easy & Where It’s Not

Expats feel very welcome in Spanish cities Málaga (1st) and Alicante (2nd), while Mexico City follows in 3rd. Vienna, Berlin, and Copenhagen, on the other hand, don’t make it easy for expats to feel at home.

Top Findings

  • In #1 Málaga, expats highly praise the friendliness of the locals.
  • Expats living in #2 Alicante feel at home and welcome in the city.
  • Last year’s winner #3 Mexico City dropped slightly in the ranking.
  • #49 Vienna is the least friendly city for expats.
  • Expats in #48 Berlin face a lot of unfriendliness from locals.
  • #47 Copenhagen ranks at the bottom for making local friends.

The Top 15


The Ease of Settling In Index of the Expat City Ranking 2023 encompasses 49 cities around the world. A minimum of 50 respondents in each city provided valuable insights.

The index is based on three subcategories with two to three rating factors each. The Local Friendliness Subcategory is based on locals’ friendliness in general and towards expats specifically. Finding Friends looks at if expats have a personal support network, if they’re happy with their social life, and if making local friends is easy. Lastly, Culture & Welcome includes the ease of adapting to the local culture, the sense of being welcomed, and the feeling of home.

#1 Málaga Welcomes Expats into the Local Culture

Málaga takes the lead in the Ease of Settling In Index, standing out as the city where settling in as an expat is remarkably easy, thanks to exceptional local friendliness and a culture that is easy to get used to. An impressive 88%, which is close to nine in ten expats, rate the general friendliness of the locals positively (vs. 67% globally). Nearly double the global average even give this factor the best possible rating (59% vs. 30% globally). What’s more, 89% of the respondents share the view that people in Málaga are friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 65% globally), and two-thirds (67%) find making local friends easy (vs. 43% globally).

The people in Málaga are very kind,” shares a Mexican respondent, “so it’s easy to engage in cultural activities.” For 82% of respondents, it was no problem to get used to the culture, reinforcing Málaga’s ranking as a top destination for the ease of settling in. It’s not a surprise then that when asked about what contributes significantly to their general satisfaction with life in Málaga, 53% highlight their enjoyment of the local culture (vs. 35% globally).

#2 Alicante: A Place Where Expats Feel Right at Home

Alicante secures the 2nd place in the Ease of Settling In Index. Close to nine in ten expats (a remarkable 89%) feel at home there (vs. 62% globally), and an equally high 87% feel welcome in Alicante (vs. 67% globally). Also, when it comes to adapting to the local culture, around four in five (79%) agree that it’s easy (vs. 62% globally).

Alicante shines as an expat haven where four out of five (80%) are happy with their social life (vs. 56% globally). Notably, seven in ten (70%) also agree that they’ve successfully built a personal support network during their time in Alicante (vs. 58% globally). Plus, the warmth of the local community doesn’t go unnoticed: an impressive 85% of respondents appreciate the general friendliness of the locals (vs. 67% globally), and four in five expats (80%) confirm that the locals are friendly to foreign residents (vs. 65% globally).

#3 Mexico City: Where Locals Extend a Friendly Hand

Mexico City ranks 3rd in the Ease of Settling In Index. A remarkable 90% of respondents rate the general friendliness of local residents positively, surpassing the global average of 67% by over 20 percentage points. And 85% of expats agree that people in the city are friendly towards foreign residents as well (vs. 65% globally). Mexico City extends a welcoming embrace to expats, with the city ranking in the top 5 for expats feeling welcome (5th) and at home there (3rd). “I like the friendly and welcoming people best about my life in Mexico City. I feel at home,” an Indian expat shares.

Over three-quarters (78%) also find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 62% globally). When asked about which factors contribute significantly to their level of satisfaction, enjoying the local culture stands out in Mexico City (75% vs. 35% globally).

Making local friends is a breeze according to close to two-thirds of expats (65% vs. 43% globally). A higher-than-average share reveals that they are happy with their social life (72% vs. 56% globally) — and that this certainly helps with their general satisfaction (25% vs. 18% globally).

Exploring the Challenges: Vienna, Berlin & Copenhagen

While Vienna, Berlin, and Copenhagen each have their unique charm, the Ease of Settling In Index reveals certain challenges for expats in these cities.

In Vienna, nearly half of the respondents (48%) view the general friendliness of the locals negatively — three times the global average of 16%! A striking 20% even describe it as very bad (vs. 4% globally). The sentiment continues with over a third (36%) not feeling at home (vs. 20% globally) and the same share (36%) finding it difficult to adapt to the local culture (vs. 18% globally). Making local friends also proves to be a significant hurdle in Vienna, with 63% finding it difficult (vs. 36% globally).

Berlin follows suit with its own set of challenges. More than twice the global average believes that locals in Berlin are unfriendly towards foreign residents (37% vs. 18% globally). Similarly, 41% view the general friendliness negatively (vs. 16% globally). Less than half (46%) feel welcome in Berlin (vs. 67% globally), and over a third (35%) find it difficult to get used to the local culture (vs. 18% globally). It seems hardly surprising then that only 45% report being happy with their social life in Berlin (vs. 56% globally).

In Copenhagen, expats struggle to connect. Over two-thirds (68%) disagree that it’s easy to make local friends (vs. 36% globally), and just 52% feel at home in the city (vs. 62% globally). Language barriers (29% vs. 22% globally) and difficulties in making friends (44% vs. 29% globally) are also concerns noted by expats when asked what they struggle with. While 52% view the general friendliness of local residents positively, this is still less than the global average of 67%. And less than half (47%) believe that people in Copenhagen are friendly to foreign residents, specifically (vs. 65% globally).

Full Ranking

Further Reading