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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Where (Not) to Move for a Better Quality of Life in 2023

From public transportation and dining options to personal safety and healthcare: European countries dominate the top 10 of this index. But there are also a few surprises.

Top Findings

  • #1 Spain defends its 2022 spot at the top of the podium.
  • #2 Taiwan is once again the undisputed winner for healthcare.
  • In #3 Finland, expats enjoy the clean air and beautiful nature.
  • Expats in the bottom 3 destinations are especially dissatisfied with the environment.

The Top 10


The Quality of Life Index covers five different subcategories: Travel & Transit, Leisure Options, Healthcare, Environment & Climate, and Safety & Security. From air quality to personal safety, expats rated 21 underlying factors on a scale from one (very bad) to seven (very good). In 2023, 53 destinations with a minimum of 50 respondents each made it into the ranking.

Expats Still Delighted with #1 Spain

Since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, Spain has consistently featured among the top 10 when it comes to the Quality of Life. In 2023, the country manages to defend its 1st place from the previous year, also ranking 2nd overall. Great news for the above-average share of 23% who primarily moved there for a better quality of life (vs. 8% globally)!

Expats in Spain simply love the available Leisure Options (1st). Around nine in ten are happy with the opportunities for recreational sports (91% vs. 75% globally), as well as the culinary variety on offer (89% vs. 77% globally). What is more, 88% rate the local culture and nightlife positively, 20 percentage points more than the global average of 68%. The famously sunny weather is the cherry on top — three in five (60%) even give Spain’s climate the best possible rating (vs. 27% globally).

However, the good quality of life in Spain is not just due to the sun and the things you can do. Expats very much appreciate the affordability (4th), availability (7th), and quality (10th) of medical care, too. “What I like about Spain? Among other things the great healthcare and the accepting culture,” shares a US American expat. Respondents in Spain are indeed much more likely to agree that they can openly express themselves and their views than the worldwide average (84% vs. 65% globally). But opinions about the country’s political stability are less enthusiastic (64% happy vs. 63% globally).

Expats love their travel opportunities — two-thirds (67%) give this factor the best possible rating (vs. 56% globally). And the vast majority appreciates the affordability (88% happy vs. 71% globally) and availability (83% vs. 73%) of public transportation, as well as the infrastructure for cars (88% vs. 75%), too.

#2 Taiwan Triumphs thanks to Great Healthcare

Taiwan, which ranks 2nd in the Quality of Life Index and 5th overall, has also been a regular among the top 10 over the years. In 2023, it once again reigns undisputed when it comes to Healthcare (1st). Over nine in ten expats are satisfied with the affordability (91% vs. 62% globally) and availability (93% vs. 71% globally) of medical care in Taiwan. And three in five (60%) give its quality top marks (vs. 35% globally). Worldwide, only South Korea receives even better results for healthcare quality.

Expats also appreciate how affordable (95% vs. 71% globally) and readily available (88% vs. 73% globally) public transportation is. As an Indian expat points out: “The travel infrastructure is very good, helping us explore.” Over nine in ten (91%) are happy with the opportunity to travel (vs. 84% globally), and 93% agree it is easy and safe to get around on foot or by bicycle in Taiwan (vs. 77% globally).

Speaking of safety: not one respondent feels unsafe in Taiwan (vs. 8% globally). In fact, over three-quarters (76%) give their personal safety the best possible rating (vs. 49% globally), with Taiwan ranking 3rd for this factor. Another 75% agree that they can openly express themselves and their opinions, compared to a global average of 65%.

“Taiwan is safe and has low crime. The trains make it easy to travel the island.” – US American expat

Expats also like Taiwan’s natural environment (91% happy vs. 84% globally) and agree that the government supports policies to protect it (75% vs. 62% globally). When asked what contributes to their general happiness, more than half (56%) point out that they enjoy the high quality of the environment and its benefits such as better health (vs. 37% globally).

#3 Finland: A Paradise for Nature Lovers

Being rated one of the best destinations for a good quality of life is nothing new for Finland. Following its 7th place in 2022, it makes it into the global top 3 in 2023.

Expats enjoy both the urban (1st) and the natural (3rd) environment. The vast majority even gives Finland’s nature the best possible rating (84% vs. 55% globally) and judges the air quality favorably (95% vs. 66% globally). “I love the beauty of the countryside,” a British respondent shares. And according to 86%, the local government does support policies to protect the environment (vs. 62% globally). The weather is Finland’s only weakness, though: close to two in five (39%) are not a fan of the Nordic climate, more than twice the global average of 18%.

Respondents also appreciate the Safety & Security (3rd) in Finland. Over three-quarters (77%) agree they can openly express themselves (vs. 65% globally), and 95% enjoy their personal safety (vs. 83% globally). And not a single respondent has something negative to say about the country’s political stability (vs. 13% globally).

In the Travel & Transit Subcategory (18th), Finland receives somewhat mixed results. A striking 99% agree it is easy and safe to get around on foot or by bicycle (vs. 77% globally), for example. But while the availability of public transportation is good (86% vs. 73% globally), expats are less enthusiastic about its affordability (22% unhappy vs. 15% globally).

No Good Times in the Bottom 3 Countries

Compared to the previous year, none of the bottom 3 destinations in the 2023 Quality of Life Index come as much of a surprise.

Landing in last place, Kuwait (53rd) has regularly ended up at the end of the ranking over the past ten years. It also comes last overall in 2023. Expats are particularly disappointed with the local culture and nightlife (41% negative ratings vs. 15% globally) and the opportunities for recreational sports (29% vs. 10%). This results in another last place for Kuwait in the Leisure Options Subcategory (53rd).

I don’t like the polluted air, the lack of access to nature, and the fact that there are no sidewalks and too many cars,” says a Canadian expat. Others agree and give both the natural (53% unhappy vs. 6% globally) and the urban environment (44% vs. 16%) a negative rating. Many also feel like they cannot openly express themselves (53rd) or easily access all the kinds of healthcare services they need (51st). All in all, Kuwait lands among the bottom 10 in each subcategory of this index.

The situation does not seem quite as dire in India, though it still ranks second to last (52nd) in this index. Expats give the country an above-average rating for Healthcare (22nd) and clearly enjoy the culinary variety on offer (16th). But the same cannot be said for most other factors. Safety remains a major concern (44th), and 37% feel they cannot openly express themselves and their views, more than twice the global average of 15%.

Around half also agree that it is not easy and safe to get around on foot or bicycle (49% unhappy vs. 13% globally), and they rate the infrastructure for cars negatively as well (50% vs. 13% globally). India even ranks last when it comes to the Environment & Climate (53rd), with the air quality being a particular concern (73% unhappy vs. 17% globally).

Bad news for the 22% of expats who mainly moved to Malta to get a better quality of life (vs. 8% globally): the country ends up among the bottom 3 in this index (51st). Expats do love the Mediterranean climate (9th), but that is the only good thing when it comes to the Environment & Climate Subcategory (51st). More than one in three expats (35%) state that green goods and services are not readily available (vs. 16% globally), and 54% are dissatisfied with the urban environment (vs. 16% globally).

“There’s too much infrastructure for a small Island. The beauty will be ruined if not controlled.” – South African expat

The infrastructure for cars also leaves a lot to be desired, with Malta placing last (53rd) for this factor. And while public transportation is affordable (79% happy vs. 71% globally), it is not always readily available (23% unhappy vs. 16% globally). Nor is getting around on foot or by bicycle necessarily a safe and easy alternative (32% unhappy vs. 13% globally).

Trends in the Top 10

  1. Spain
  2. Taiwan
  3. Finland
  4. UAE
  5. Austria
  6. Singapore
  7. Portugal
  8. Switzerland
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Denmark

There has been little change at the top of the Quality of Life Index, with nine of the ten best-rated destinations already holding a top 10 position in 2022. Luxembourg (9th) is the exception here. It has moved up from 21st place in the previous year thanks to gains across all but one subcategory (Leisure Options). South Korea, on the other hand, has dropped out of the top 10 (9th in 2022) but still ends up in a decent 17th place in the 2023 Quality of Life Index.

Regionally, Europe dominates with seven destinations in the top 10. Austria (5th), Portugal (7th), Switzerland (8th), Luxembourg (9th), and Denmark (10th) join Spain (1st) and Finland (3rd), thanks to good or even great results in both the Safety & Security and Environment & Climate Subcategories. Expats also appreciate these destinations when it comes to Travel & Transit as well as Healthcare — out of the seven, Switzerland receives the worst result for the latter (33rd), mainly due to high costs. The biggest differences can be found with regard to Leisure Options. While Spain (1st) and Portugal (8th) make it into the top 10 here, Luxembourg is among the three worst-rated destinations worldwide (51st).

Second-placed Taiwan is joined by Singapore (6th) in the top 10 for very similar reasons. Expats in both Asian destinations highlight the Safety & Security, as well as the quality and availability of healthcare. But when it comes to the cost of medical care, the difference is huge: Taiwan ranks 1st for this factor, Singapore 51st.

The only Middle Eastern destination in the top 10, the UAE (4th), receives great results across all subcategories — except for Environment & Climate (22nd). This is mainly due to expats’ dissatisfaction with the natural environment. While globally, 84% of respondents give this factor a positive rating, the same is true for just 62% in the UAE.

Trends in the Bottom 10

  1. USA
  2. Kenya
  3. Ireland
  4. Vietnam
  5. Philippines
  6. South Africa
  7. Indonesia
  8. Malta
  9. India
  10. Kuwait

With Indonesia (50th), the Philippines (48th), Vietnam (47th), and India (52nd), there are four Asian countries in the bottom 10. They all belong to the ten worst-rated destinations worldwide in the Environment & Climate Subcategory, and the Philippines is the only one to narrowly escape a bottom 10 place for Travel & Transit (39th). However, while India receives some of its best results for Healthcare (22nd), the other three only rank 44th (Vietnam) or even worse in this subcategory.

Apart from Malta (51st), Ireland (46th) is the only other European destination in the bottom 10. Both receive fairly bad results for Leisure Options and Travel & Transit. However, while Malta’s weakest spot is clearly the Environment & Climate (51st), Ireland comes in dead last in the Healthcare Subcategory (53rd). This subpar result is due to high costs (47% unhappy vs. 19% globally), poor availability (45% vs. 14%), and low quality (42% vs. 14%).

There are also two African countries among the bottom 10: South Africa (49th) and Kenya (45th). Expats in both appreciate the weather, the natural environment, and to a lesser degree, the rating factors in the Leisure Options Subcategory (e.g., culinary variety & dining options). But sunshine and good food cannot make up for some serious safety concerns: South Africa ranks last here (53rd), and Kenya (50th) does not fare much better. And expats are also very dissatisfied with the Travel & Transit Subcategory (South Africa 53rd, Kenya 49th).

In the USA (44th in this index), expats love their Leisure Options (9th). But they are much less thrilled about Healthcare (52nd) and Travel & Transit (41st). This is especially true with regard to the affordability (just 51% happy vs. 71% globally) and the availability (42% vs. 73%) of public transportation.

The Biggest Winners

There have also been some notable changes in the Quality of Life Index since 2022.

Malaysia has left its bottom 10 ranking behind, going from placing 44th out of 52 destinations to rank midfield in 2023 (29th out of 53). Expats are still dissatisfied with the country’s Safety & Security (46th), but they give more favorable ratings across all the other subcategories in this index. For example, when it comes to travel opportunities, Malaysia has moved up from ranking 35th in the previous year to 3rd place in 2023. However, this may, at least in part, also be connected to the end of COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

Similarly, Oman has seen gains across most factors of the index, rising 14 places in the ranking (24th). Changes include, for example, a more favorable view of government support for policies to protect the environment (from 14th to 2nd). But there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the affordability and availability of public transportation (47th for each).

Hong Kong (27th, up from 40th in 2022) also sees an improved performance across most topics covered by this index. Its biggest jump is an impressive one — from 24th to 3rd for Leisure Options. Over four in five expats (81%) enjoy the culture and nightlife in Hong Kong, compared to just 66% in 2022. Though again, this may well be connected to most pandemic-related restrictions being dropped.

The Biggest Losers

Some countries win, some lose — and Norway is among the latter. It has dropped by 15 spots to rank 31st in 2023, following a 16th place in 2022. While it still does very well for Safety & Security (6th), expats’ opinion about the quality of life in this Nordic country has clearly worsened. This is especially true for the availability of healthcare (down from 24th to 45th in 2023), the affordability of public transportation (from 39th to 50th), and the travel opportunities (from 32nd to 49th).

The United Kingdom has dropped to 43rd place after coming 31st in 2022. It especially loses out in terms of Healthcare (from 39th to 50th in 2023), now ranking among the bottom 10 for three of the four rating factors in this subcategory. According to a German respondent, “the healthcare situation is pretty bad. For example, it is difficult to get an appointment with a specialist”.

Full Ranking

Further Reading