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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The Best & Worst Countries for Living Abroad

From getting started abroad and settling in to work, finances, and the quality of life — find out where expats love (or hate) to live with the 2024 Expat Insider survey.

Panama (1st) Moves Up in the World

Following an already amazing 3rd place in 2023, expats crown Panama the best country overall in 2024 — over four in five expats (82%) are happy with their life there (vs. 68% globally).

Close to three-quarters of respondents (74%) are satisfied with their financial situation, too. Not only is this 20 percentage points more than the global average (54%), but it also means the country ranks 1st for this factor and 4th in the Personal Finance Index as a whole! Overall, 88% find that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 70% globally). 

Speaking of finances: expats praise the affordability of housing in Panama, which over three in five (62%) rate favorably (vs. 34% globally). Plus, it’s the country where it’s the easiest for expats to find accommodation (1st). This isn't the only reason for its great performance in the Expat Essentials Index (4th), though. Expats have few issues with the Language (11th); nearly everyone (98%) praises the unrestricted access to online services such as social media (vs. 82% globally); and respondents found it easy to get a visa (4th).

Close to a third of respondents (32%) are already retired (vs. 11% globally). But even if you have to work, there are worst places to be than Panama: the country ranks 12th in the Working Abroad Index.

Expats highlight both their work–life balance (3rd) and general working hours (7th). Indeed, the weekly average for full-time positions is 41.0 hours, which is slightly lower than the global average (42.5 hours) — and close to half (47%) work remotely all the time, too (vs. 20% globally).

Its 16th place in the Quality of Life Index may be Panama’s worst result in an index, but it’s nothing to worry about. Panama receives good results regarding expats’ personal safety — nine in ten (90%) rate this factor positively (vs. 80% globally) — and the country ranks 15th for Healthcare.

The affordable public transportation system (8th) may be held back by average availability (27th) and the infrastructure for cars doesn't delight (45th out of 53). But you don’t have to go far for good Leisure Options (9th). For instance, around four in five respondents (79%) praise the recreational sporting opportunities (vs. 72%). All of this is combined with a pleasant climate (14th).

“I love many things: my neighborhood, the weather, the variety of climates and terrain (city, beach, highlands), cultural activities, the diversity of restaurants, the people, healthcare, cost of living, and the stability of the government.” – US American expat

The Ease of Settling In Index (7th) is another highlight of life in Panama. Expats feel both at home (73% vs. 58% globally) and welcome (81% vs. 63%), with around three-quarters (74%) agreeing it’s easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 59%). They’re also happy with their social life there (2nd) and find it easy to make local friends (7th). Over two in five respondents (41%) agree completely that the population is friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 25% globally).

Mexico (2nd) Continues to Delight

Close to nine in ten expats in Mexico (89%) say they are happy, over 20 percentage points more than the global average of 68%. What makes Mexico so special?

Beaten only by Costa Rica, Mexico (2nd) receives top marks across all factors of the Ease of Settling In Index. An impressive 86% of respondents rate the general friendliness of the Mexican population favorably (vs. 63% globally), and a similar share (85%) feel welcome (vs. 63% globally).

“Mexico is a beautiful and very varied country, with nice, warm people. I like the history and culture, it’s a balance of traditions and modernism.” – French expat

Getting used to the local culture (1st) and finding local friends (2nd) are also not a problem. It’s hardly surprising that over three-quarters (77%) feel at home in Mexico — nearly 20 percentage points more than the global average of 58%.

Results are more of a mixed bag in the Expat Essentials Index (7th). Respondents highlight that housing is both affordable (10th) and easy to find (12th). And getting a visa (5th) to move there in the first place is hardly an issue. But they’re less enthusiastic when it comes to other admin topics: close to half (47%) say it’s difficult to deal with the bureaucracy (vs. 42% globally), and just 54% find it easy to open a local bank account (vs. 60% globally).

Speaking of money: 62% of respondents rate local costs favorably (vs. 40% globally). And 71% are satisfied with their financial situation in Mexico (vs. 54% globally).

Expats in Mexico are less likely to still be working compared to the global average (56% vs. 69%). Still, Mexico’s 8th place in the Working Abroad Index shows a marked improvement from its 22nd place in 2023. Expats appreciate the local job market (8th) and their personal career opportunities (5th). And they really love their work–life balance: 43% are completely satisfied (vs. 25% globally)!

Not all is perfect in Mexico, though. Excellent Leisure Options (2nd) can’t make up for safety concerns: less than two-thirds (66%) feel safe in Mexico, compared to four in five expats worldwide (80%). These mixed results, together with average views on Healthcare (22nd) and Travel & Transport (34th), rank Mexico at a modest 25th place for Quality of Life.

Feeling at Home in Indonesia (3rd)

After a slight dip in 2023 (13th), Indonesia is back on the podium in 2024, ranking 3rd out of 53 destinations. While there is certainly room for improvement in some areas, Indonesia delights with low costs (4th), friendly people (2nd), and a great work–life balance (1st). Consequently, a total of 84% of expats are happy with their life in Indonesia (vs. 68% globally).

Indonesia registered an impressive improvement when it comes to Working Abroad: while the country ranked 27th out of 53 destinations in 2023, it makes the top 10 in 2024 (9th). Expats are very satisfied with their work–life balance (79% vs. 60% globally) and love their comparatively short working hours (5th). In fact, respondents in a full-time position report working just 38.8 hours a week, compared to a global average of 42.5 hours. Indonesia also ranks 1st for expats’ overall job satisfaction and personal career opportunities.

For the third year in a row, Indonesia places in the top 10 of the Personal Finance Index (3rd). Thanks in part to comparatively low living costs (4th), 86% of respondents find that their disposable household income is enough (or more than enough!) to lead a comfortable life (vs. 70% globally). Correspondingly, nearly three-quarters (72%) say they’re happy with their financial situation (vs. 54% globally).

“It definitely takes less money to live comfortably here.” – US American expat

Speaking of finances: a big plus in Indonesia is the affordability of housing. Close to two-thirds of expats (64%) rate this factor positively, 30 percentage points more than the global average (34%). The majority (61%) also agrees that accommodation is easy to find (vs. 45% globally).

What’s more of an issue is the Digital Life (46th) of expats in Indonesia. The country finds itself in the bottom 10 for every single point of this subcategory: high-speed internet (49th), cashless payment options (45th), online administrative services (47th), and unrestricted access to all kinds of online services, including social media (44th).

Indonesia receives some more of its worst results in the Quality of Life Index (44th), where it’s in the bottom 10. An amazing climate & weather (11th), culinary variety (11th), and an enjoyable culture & nightlife (14th) cannot make up for the fact that expats face some major challenges.

This includes Healthcare (48th): less than two in five expats (39%) are satisfied with its quality (vs. 66% globally), and only 46% rate its availability positively (vs. 68%). Plus, twice the global average say the air quality is bad (38% vs. 19% globally). Indonesia only ranks 45th for the Environment & Climate and 49th in the Travel & Transit Subcategory.

On the bright side, expats really feel at home (3rd) and have an easy time getting used to the culture (8th). An impressive 85% feel welcome in the country — 22 percentage points above the global average (63%). And over nine in ten respondents (91%) agree that the people are friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 61% globally).

Kuwait (53rd): Last for the Seventh Time in a Row

Expats don't enjoy a great Quality of Life Index (53rd) in Kuwait. Only 53% of respondents rate the affordability of public transportation as good (vs. 70% globally). Expats find themselves grappling with the weather (53rd for climate & weather) and don't enjoy the natural environment (53rd), either. And Healthcare, crucial for a high quality of life, is ranked 51st.

“In summer, the heat can go above 50 °C.” – Austrian expat

Kuwait ranks last across all three subcategories of the Ease of Settling In Index (53rd). Only 28% of expats agree that they have a personal support system (vs. 55% globally), and even fewer (22%) are satisfied with their social life (vs. 52%). Less than three in ten expats (26%) agree that people are generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 61% globally)

Kuwait’s “best” result for an index is 44th place for Personal Finance — though just two in five (40%) are happy with their finances (vs. 54% globally).

Finding accommodation, at least, isn't a challenge for expats in Kuwait (46% positive ratings vs. 45% globally). Its affordability, on the other hand, isn't viewed quite as favorably (38th). This isn't expats’ biggest struggle when it comes to the Expat Essentials Index (46th), though. Rather, they point to how difficult it is to get a visa in the first place (53rd), deal with local bureaucracy in general (49th), and handle administrative tasks online (44th).

Over two-thirds of expats (68%) moved to Kuwait for job-related reasons (vs. 35% globally). But its 50th place in the Working Abroad Index doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Only 43% of respondents are satisfied with their working hours (vs. 62% globally) — on average, expats in a full-time position in Kuwait work 47.8 hours a week, over five hours more than the global average of 42.5 hours. Kuwait ranks even lower for Work Culture & Satisfaction, in 53rd place, suggesting that overall job satisfaction (51st) and flexibility in the workplace (52nd) might not meet expectations for many expats.

However, there is a silver lining in the Salary & Job Security Subcategory (38th). Expats regard the state of the economy very positively (11th): close to three-quarters (73%) rate it favorably, compared to a global average of just 59%.

Türkiye (52nd) Is the Worst Performer for Working Abroad

Out of 53 countries in our Expat Insider 2024 survey, Türkiye ranks 52nd. Three out of the five indices we use to map out life abroad can also be found in the bottom 10. And in terms of expats’ overall happiness with their life abroad, Türkiye is in 49th place — 27% of respondents are unhappy (vs. 15% globally).

Especially those considering Türkiye for their professional career will be disappointed as the country ranks last in the Working Abroad Index (53rd). About a third of respondents (34%) don’t believe that moving to Türkiye improved their career prospects, and even higher shares negatively rate their personal career opportunities (40%) and the local job market (45%) — compared to global averages of 25% and 31%, respectively.

Things don’t look much better for the Work Culture & Satisfaction (52nd), Work & Leisure (53rd), and Salary & Job Security (53rd) Subcategories. Close to a third of expats (31%) are unhappy with their jobs (vs. 19% globally), and respondents are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the state of the economy: 64% of expats rate this factor negatively, 45 percentage points higher than the global average of 19%!

“There is a lot of bureaucracy and difficult government process for foreigners. The lack of available work visa and wages are a huge problem for expats living here.” – Australian expat

Türkiye remains in the bottom 10 for the Expat Essentials Index (51st). Expats find the Language Subcategory (47th) to be the toughest hurdle, while Digital Life (45th) and Admin Topics (42nd) are other challenging aspects. It’s not easy to deal with the local bureaucracy, (55% negative ratings vs. 42% globally), but at least there’s decent availability of administrative and government services online (25th).

Türkiye crawls out of the bottom 10 with the Quality of Life Index (42nd). But the Safety & Security Subcategory doesn’t inspire much confidence in 52nd place. More than a third (37%) of expats feel like they can’t openly express themselves or their opinions (vs. 17% globally). A similar share (39%) negatively rate the political stability (vs. 16% globally).

Better performing aspects include the Environment & Climate (36th) and Healthcare (34th) Subcategories. The majority of expats appreciate the Mediterranean country’s climate & weather (75% vs. 58% globally) and natural environment (76% vs. 82%), but approval of the air quality (52% vs. 64% globally) and urban environment (46% vs. 66%) falters.

When it comes to the Ease of Settling In Index, Türkiye ranks 40th. Although this is the best-performing index, it has dropped 13 places from the 27th spot in 2023. All of its underlying subcategories slipped in the ranking, with Culture & Welcome (42nd) and Local Friendliness (38th) seeing a respective 13- and 12-point difference in rank from 2023. About a third of expats (32%) are unhappy with their social life (vs. 29% globally), and a similar share (30%) say locals are generally not friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 20% globally

Good finances can make the above challenges easier to weather. However, Türkiye ranks 45th for the Personal Finance Index. Expats are unsatisfied with their financial situation (47th) and the general cost of living (43rd). More than a third (35%) say their disposable household income isn't enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 30% globally).

Finland (51st) Is the Biggest Loser in 2024

Despite shining in the Environment & Climate (8th) and Digital Life (6th) Subcategories, Finland’s rankings falter in the Ease of Settling In (50th), Working Abroad (46th), and Personal Finances (52nd) Indices. In just one year, the share of expats who are happy with their life there dropped from 78% to 51%.

Finland’s performance in the Personal Finance Index shows a 22-point drop to 52nd. With a relatively high cost of living (42nd), expats don’t rate their disposable household income as sufficient (51st) and are dissatisfied with their financial situation (53rd).

Only 38% of expats agree that finding housing is easy (vs. 45% globally) in the Expat Essentials Index (33rd). And language poses a significant hurdle, too: a whopping 83% of respondents find that learning the local language is difficult (vs. 40% globally).

After a top-3 placement in 2023, Finland’s Quality of Life Index drops to an average 26th place in 2024. The standout subcategory is Environment & Climate, where Finland excels in 8th place.

The Healthcare Subcategory takes a nosedive from 17th place in 2023 to the 38th spot in 2024. Expats are particularly unhappy with the availability of medical care: only 56% rate it favorably (vs. 68% globally). The worst-performing factor in the index is climate & weather, with only 31% of expats rating it favorably (vs. 58% globally).

The cold climate also extends to social circles, with Finland ranking poorly in the Ease of Settling In Index (50th) and its three subcategories: Local Friendliness (48th), Culture & Welcome (51st), and Finding Friends (52nd). 

“Without speaking the local language, it’s not easy for daily life. The job market isn't diverse and it's very competitive.” – Vietnamese expat

When it comes to Working Abroad (46th), the biggest upsets are the Work & Leisure (31st) and Work Culture & Satisfaction (27th) Subcategories, both of which saw a drop from 1st and 3rd place in 2023, respectively. Only 47% of expats are satisfied with their job (vs. 60% globally).  And while three in five (60%) at least rate the state of the Finnish economy favorably (vs. 59% globally), 47% don’t agree that moving to Finland improved their career prospects (vs. 21% globally). The country places last in the Career Prospects Subcategory (53rd).

The Biggest Winners in 2024

South Korea, which ranks 23rd in 2024, managed an impressive recovery from its place in the bottom 10 in 2023 (50th out of 53 countries). This is largely due to expats’ increased satisfaction in three different areas.

The biggest gains are related to Personal Finance: South Korea went from a below-average 37th rank to place 15th in 2024. Not only do expats feel that their disposable household income is enough for a comfortable life (74% vs. 67% in 2023), they’re also less likely to complain about the cost of living (28% negative ratings vs. 36%). Seven in ten (70%) are thus satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 57% in 2023).

South Korea ranks in the bottom 10 for the ease of getting used to the local culture (46th). However, this is the only factor of the Ease of Settling In Index where that’s the case — while in 2023, the country ranked towards the bottom for every single factor of the index! For example: the share of expats who agree that local residents are generally friendly has grown by 12 percentage points (64% vs. 52%), and less than one in five respondents (19%) don’t feel at home in South Korea. In 2023, the country ranked second to last for this factor, with 36% not feeling at home.

Gains in the Quality of Life (17th to 10th) and Working Abroad (46th to 37th) Indices are not as striking, but still contribute to South Korea’s much improved ranking.

Jumping up 20 places in the ranking, Belgium (now 18th) is the second-biggest winner in 2024. In contrast to South Korea, Belgium’s results in the Personal Finance Index hardly changed (25th to 23rd). But it leapt onto the podium for the 2024 Working Abroad Index (21st to 3rd)!

Expats have a more favorable view on their work–life balance (71% satisfied vs. 65% in 2023) and their personal career opportunities. Close to a quarter (24%) give the latter factor the best possible rating, compared to 18% of respondents in 2023. Belgium manages to improve in areas where the country already did well in the past, such as job security (8th in 2023 to 2nd).

The country sees further improvements in the Quality of Life Index (from 35th to 18th). For instance, over four in five respondents (81%) rate the availability of public transportation favorably, ten percentage points above the 2023 result (71%). And they’re more likely to highlight its affordability (72% vs. 64%). However, the weather (52nd) and personal safety concerns (44th) remain an issue in Belgium.

The Biggest Losers in 2024

The biggest loser in the 2024 survey is Finland. Not only does it rank in the bottom 3 (see above), but it also dropped from 16th place (out of 53 countries) in 2023 to rank 51st.

Following a 9th place in 2023, Bahrain has lost significant ground in 2024 to rank 33rd. While the country performs worse across most topics, two indices are the main drivers for this drop: Bahrain went from a 19th place to rank 41st when it comes to Working Abroad and from 27th to 46th place regarding Personal Finance.

Expats already didn’t have a great opinion on how far their disposable household income allowed for a comfortable life in 2023 (51st), but 52% were at least somewhat satisfied with their financial situation. In 2024, this share has fallen to 40%. A third (33%) regard the general cost of living negatively, compared to 19% in 2023.

The Bahraini economy, or at least expats’ view on it, has also taken a hit: close to three-quarters (72%) said it was good in 2023, compared to three in five (60%) a year later. In part, this may explain the worsened results for the local job market (13th to 32nd in 2024) and expat satisfaction with their job security (14th to 42nd).

A 32-rank drop in the Working Abroad Index has had a major impact on Canada, which went from an overall 27th place in 2023 to land in the bottom 10 (49th) in 2024. Expats are much less satisfied with their working hours (57% in 2024 vs. 74% in 2023), their job security (48% vs. 64%), and the job market (38% vs. 59%). As in Bahrain, this goes hand in hand with a bleaker view on the state of the local economy: close to a third (31%) now rate it negatively, compared to just 13% the year before. Over a quarter (26%) are not satisfied with their job, either.

Canada’s results across the remaining four indices have also worsened. The country could previously be found in the mid-twenties for Expat Essentials (20th), Quality of Life (23rd), and Ease of Settling In (23rd). In 2024, it places 31st, 36th, and 39th, respectively, and ranks dead last for Personal Finances (53rd).

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Further Reading