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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Where It’s Easy to Get Started with the Essentials Abroad

From struggles with red tape to language barriers and expensive housing — find out which countries let you sort out the basics of life abroad easily and where you need to bring lots of patience.

The Top 10


The Expat Essentials Index is based on four subcategories with two to four underlying factors each.

Admin Topics assesses how easy expats find it to get a visa, deal with local bureaucracy, and open a bank account in their new home.

The affordability of housing, as well as the ease of finding accommodation in the first place, make up the Housing Subcategory.

Digital Life summarizes expats’ take on the restrictiveness of online services in general, on the online availability of administrative and government services, as well as the ease of paying cashless and getting high-speed internet set up.

And lastly, the Language Subcategory takes into account how easy respondents find it to learn the local and/or official language(s) in their new home, and whether it’s difficult to live there without speaking it.

Expats were asked to rate all these points on a scale of one (very bad / disagree completely) to seven (very good / agree completely).

To be included in the ranking, a country needs a minimum of 50 respondents. In 2024, 53 destinations made this threshold.

The UAE Makes Things Easy (1st)

For the third time in a row, the UAE lands on the podium of the Expat Essentials Index — in 2024, it even places 1st!

The country is at the top for two out of the four subcategories: Language (1st) and Admin Topics (1st). Four in five expats (80%) agree it’s easy to live there without speaking the local language (vs. 48% globally). This probably helps with the paperwork: 63% find it easy to deal with local bureaucracy, compared to just 36% worldwide. Getting a visa (1st) or opening a bank account (9th) are similarly unproblematic.

“I like the ease of access to services — government, shopping, banking, etc.” – British expat

Compared to other expat hotspots like Singapore and Hong Kong, Housing (17th) isn't a huge issue in the UAE. Worldwide, close to half of respondents (47%) rate the affordability of accommodation negatively. In the UAE, only around a third (35%) say the same. And 64% agree it’s easy for expats to find housing (vs. 45% globally).

All in all, expats are happy with nearly all the different aspects of the Expat Essentials Index. The one bitter pill? Only about two-thirds (66%) rate unrestricted access to online services such as social media favorably, compared to over four in five expats worldwide (82%), landing the UAE in 46th place for this factor.

This also drags down the UAE’s result in the Digital Life Subcategory (10th), despite great results for the availability of online admin services (1st), high-speed internet (4th), and cashless payment options (5th).

Bureaucracy Not a Concern in Bahrain (2nd)

Bahrain sees similar results to the UAE; in fact, the two have simply swapped places as Bahrain ranks 2nd in 2024, slipping from 1st place after two consecutive years at the top.

Expats find it easy to deal with Admin Topics (2nd) and the Language (6th). Close to three-quarters of expats (72%) agree getting a visa for Bahrain wasn’t too difficult (vs. 53% globally); 49% even give the fact the best possible rating (vs. 28% globally). When asked what they worried about prior to moving to Bahrain, neither the bureaucracy (6% vs. 16% globally) nor a potential language barrier (11% vs. 35%) were a big concern among expats.

“The government services here are convenient for everyone.” – Kenyan expat

Expats are very happy with the online availability of government and administrative services (75% vs. 58% globally), though not everyone had a great experience getting high-speed internet access (72% positive ratings vs. 78% globally). Still, cashless payment options are common according to expats (88% vs. 83% globally). Over three-quarters (77%) agree completely that it’s easy to pay without cash, compared to 56% of expats worldwide.

And housing in Bahrain is easy to find (11th) and affordable (15th), too.

Affordable Housing in 3rd-Placed Oman

Oman’s result in the Expat Essentials Index does not differ much from its neighbor, the UAE. Expats praise the ease of getting around without local language skills (4th), see little difficulties in getting a visa (7th), and have no issues dealing with local bureaucracy (12th).

Administrative services can be easily done online, according to over two-thirds of respondents (69% vs. 58% globally). However, different online services such as social media, for example, are not always accessible without restrictions. Oman ranks 51st for this factor, with only Kuwait (52nd) and China (53rd) receiving worse results.

What speaks for Oman, however, is Housing (4th). Just one in five expats (20%) has something negative to say about the affordability of accommodation. While this might sound like a lot at first glance, this share isn't even half the global average of 47%. Moreover, a third of respondents in Oman (33%) say housing costs are very good (vs. 11% globally).

Struggling with Germany’s Love for Snail Mail (53rd)

For the third year in a row, Germany ranks dead last in the Expat Essentials Index (53rd) — and the underlying subcategories fare even worse than in 2023.

The country places last for three out of the four aspects of the Digital Life Subcategory (53rd). Expats are dissatisfied with the availability of high-speed internet (30% negative ratings vs. 11% globally), the limited prevalence of cashless payment options (33% vs. 8%), and the lack of online government services (48% vs. 22% globally).

“Letters, letters, letters … there’s a lack of technology and digitalization everywhere!” – Polish expat

Not being able to do your paperwork online exacerbates an already existing problem: close to two-thirds of respondents in Germany (66%) find it difficult to deal with the local bureaucracy (vs. 42% globally).

Local language skills are a must, too, according to 51% who say it’s difficult to live in Germany without (vs. 33% globally). And German isn’t necessarily the easiest language to learn (43rd out of 53 countries). It’s not surprising then, that over three in five respondents (62%) say they were worried about the language barrier before moving to Germany (vs. 35% globally).

A quarter (25%) also worried about the housing market (vs. 19% globally) — and not without reason, as it turns out. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) disagree that it's easy for expats to find housing in Germany (vs. 34% globally). And nearly as many (64%) consider it expensive (vs. 47% globally).

Be Prepared for Paperwork in Italy (52nd)

Second-to-last placed Italy (52nd) performs worse than Germany in Admin Topics (53rd). Dealing with the local bureaucracy can be a nightmare — close to two in five expats (39%) give it the worst possible rating (vs. 16% globally) — and getting a visa to move to Italy in the first place is no piece of cake, either (51st).

“Bureaucracy is very demanding and slow, but also unclear and contradicts itself sometimes.” –  Turkish expat

Options to handle all kinds of paperwork online are limited (42% negative ratings vs. 22% globally), with Italy seeing little improvement in terms of Digital Life (44th). At least housing costs are no worse than average (46% negative ratings vs. 47% globally). However, finding housing is no easy thing: less than three in ten expats (29%) rate this factor positively (vs. 45% globally).

Learning the language poses no major challenges according to expats (48% positive ratings vs. 38% globally); but it's also desperately needed. Three in five respondents (60%) agree it’s difficult to live in Italy without local language skills (vs. 33% globally). It’s a good thing then that 63% — and not counting those for whom it’s their mother tongue — speak it at least fairly well (vs. 49% globally).

Hitting the Language Barrier in Türkiye (51st)

Türkiye not only lands in the bottom 3 of the Expat Essentials Index (51st out of 53), it’s also the second-worst performing country for expats in general (52nd).

Unlike Germany and Italy, Türkiye doesn’t place last for any specific area of the index. Rather, expats give Türkiye negative reviews nearly across the board. Digital topics like the availability of high-speed internet (47th) and unrestricted access of online services (49th) continue to be an issue. And while Türkiye at least ranks mid-way regarding the online availability of administrative services (25th), dealing with the local bureaucracy in general isn't easy (45th).

“Sometimes it seems like protocols and procedures are far more important than people.” – Dutch expat

Prior to their move to Türkiye, expats say they worried about the language barrier (58% vs. 35% globally). Getting by without speaking Turkish is indeed tricky according to expats (50th). More than half (53%) consider the local tongue difficult to learn, too (vs. 40% globally).

Language struggles may also play a role when trying to find accommodation. Worldwide, less than half of expats (45%) say it’s easy to find housing abroad. In Türkiye, this share is down to 36%. And once found, 51% of expats regard housing as expensive (vs. 47% globally).

Trends in the Top 10

  1. UAE
  2. Bahrain
  3. Oman
  4. Panama
  5. Qatar
  6. Saudi Arabia
  7. Mexico
  8. Kenya
  9. Singapore
  10. Indonesia

Compared to 2023, the top 10 of the Expat Essentials Index has not seen a lot of change. Even the new arrivals Mexico (7th), Singapore (9th), and Indonesia (10th) already ranked high the previous year (12th, 11th, and 17th, respectively).

Five of the ten best countries are found in the Middle East: the UAE (1st), Bahrain (2nd), and Oman (3rd) are joined by Qatar (5th) and Saudi Arabia (6th). Expats in these destinations benefit from the comparative ease of getting by without local language skills — Saudi Arabia’s 15th place for the factor is the “worst” result here — and they report no issues with Admin Topics (from the UAE’s 1st place in this subcategory to Qatar’s 11th).

However, like the top 3, Qatar and Saudi Arabia present a mixed picture when it comes to Digital Life. While administrative services are readily available online (5th Saudi Arabia, 3rd Qatar), the same cannot be said for unrestricted access to social media and similar services (47th and 48th, respectively).

Singapore (9th) and Indonesia (10th) represent Southeast Asia in the top 10 of the index. Both destinations delight with a low language barrier (4th Singapore, 10th Indonesia). However, while expats in Singapore sing the praises of nearly all things digital (3rd for Digital Life), Indonesia ranks among the bottom 10 for this subcategory (46th). For example, less than a third (32%) are satisfied with the availability of online admin services in Indonesia. In Singapore, 87% rate this factor positively (vs. 58% globally).

When it comes to housing, the situation is reversed. Expats in Indonesia regard it as both affordable (4th) and mostly easy to find (14th). Respondents in Singapore, on the other hand, report some difficulties with the latter (34th) and rank the city-state among the three worst-performing countries worldwide regarding the affordability of accommodation (51st).

Panama (4th), Mexico (7th), and Kenya (8th) complete the list of the ten best-performing countries for Expat Essentials. Respondents in all three countries especially appreciate the ease of finding affordable housing. Kenya’s 11th place in the subcategory is the “worst” result among them.

Trends in the Bottom 10

  1. France
  2. Japan
  3. Kuwait
  4. Greece
  5. Malta
  6. Czechia
  7. China
  8. Türkiye
  9. Italy
  10. Germany

There has been little change among the ten worst-performing countries in the index. Only Kuwait (46th) is new in the bottom 10 (falling six places from its 40th spot in 2023). As in Türkiye (51st), expats in Kuwait are particularly dissatisfied with Digital Life (50th) and Admin Topics (50th).

Six of the bottom 10 countries are found Europe: next to Germany (53rd) and Italy (52nd), there is also Czechia (49th), Malta (48th), Greece (47th), and France (44th). Reasons for this vary, though. In Greece, Malta, and Italy, expats particularly despair over Admin Topics — the three rank 51st, 52nd, and 53rd out of 53 destinations for this topic. Meanwhile, language is an issue in Germany, France, and Czechia, with the latter ranking second to last in this subcategory.

The language barrier is also a big topic for expats in China (50th in the Expat Essentials Index) and Japan (45th). In Japan, close to two-thirds of respondents (65%) find learning the local language difficult (vs. 40% globally). But local language skills are needed: half (50%) disagree that you can easily live in Japan without speaking Japanese (vs. 33% globally).

The two countries also don't perform well for Digital Life — though for different reasons. Expats in Japan find it difficult to handle administrative work online (42nd) or pay without cash (49th). The latter isn't a problem in China (2nd), but the country ranks dead last regarding unrestricted access to online services.

The Biggest Winners in 2024

South Africa (22nd) and Vietnam (29th) are the two biggest winners in the 2024 Expat Essentials Index. Both countries climbed 14 spots in the ranks from a respective 36th and 43rd place (out of 53 destinations) in 2023.

Expats in South Africa may not find it easy to get a visa (52nd) or deal with local bureaucracy (51st); however, their take on Digital Life has improved (from 42nd in 2023 to rank 30th in 2024). For example: four in five respondents (80%) rate the availability of high-speed internet favorably, with 45% going so far as to say it’s very easy to get. In 2023, only 35% had such a favorable opinion.

What’s more, expats in South Africa say housing is both easy to find (7th) and affordable (9th). The country already performed well for these factors in 2023 (15th and 14th place, respectively). But in 2024, close to three in five (59%) rate the affordability favorably (vs. 34% globally), compared to not quite half (47%) in 2023.

Vietnam also made gains regarding Housing, going from 7th place in 2023 to rank 2nd in 2024. However, its biggest improvements are in Admin Topics (from 48th to 38th), particularly regarding visas. In 2024, only a quarter of respondents (25%) say it’s difficult to get a visa to move to Vietnam (vs. 26% globally). In 2023, two in five (40%) said as much. In August 2023, the country introduced a new e-visa to simplify procedures and extended its visa-exemption policy.1

The Biggest Losers in 2024

Finland is the biggest loser by far in the Expat Essentials Index: it fell from 10th place out of 53 countries in 2023 to rank 33rd in 2024. The country lost ground across all factors of the index, and particularly for Admin Topics (11th to 19th) and Housing (17th to 31st). Over two in five respondents (43%) say housing isn't affordable in Finland — 10 percentage points more than in 2023. And while 61% agreed it’s easy for expats to find accommodation in 2023, this share has gone down to just 38% in 2024.

Canada’s drop in the index isn't quite as dire: the country ranks 31st in 2024, following 20th place in 2023. As in Finland, housing plays a large role in this change, with Canada landing in the bottom 5 of this subcategory (50th) in 2024. More than half (53%) say housing isn't easy to find for expats (vs. 34% globally), compared to 38% of respondents who shared this opinion in 2023.

“I feel no matter how hard I work and how much I gain, it's never going to be enough to have my own house.” – Colombian expat

Close to three-quarters (73%) agree and rate the affordability of housing negatively (vs. 47% globally). That’s 15 percentage points more than Canada’s already not great result of 2023 (58%).

Full Ranking

Further Reading

External References

  1. Vietnam Visa Immigration: Things you should know about new Vietnam visa policy release on August 15th, 2023