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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Top Places for a Top Quality of Life (& Where Not to Move)

European countries are still favorites when it comes to a great quality of life — but they’re losing ground. From personal safety and healthcare to the climate and transportation, find out where to move for a better quality of life (and which countries to avoid).

The Top 10


The Quality of Life Index is based on five subcategories with three to six underlying factors each.

The Environment & Climate Subcategory sums up expats’ satisfaction with the following factors: air quality, climate & weather, natural environment, urban environment, availability of green goods and services (e.g., renewable energy, organic food), and whether the government supports policies to protect the environment.

The affordability, availability, and quality of medical care, together with whether it’s easy to get equal access to all kinds of healthcare services, make up the Healthcare Subcategory.

Safety & Security concerns itself with expats’ opinions on their personal safety as well as the political stability in their host country. It also considers whether respondents feel they can openly express themselves and their opinions.

Culinary variety & dining options, culture & nightlife, and local opportunities for recreational sports are summarized by the Leisure Options Subcategory.

And lastly, the Travel & Transit Subcategory takes a closer look at the affordability and availability of public transportation, infrastructure for cars, opportunity to travel, and whether it’s easy and safe to get around on foot or by bicycle.

These factors were rated by expats on a scale of one (very bad / disagree completely) to seven (very good / agree completely). In 2024, 53 countries with a minimum of 50 respondents each made it into the ranking.

1st for the Third Time in a Row: Spain  

Spain is a familiar face at the top of the Quality of Life Index. Not only does the country defend its top spot to rank 1st for the third consecutive time, it also made it into the top 10 of the index every single year since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014.

That’s great news, as expats are very likely to have moved there for lifestyle-related reasons. One in five respondents (20%) relocated for a better quality of life (vs. 9% globally), and three times the global average moved to retire in Spain (9% vs. 3% globally).

Expats rate Spain in the top 10 for four of the five subcategories of the index. While respondents feel like they can openly express themselves (3rd), they’re less likely to sing Spain’s praises regarding political stability (57% positive vs. 59% globally). This leads to a 16th rank in the Safety & Security Subcategory, Spain’s “worst” result.

When it comes to Leisure Options (1st), Spain is the best-performing country worldwide. Expats especially appreciate the recreational sporting opportunities (89% positive vs. 72% globally) and the culture & nightlife (86% vs. 66% globally).

“There’s a lot to enjoy and see: a lot of parks, roads for bicycles, and it’s easy to play sports. I also like the museums and festivals here.” – Russian expat

Healthcare (3rd) is another highlight, with expats finding it affordable (5th), easily available (7th), and of a high quality (10th). The same can be said for public transportation: well over four in five respondents agree it’s readily available (85% vs. 72% globally) and cheap (89% vs. 70% globally). They’re also happy with the local car infrastructure (85% vs. 73% globally) and the opportunity to safely get around on foot or by bicycle (88% vs. 76% globally). Spain correspondingly places 9th in the Travel & Transit Subcategory.

Spain’s ranking for the Environment & Climate (9th) hasn’t changed much. However, while expats love the climate — 88% rate this factor favorably, 30 percentage points more than the global average of 58% — there’s still room for improvement regarding air quality (21st) and governmental measures to protect the environment (23rd).

It’s hardly surprising that more than half of expats in Spain (51%) plan to stay possibly forever (vs. 34% globally).

Austria (2nd) Delights with Its Nature 

Like Spain, 2nd-placed Austria has always earned a spot in the top 10 of the Quality of Life Index since 2014 — and Vienna especially regularly ranks at the top of various livability studies, too (e.g., Mercer’s Quality of Living City Ranking or in the Economist’s Global Liveability Index).1

Expats love Austria for its Healthcare (9th) and Safety & Security (10th). Over four in five (83%), for example, rate the quality of medical care favorably, compared to just 66% of expats worldwide. And over three-quarters (78%) say it’s affordable, 20 percentage points above the global average (58%).

Speaking of affordability: expats are satisfied with both the cost (13th) and the availability (10th) of public transportation. So, there’s plenty of opportunity to travel (3rd).

“Public transport makes it easier to travel to other cities and the many mountains and lakes, so you can go hiking or swimming.” – Indian expat

Austria’s nature is a definite highlight according to expats: 95% rate this factor positively, including three-quarters (75%) who give it the best possible rating (vs. a respective 82% and 54% globally). The urban environment (5th), air quality (9th), and availability of green goods and services (2nd) are viewed similarly — though the climate & weather could be better (30th).

You’ll Never Be Bored in the UAE (3rd)

The UAE, which ranks 3rd in the 2024 Quality of Life Index, performs well across nearly all factors of the index. Expats love, for instance, the local culture & nightlife (3rd) and culinary variety (8th) on offer.

The climate can be a downside, though: only about half (51%) regard it favorably (vs. 58% globally). This may explain why expats aren’t big fans of the natural environment in the UAE (45th) — much of life happens indoors due to the heat.

“I love the access to a wide variety of activities for all ages: from theme parks to musicals at the Opera to literature festivals. But in summer, the extremely hot weather and humidity make it difficult to go outside.” – Canadian expat

Getting around isn't difficult, thanks to great infrastructure for cars — the UAE places 1st for this factor — and affordable public transportation options (16th). The country ranks 12th in the Travel & Transit Subcategory, with two-thirds (67%) giving the opportunity to travel the best possible rating (vs. 55% globally).

Expats view the UAE as a safe (4th) and politically stable (1st) country. This comes at a cost though, with less than half of respondents (48%) agreeing that they can openly express themselves and their opinions (vs. 62% globally). Finally, healthcare is both readily available (4th) and of a high quality (6th), though it could be less costly (31st).

There’s Not Much to Do in Kuwait (53rd)

Thus far in our surveys, Kuwait has never been able to delight expats when it comes to the Quality of Life, and 2024 is no exception: it once again ranks last. 

The country can be found in the bottom 10 for each of the five subcategories, including a last place for two of them: Leisure Options (53rd) and Environment & Climate (53rd). Expats are not happy at all with the environment — whether it’s urban (51st) or natural (53rd) — and more than half (53%) rate the climate negatively (vs. 21% globally). There are few opportunities for recreational sports (53rd) and the cultural offering and nightlife (53rd) are nothing to write home about either, according to expats.

“I like the safety and accessibility of things, but there aren’t many social activities.” – Mauritian expat

Kuwait receives its best result, though still below average, for personal safety: 72% give it a favorable rating, compared to 80% of respondents worldwide. Even so, this cannot make up for how expats feel like they can’t openly express themselves (53rd) nor their negative views on Kuwait’s Healthcare (51st) and Travel & Transit (50th).

Struggling with the Air Quality in India (52nd)

Despite good results in the Healthcare Subcategory (14th), India ranks second to last for Quality of Life (52nd).

Expats are happy with the affordability (68% vs. 58% globally) and availability (83% vs. 68%) of medical care in India. But this is where the good news ends. The country ranks 46th for personal safety, with close to a quarter of expats (22%) rating this factor negatively (vs. 8% globally). And it’s dead last for air quality (53rd). 

The environment in general isn't something that expats enjoy: the country can be found in the bottom 3 for both the urban (53rd) and natural (51st) environments. Close to three in five respondents (58%) find that the government doesn’t support policies to protect the environment, either, compared to 17% worldwide. 

“The levels of pollution are too high to live a healthy life. Exercise is only possible indoors.” – Finnish expat 

In general, opportunities for recreational sports seem rare: India ranks second to last for this factor (52nd). And close to half of respondents (47%) disagree that it’s safe to get around on foot or by bicycle (vs. 13% globally). Considering the negatively rated infrastructure for cars (53rd) and the somewhat lacking availability of public transportation (45th), getting around India can be a challenge. 

Hefty Healthcare Costs in Ireland (51st) 

Ireland might be a good place for your career (11th in the Working Abroad Index), but expats find it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to Quality of Life (51st). The biggest pain point? Healthcare!

Ireland ranks last for both the quality and availability of medical care (53rd) and second to last for its affordability (52nd) — only the USA receives a worse result. Less than a third of expats (31%) find that there’s easy and equal access to all kinds of healthcare services in Ireland; worldwide, 60% agree with this point.  

“Medical care in Ireland is terrible, nothing can be done quickly. There’s lots of red tape for referrals and long waiting times.” – South African expat 

Expats in Ireland aren’t fans of their Travel & Transit (48th) opportunities, either. More than double the global average rate the availability (42% vs. 17% globally) and affordability (31% vs. 15%) of public transportation negatively. And few find that there’s (enough) opportunity to travel (48th) — unsurprising, considering the country’s island status.  

Results regarding the Environment & Climate are less dire: Ireland ranks 30th in this subcategory. However, while expats enjoy the fresh air (15th) and attest to the government’s goodwill regarding environmental protection (20th), the infamous Irish rain puts a dampener on things. Close to half of respondents (45%) are unhappy with the climate & weather, compared to 21% of expats worldwide. And for 36% of them, this factor was already a major concern before moving to Ireland (vs. 19% globally). 

Trends in the Top 10

  1. Spain
  2. Austria
  3. UAE
  4. Qatar
  5. Luxembourg
  6. Japan
  7. Portugal
  8. Denmark
  9. Singapore
  10. South Korea

As in previous years, European destinations make up a large share of the Quality of Life Index: Spain (1st) and Austria (2nd) are joined by Luxembourg (5th), Portugal (7th), and Denmark (8th). All five do particularly well when it comes to the Environment & Climate, from Austria’s 3rd to Luxembourg’s 11th place. The same is true for matters of Safety & Security: Spain’s 16th rank is the “worst” result here, while the remaining four countries occupy the top 10 — Denmark even places 1st.

Results in other areas of the index are more diverse, though the five countries all rank well across most factors. Some highlights: Denmark is the best place to get around on foot or by bicycle; expats in Portugal love the climate (6th) and nature (9th); and Luxembourg places 1st for the affordability of public transportation — hardly surprising, considering it’s free of charge for all modes of transportation.2

In the Middle East, Qatar (4th) joins the UAE (3rd) among the best countries for a good quality of life. Expats in both destinations may wish for better (read: cooler) weather (45th UAE; 49th Qatar) but have little to complain about otherwise. Qatar, for example, places 2nd for Healthcare, 3rd for Travel & Transit, and 5th for Safety & Security. 

Three Asian destinations complete the top 10 roster: Japan (6th), Singapore (9th), and South Korea (10th). These countries stand out for excellent personal safety (from South Korea’s 1st place to Japan’s 7th) and expat satisfaction with all things transportation. All three rank in the top 10 of the Travel & Transit Subcategory, with Singapore (1st) the clear winner — a staggering 96% of expats there praise the availability of public transportation (vs. 72% globally).

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though: expats in South Korea struggle with the air quality (48th) while healthcare is a major expense in Singapore (50th). 

Trends in the Bottom 10

  1. Indonesia
  2. Chile
  3. USA
  4. Egypt
  5. Kenya
  6. Malta
  7. Philippines
  8. Ireland
  9. India
  10. Kuwait

Things are more varied at the bottom of the list. Ireland (51st) and Malta (49th) are the only European destinations among the ten worst-performing countries. As in Ireland, expats in Malta are not satisfied with Travel & Transit (45th) and their Leisure Options (51st); for example, only around half (51%) are happy with the opportunities for recreational sports (vs. 72% globally).  

While Ireland ranks last for Healthcare (53rd), Malta’s 28th place in this subcategory is notably better. The reverse is true for the Environment & Climate: expats might love the Maltese weather (84% happy vs. 30% in Ireland and 58% globally), but the country ranks second to last for both the urban (52nd) and natural (52nd) environment. 

The Philippines (50th) and Indonesia (44th) join India (52nd) in the bottom 10. Their results are rather similar, with neither Asian country doing well in terms of Environment & Climate (from Indonesia’s 45th place to India’s 52nd) and Travel & Transport, where only the Philippines (41st) narrowly escapes the bottom 10.  

However, there’s some good news, namely India’s aforementioned 14th place for Healthcare as well as Indonesia’s 16th rank for Leisure Options. Expats in Indonesia particularly appreciate the culinary variety (82% happy vs. 73% globally) and the culture & nightlife (75% vs. 66%). 

With Kenya (48th) and Egypt (47th), two African destinations can be found in the bottom 10 for different reasons. Expats are not happy with Healthcare (45th) and Travel & Transit (51st) in Kenya, whereas the biggest issue in Egypt is the Environment & Climate (49th). For instance, over two in five respondents in Egypt (42%) rate the air quality negatively (vs. 15% in Kenya and 19% globally). When it comes to Safety & Security, there is room for improvement for both countries (51st Kenya, 45th Egypt). 

Next to Kuwait (53rd), the USA (46th) and Chile (45th) are the odd ones out — geographically speaking. A lack of affordable (48th) and readily available (51st) public transportation remains an issue in the USA, in addition to costly healthcare (53rd). Expats in Chile, on the other hand, complain of the air quality (50th) and difficulties in getting equal access to all kinds of healthcare services (51st). And both countries see below average satisfaction levels when it comes to personal safety (41% satisfied in Chile and 61% in the USA vs. 80% globally). 

The Biggest Winners in 2024

Saudi Arabia and Belgium are the big winners in 2024, seeing a jump of 20 and 17 ranks, respectively, in the Quality of Life Index. 

Saudi Arabia (20th) made gains across nearly all factors of the index. Most notably, expats are more satisfied regarding the Environment & Climate (from 45th to 29th place). In 2023, over a quarter (26%) were unhappy with the urban environment (e.g. green spaces, noise levels). This share has gone down by 10 percentage points in 2024 (16% unhappy vs. 16% globally). Expats report improvements regarding the availability (49th to 40th) and affordability (52nd to 41st) of public transportation, too. A lack of opportunities for recreational sports remains an issue though: less than three in five (58%) give a good grade here, compared to a global average of 72%. 

Belgium ranks 18th in the 2024 Quality of Life Index. The weather is still a sore point — 51% regard it negatively (vs. 21% globally) — but expats’ take on most other factors of the index has improved. For instance: in 2023, less than one in five (18%) agreed that the culture & nightlife was very good. In 2024, this has gone up by 10 percentage points (28%). Similarly, expats are more satisfied with the availability (81% positive ratings vs. 71% in 2023) and affordability (72% vs. 64%) of public transportation. Improvements like this, coupled with a healthcare system that continues to rate favorably (14th in 2023; 8th in 2024), mean Belgium can return to old strength after a dip in 2023 (35th vs. 26th in 2022). 

The Biggest Losers in 2024

At the other end of the spectrum, Finland has dropped out of the top 3 of 2023 (3rd) to place 26th. And Canada lost 13 spots to rank 36th out of 53 countries in 2024. 

Expats continue to appreciate Finland for its Environment & Climate (8th) and, to a lesser degree, its Travel & Transit (21st) opportunities. The Nordic country, however, has lost significant ground when it comes to Leisure Options (35th to 50th) and Safety & Security (3rd to 17th). In 2024, expats are less confident about the country’s political stability than they were a year ago (61% positive ratings vs. 86% in 2023) and are more likely to feel like they can’t openly express themselves or their opinions (18% negative ratings vs. 7%).  

Finland, which is currently in the middle of a major reform of its health and social services,3 also loses out in the Healthcare Subcategory (17th to 38th). Expats are less satisfied with both the availability (56% satisfied vs. 73% in 2023) and affordability (51% satisfied vs. 75% in 2023) of medical services. 

Canada’s drop in the index (from 23rd to 36th) isn't as severe. But the country sees decreased satisfaction levels across most areas of the index, which adds up. Expats are, for example, less happy with the opportunities for recreational sports (73% satisfied vs. 81% in 2023), political stability (64% vs. 80%), and quality of medical care (48% vs. 62%). Healthcare in general was already a sore point in 2023 (42nd out of 53 countries); however, its results have since worsened, with Canada now ranking among the five worst-performing countries for this subcategory (49th). 

Full Ranking

Further Reading

External References

  1. City of Vienna: Vienna in a global context (accessed 25 Jun 2024)
  2. Luxembourg: Public Transport (accessed 25 Jun 2024)
  3. Finish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: National services reform (accessed 26 Jun 2024)