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The Best and Worst Countries to Make Friends

Finding friends is one of the biggest concerns for anyone considering a move abroad. While some countries offer excellent opportunities to meet new people, others leave expats feeling lonely and generally unhappier.

The decision to move abroad is always a difficult one, with only 57% of expats worldwide finding it easy to make new friends abroad, having to build a social network again from scratch can make the move even more difficult. Furthermore, only 45% of expats find it easy to make friends outside of their expat bubble, with certain locations far less accepting towards foreign residents than others.

Leaving your current social circle behind and starting again from scratch can make moving abroad a very stressful experience. Let’s take a look at the best and worst countries to make friends abroad according to the Expat Insider 2018 survey.

Mexico

Boasting the happiest population of expats worldwide (93%), Mexico certainly has a lot to offer. Over four in five expats in the country (82%) find it easy to make new friends, with 77% also finding it easy to make local friends. Expats in Mexico are also very positive about the attitude towards foreign residents, with one American sharing “I love the local people, their culture, and their openness”.

Bahrain

Having a friendly population certainly helps expats to settle in to life in Bahrain — 92% of expats rate this factor positively, and 60% even find the population to be extremely friendly. A move to Bahrain could well be on the cards for those who are nervous about a language barrier as 94% of expats say it is easy to live there without knowing the local language, perfect for those who usually rely on Google Translate while abroad!

Serbia

Serbians may come across tough on the outside but their rank of third place shows they are warm and welcoming on the inside. Expats can expect to make plenty of local friends in particular as 79% find this easy there. What is more, 47% state they are mainly friends with local residents, the highest share worldwide in this respect (together with Brazil). It is no surprise that one Romanian expat describes the Serbian population as “open, friendly, and helpful”.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica isn’t just a spectacular island paradise, it is also a great place to meet new people! Over three quarters of expats in Costa Rica (76%) find it easy to make new friends, and with 89% finding the population generally friendly, Costa Rica seems to be an excellent destination for building a new social network. Combine this with the constant sunny weather and it is easy to see why expats in this country are exceptionally happy (84%).

Ecuador

Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is considered to be the cultural capital of South America, and with four out of five expats (80%) saying they feel at home in the Ecuadorian culture, it also seems to be a hit with expats worldwide. It’s no surprise that an American expat proudly states, “I knew I belonged in this community instantly upon arrival”. Combining this with 86% of expats saying they are happy in general, it is no wonder that Ecuador features in our top ten for finding friends.

Uganda

As the only African country in the top ten, Uganda may well fly under the radar — but it is certainly a heavyweight in terms of opportunities to build social circles. Placing in the top ten for four consecutive years, Uganda could well be the spot for you if languages aren’t your thing. Almost nine in ten expats (89%) say they can easily live there without speaking the local language, and 61% even say that it could not be any easier!

Colombia

The colorful festivals of Columbia like the Festival de las Flores (Flower Festival) showcase the country’s ability to bring people together. Expats based there are certainly enjoying the cultural benefits: 73% find making local friends easy and 35% of expats even say that their friends are mostly local residents. With Colombia’s culture attracting thousands of expats from all over the world, it’s hard to see them dropping out the top ten anytime soon.

Taiwan

Taiwan offers a wealth of socializing and leisure activities, more than four in five expats (82%) agree with this. Expats are also very pleased with the country’s friendly attitude towards foreign residents, with 92% rating this factor positively. Taiwan is a top destination if you’re looking for a welcoming culture. The locals are not only welcoming, but also very easy to get on with — as one expat from the Philippines expressed, “the locals are friendly even if I can only communicate with them through smiles and nods”.

Israel

A surprise in 2018’s top ten is Israel. After climbing 17 ranks in just one year, Israel has become an up-and-coming social haven. Two thirds of expats (66%) claim it is easy to make local friends, while 73% say the same for making new friends in general. Expats also speak very highly of local residents, with one respondent from the Netherlands describing them as “easygoing and friendly people”.

Portugal

The pleasant weather may not be the only reason why expats in Portugal are some of the happiest worldwide: while 89% say that they are happy overall, 82% state they feel at home in the local culture. One British expat even shares that “it is very easy to adapt to life here”. People looking to leave everything behind and move to Portugal will be welcomed with open arms as close to nine in ten expats (87%) find the attitude towards foreign residents friendly.

The Bottom 10 Countries for Making Friends

At the other end of the scale, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and Kuwait haven’t made it out of the bottom ten in five years. In 2018, they are joined by Estonia, Austria, Finland, and Germany.

Moving abroad is supposed to be a dream come true, but in these countries, expats seem to struggle with a lack of social relationships. In nine of the bottom ten nations for finding friends, expats are also not very satisfied with their lives in general — Estonia is the only exception.

Culture shock can be a huge problem for people moving abroad, and it is definitely not made easier by locals who are difficult to make friends with: 48% of expats in Estonia, 57% in Saudi Arabia, and 65% in Kuwait struggle with this, compared to just 36% globally. It comes as no surprise that 59% of expats in Kuwait find the attitude towards foreign residents generally unfriendly, one Indian expat there is disappointed with “the mentality of the local community towards expats”. There’s more bad news for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as expats here also find it especially difficult to make new friends (35% and 44% respectively vs. 25% globally).

Sweden Is the Worst Nordic Country for Making New Friends

The lack of sunlight may not be the only disadvantage of moving to Scandinavia as none of these countries have made it out of the bottom ten in five years. Expats find socializing particularly difficult in Sweden where more than half (51%) say it is tough to make new friends, with 19% even saying it could not be any harder. Denmark closely follows suit with 18% saying this.

German Stereotypes Holding True

It seems like the directness of locals is not the only thing expats struggle with in the German-speaking countries: close to one third of expats in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland find the respective local population generally unfriendly. One American expat even shares that the “general unfriendliness of the local people” is one of the worst things about living in Germany. With above-average proportions of expats in each country struggling to make friends with local residents, it is clear to see why each of the German-speaking countries places in the bottom ten of the Expat Insider 2018 survey.

 



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