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Top 10 Countries for a Sunny Escape

The great local weather leaves expats wanting to stay forever in Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

Greece moves up four places to claim this year's top spot, as the best expat destination for those in search of a sunny escape, according to the Expat Insider survey. Expats seeking an outdoor lifestyle and the weather to match should consider Portugal, Spain, Costa Rica, Uganda, South Africa, Malta, Mexico, Cyprus, or Kenya. In any of these top ten destinations the positive ratings for climate and weather amounted to at least 91 percent, 30 percentage points more than the global average.

1. Greece

Despite Greece coming in last place for the overall ranking of expat destinations, it is not all doom and gloom. Almost all expats (96%) rate the climate and weather in Greece positively. Sunny skies appear to brighten expats’ spirits, as 15 percent state that the main reason why they moved to Greece was for a better quality of life: on average, only eight percent worldwide have moved abroad for this reason. As a South African Expat puts it, “life in Greece revolves around family, socializing, and a good quality of life”. In fact, close to three-quarters of respondents in Greece (74%) say they are happy with their life in general. A US American expat claims, “everything is great — I could die here.” Another 58 percent of expats also think they could spend the rest of their life in Greece, while globally, only 29 percent would like to possibly stay abroad forever.

2. Portugal

Expats move to Portugal primarily in search of a better quality of life — 28 percent give this as their main reason, compared to only eight percent globally. As a Brazilian expat states, Portugal has “kind people, nice weather, good food, and beautiful places to visit”; therefore, it is easy to see why 89 percent of respondents are generally happy with their life (11 percentage points more than the global average). Most expats (97%) rate the local climate positively, and it appears that expats have plenty of opportunity to enjoy Portugal’s sunny weather, as the majority (62%) feels positive about their work-life balance. With 92 percent stating they are content with the available leisure activities, Portugal offers more than enough to keep expats busy outside of work.

3. Spain

Coming in third place again, Spain stays firmly among the global top three for best weather. The good weather is clearly attracting expats, as more than a quarter (26%) have moved to Spain hoping to improve their quality of life. With 96 percent of expats rating the climate and weather positively, it’s easy to see why 89 percent are also happy with their life overall. A Ukrainian expat states that the best thing about Spain is that it “has good weather, as well as a lot of possibilities to meet people from around the world”. Not only does Spain offer a pleasant Mediterranean climate, but it also provides the leisure activities to match — 89 percent rate these positively. According to a Canadian expat, Spain has a “culture of outdoor enjoyment of the beach, the sea, and the mountains”.

4. Costa Rica

Expats flock to Costa Rica in search of a better quality of life, with over three in ten (31%) choosing this as their main reason for relocating. Close to half of the respondents never look back — 48 percent state they could stay indefinitely. A Canadian expat highlights the joy they find in the “beautiful climate and surroundings”, perhaps unsurprisingly, as 98 percent rate the climate and weather positively. Once settled in the country, 86 percent of expats say they are generally happy with their life. However, when deciding to move to Costa Rica, expats are not just after the “pura vida vibe”, as a US American expat puts it, but 62 percent also believed the move would be of benefit to their personal health.

5. Uganda

Despite only two percent of expats moving to Uganda for a better quality of life, over three-quarters actually living there (76%) are satisfied with their life in general. One Belgian expat says: “Life’s not complicated like in Europe, thanks to the friendly people and the nice environment —  it’s pleasant in everything”. Expats are extremely happy with the weather, too, as 93 percent rate it positively. However, with only 55 percent rating the available leisure options in Uganda favorably, compared to 73 percent globally, expats may not be always able to enjoy the amazing weather to the fullest. An Indian expat claims that “work doesn’t leave much time for social or leisure activities”. Over one in eight expats moved to Uganda because they were sent there by their employer (13%), making this the second-most common reason for relocating after moving for a partner’s job or education (19%).

6. South Africa

Expats seem to greatly benefit from the sunny weather in South Africa, as 93 percent rate the climate and weather positively and 89 percent of respondents appreciate the variety in leisure options. An Australian expat highlights the “climate and work-life balance” as special perks of expat life in South Africa. However, nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) are also worried about their safety, compared to only 11 percent globally, placing South Africa 63rd out of 65 destinations for personal safety. A Congolese expat points out that “the uncertain personal safety, racial discrimination, and xenophobic tendencies” are a cause for concern for many expats. This may be one of the reasons why only 74 percent of expats living in South Africa are generally happy with their life, compared to the above-average satisfaction rates in other featured destinations.

7. Malta

With more than a quarter of expats (27%) having moved to Malta for a better quality of life, it is hardly surprising 93 percent rate the local climate and weather positively. In fact, almost six in ten expats (59%) thought that moving to Malta would be good for their personal health, considering the “laid-back attitude and the lovely weather” as the main benefits of life in Malta. The Mediterranean island seems to offer a mostly tranquil lifestyle, with 83 percent rating the tiny country’s peacefulness positively. Perhaps it is the weather, or the largely peaceful environment, but expats are happier in Malta than across the globe (88% vs. 78% globally). A British expat says they love “everything” about Malta, as “it is simply a great place to live”.

8. Mexico

The main reason why expats — about one in seven, to be precise — move to Mexico is for a better quality of life: an Irish expat describes their new life as “relaxed, with almost continuous sunshine”. Once arrived, expats take no time to acclimatize to life in Mexico, as 30 percent say they felt at home there nearly straight away. With 87 percent of expats rating the cost of living positively, Mexico seems like the obvious choice to enjoy life’s pleasures. Globally, over seven in ten expats (73%) judge the available leisure activities in their host country favorably; however, 87 percent feel this way in Mexico. According to a US American expat, “Mexico is full of culture and amazing people. There is so much to explore and so much to learn.”

9. Cyprus

Cyprus offers a peaceful retreat for expats — not only do 91 percent rate the climate and weather positively, but an equal share of expats also feel positive about the country’s peacefulness. More than three in ten expats have primarily moved to Cyprus for a better quality of life, four times the global average (32% vs. 8% worldwide). A British expat explains that “life in Cyprus is generally easy”, and others seem to agree — 46 percent of respondents say they could stay there indefinitely. A Zimbabwean expat depicts Cyprus as a “peaceful place with good weather”. In fact, eight in ten expats thought personal safety would be a benefit of moving to Cyprus. This result is only beaten by Singapore, where 86 percent of expats felt this way before moving.

10. Kenya

With 91 percent of expats rating the local climate and weather in Kenya positively, the East African country makes it into the top ten for best weather. However, it is not the quality of life or the amazing weather that keep attracting expats — close to a quarter (24%) moved to Kenya due to being sent there by their employer. Prior to moving, 49 percent feared that a lack of personal safety would be a disadvantage of life in Kenya. For example, a British expat says the “crime” is the main drawback, as “you can’t just walk around easily”. However, 79 percent of expats in Kenya are happy with their life in general — more than the global average of 78 percent. A South African expat says the best thing about Kenya is “the outdoors and the opportunity to enjoy nature”. This may not be so easy, though, as Kenya has the fourth-longest working week among all 65 destinations, with 48.1 hours a week for full-time jobs.

About the InterNations Expat Insider 2017 Survey
For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked about 13,000 expatriates representing 166 nationalities and living in 188 countries or territories to provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality. Participants were asked to rate 43 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. The rating process emphasized the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects and considered both emotional topics as well as more factual aspects with equal weight. The respondents’ ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 16 subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up six topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living Index. Except for the latter, all indices were further averaged in order to rank 65 expatriate destinations around the world. In 2017 the top 10 were Bahrain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Taiwan, Portugal, New Zealand, Malta, Colombia, Singapore, and Spain.

For a country to be featured in the indices and consequently in the overall ranking, a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per country was necessary. The only exception to this is the Family Life Index, where a sample size of more than 40 respondents raising children abroad was required. In 2017, 65 and 45 countries respectively met these requirements. However, in most countries the sample size exceeded 100 participants.

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