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Expat Insider Survey Reveals the Best and Worst Destinations for Expats in 2017

Munich, 6 September 2017
Friendly locals boost top rankings in Bahrain, Costa Rica, and Mexico, while Greece, Kuwait, and Nigeria do not find favor with foreign residents.
  • This year’s top destinations for expats offer la ’pura vida’: most of the top scorers Bahrain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Taiwan, Portugal, New Zealand, Malta, Colombia, Singapore, and Spain do well for their quality of life.

  • The Czech Republic is the new best destination for working abroad, largely due to improved satisfaction with job security. Additionally, the Netherlands has jumped from 20th to 6th position, gaining considerably in terms of work-life balance.

  • Greece, Kuwait, and Nigeria remain the worst expat destinations due to a lack of career prospects, personal dissatisfaction, and worries about safety and security.

Munich, 06 September 2017 — The small Arab monarchy Bahrain is the surprise winner of this year’s Expat Insider survey, followed by Latin American countries Mexico and Costa Rica. The three countries have their extremely friendly and welcoming local residents in common: between eight and nine out of ten expats rate the friendliness of the population towards foreign residents positively. At the other end of the ranking, Greece, Kuwait, and Nigeria are least popular among those living abroad. Issues range from insufficient incomes to a poor quality of life to problems with personal safety, as the Expat Insider 2017 survey reveals. With nearly 13,000 respondents living and working abroad, it is one of the most extensive expat studies, conducted yearly by InterNations, the largest expat community worldwide. Apart from offering an in-depth analysis of life abroad, the survey ranks 65 countries by a variety of factors such as quality of life, working abroad, and settling in. According to the survey, this year’s top 10 destinations for expats are Bahrain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Taiwan, Portugal, New Zealand, Malta, Colombia, Singapore, and Spain.

Friendly Locals Make Expats Feel at Home in Bahrain, Costa Rica, and Mexico

For the first time since the Expat Insider survey was introduced, none of the previous year’s top 3 destinations lead the ranking: Surprise winner Bahrain even leaps from 19th position to 1st place. The Gulf State makes it easy for expats to feel at home due to its friendly population — nearly nine out of ten expats (86%) rate the Bahrainis’ attitude towards expats positively. A US American expat loves especially “the wonderful people — it is a beautiful melting pot of many different cultures.” The same applies to runner-up Costa Rica and Mexico on third place: nearly nine in ten expats (87%) rate the friendly attitude of the local population towards foreign residents positively in both countries, compared to a global average of 67 percent of expats feeling this way about their new neighbors. This might be one of the reasons why expats in Costa Rica (75%) and Mexico (81%) find it easy to settle down in these countries. “I like how easy it is to adapt, and the people are incredibly friendly,” a US American living in Mexico says. Appreciating the pura vida vibe, nearly half of the expats in Costa Rica (48%), as well as about four in ten expats in Mexico (39%), can see themselves staying forever.

New Front-Runners for Working Abroad: The Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Bahrain

The best countries for working abroad have undergone quite some changes since 2016: only six destinations even remain among the 2017 top 10, for example, New Zealand (2nd), Malta (5th), Germany (7th), and Norway (8th). The Czech Republic, which came in 9th in 2016, dethrones Luxembourg, which now ranks 4th this year. Three-quarters of respondents in the Czech Republic are satisfied with their job, and job security in particular seems to have improved since 2016 (65% vs. 74% satisfied). “My working conditions are excellent here. My employer offers me a lot of benefits,” an Australian expat living in the Czech Republic states. The Netherlands is another big winner, jumping from 20th to 6th position. The country has especially improved in terms of work-life balance, as 75 percent now rate this factor positively, compared to 63 percent in the previous year. On the other hand, Taiwan (12th), Panama (30th), Austria (19th), and Australia (32nd) have suffered great losses, no longer ranking among the top 10 destinations for working abroad. Survey respondents in Australia point out that the “ignorance regarding qualifications and experience” as well as the “closed job market” are big issues. In fact, only about half the expats in Australia (54%) are satisfied with their job in Down Under, compared to nearly seven in ten (68%) in 2016.

Low Career Prospects Make Greece, Kuwait, and Nigeria the Worst Expat Destinations

Greece, Kuwait, Nigeria, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Ukraine, Qatar, India, and Turkey are the worst expat destinations in 2017. What all these countries have in common is that they also rank among the lower third of the list, or even among the bottom 10, in terms of working abroad. The main issue often seems to be a lack of career prospects, as about three in ten expats rate this factor negatively in seven of the named destinations — Greece (60%) and Italy (51%) stick out for their extreme poor level of satisfaction with this factor. Apart from work-related matters, the constant struggle with quality of life remains a major issue in Kuwait and Nigeria: almost one quarter of the expats in Kuwait (23%) are unhappy with their life in general, compared to only 10 percent of all expats worldwide. In Nigeria, safety and security cause additional problems, with nearly seven out of ten (68%) rating their personal safety negatively. “It is a tough country in every aspect,” according to a Dutch expat living in the West African destination.

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.


About InterNations

With more than 5.3 million members in 420 cities around the world, InterNations is the largest global community and a source of information for people who live and work abroad. InterNations offers global and local networking and socializing, both online and face to face. At around 6,000 events and activities per month, expatriates have the opportunity to meet other global minds. Online services include discussion forums and helpful articles with personal expat experiences, tips, and information about life abroad. Membership is by approval only to ensure we remain a community of trust. InterNations is part of the New Work SE, a group of brands that offer products and services for a better working life.

Find more information about InterNations on our press page or in our magazine.

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