The Best & Worst Places for Expats
Ecuador, Luxembourg, and Mexico emerge as clear winners while Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait fall behind.
To arrive at our ranking of the most and least popular expat destinations worldwide, the results of several sub-indices were averaged. These include the General Quality of Life Index, Ease of Settling In Index, Working Abroad Index, Family Life Index (where applicable), Personal Finance Index, as well as the results for the question: "how satisfied are you with life abroad in general?". As this last factor is a single question, it carries disproportionate weight in the overall country ranking.
For each question in the survey, participants were asked to rate their own opinion or experience on a scale of one to seven, or one to five, in some cases. A sample size of at least 50 survey participants was necessary in order to feature in a specific ranking. The only exception to this was the Family Life Index, where a sample size of 30 respondents was required.
Ecuador: The Overall Winner
Ecuador emerges as a top destination in our expat survey. This can be explained by its high ranking in our various sub-indices, notably the Personal Finance Index. Here, the South American country ranks first, as expats are generally very pleased with their financial situation in Ecuador.
In the Ease of Settling In Index, Ecuador holds spot eight. It has the highest result of all survey countries for the ease of making friends. Over eight in ten expats (82%) find it easy to settle down and feel at home in Ecuador.
However, Ecuador has a less than average result when it comes to language difficulties. Over one-third (37%) agree that it is very difficult to live in this country without speaking Spanish. Luckily, one in three expats (30%) also think that learning the language is very easy.
Ecuador also comes in first place for personal happiness. A high 85% are satisfied with their relationship. In addition, nearly half the participants (44%) say they are "very happy" with their lives in general.
It is thus unsurprising that over nine out of ten expats (91%) report being satisfied with their life in Ecuador. As so many participants seem to be content with life there, it makes sense that almost half of the expats in Ecuador plan to stay there "possibly forever" (42%).
Most of the expats here report that they enjoy living abroad and that they moved here for a better quality of life. Although Ecuador ranks fifth in the Working Abroad Index, not many expats relocate to this country for work purposes. Ecuador has a high percentage of retirees (39%) and the average age of expats in Ecuador is 52.8, well above the global average of 39.5.
Luxembourg: Home of the Career Expat
The small, land-locked European country ranks second overall in our expat survey. This is primarily due to Luxembourg’s second-place ranking in the Working Abroad Index.
Indeed, two out of three expats (64%) report career opportunities – whether they found a job themselves, were sent by their employer, or were recruited – to be the most important reason for their move abroad. Two in five even found a job in Luxembourg on their own, a higher percentage than for any other country in the survey.
Only about one in three expats (28%) want to stay in Luxembourg for the long run, however. One-fifth of expats (21%) plan to complete an assignment of one to three years.
Luxembourg may be a good place to advance your career, but this alone does not apparently equal overall contentment. Luxembourg only comes in 50th out of 61 countries in the category personal happiness. Despite this, 89% say that they are satisfied with expat life in Luxembourg.
While Luxembourg provides an above-average infrastructure for travel and transport, as well as health and safety, the country only ranks 32nd out of 61 when it comes to the ease of settling in. Expats find it especially hard to make friends here, contributing to its ranking of 46th in this category. Only 9% report that it is very easy to make local friends.
Mexico: For Love or Money
In striking contrast to Luxembourg, Mexico is the clear winner in the Ease of Settling In Index. Its high ranking here helps account for its achieving third place overall in our expat survey.
Nine in ten expats (91%) are pleased with their expat life in Mexico, the same percentage as for the overall winner, Ecuador. Another measure of satisfaction is the high number of expats (44%) that would like to stay forever.
About one in three expats (28%) moved to Mexico for a job. Interestingly, the next highest percentage (19%) list love as their main motivation for moving to Mexico. They either moved in order to join their partner in Mexico or moved along with them.
Mexico ranks the lowest of our top three countries in the Working Abroad Index, coming in at 25th place out of 61. The lowest ranking was in the subcategory "job security" (32nd place).
Mexico’s results in the Quality of Life Index are somewhat mixed. On the bright side, Mexico ranks fourth for personal happiness, and the general satisfaction with the local climate and weather also adds to the quality of living. Only 61% of expats, however, are satisfied with Mexico’s transportation infrastructure. Not even two-thirds (62%) are pleased with their level of personal safety.
The Bottom Three: Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait
The economic crisis in Greece and the resulting very low rankings in the Working Abroad Index help explain its third to last place overall. Greece holds last place in the "job and career" category and has the lowest score for job security by a large margin. Greece also fares poorly in the Personal Finance Index with another last place ranking.
Saudi Arabia holds the 60th place in the overall country ranking. This is primarily due to the country’s poor results in the Quality of Life Index (59th place). Saudi Arabia comes in last place in the "leisure activities" subcategory. A majority (54%) of participants are dissatisfied with the availability of leisure activities in the country.
Kuwait ranks last in the overall country ranking. This is largely due to its low results for personal happiness and in the Ease of Settling In Index. Expats in Kuwait do not think it is easy to settle down there, make friends, or feel at home. Only 5% of survey participants feel completely at home there, and only 7% find it very easy to make local friends.