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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expat Destinations 2017: The Biggest Winners & Losers

Malaysia, Norway, and Portugal are the biggest winners in 2017. However, some countries have taken a few steps back, dropping significantly in the overall ranking.

Aside from the countries which occupy the top and bottom ranks of the Expat Insider survey, there are some destinations that — although they don’t come out on top or remain at the bottom — still achieved remarkable results. Here are the biggest winners and losers of 2017.

A Big Leap for Malaysia

Malaysia climbs from 38th place in 2016 to 15th in 2017. Due to a low number of respondents with dependent children, Malaysia is not listed in the Family Life Index in 2017 — an area it has underperformed in in the past. This may have improved Malaysia’s overall ranking in 2017, nevertheless, the rest of Malaysia’s results speak for themselves.

The country takes the biggest leap in the Ease of Settling In Index, climbing from 18th place in 2016 to 5th in 2017. In fact, 78% generally find it easy to settle down in Malaysia, compared to 69% in 2016. Seven in nine also agree it’s easy to get used to the local culture with 26% even agreeing completely compared to 12% in 2016.

One in four expats finds it very easy to make new friends in Malaysia, while only 18% said the same in 2016. One survey respondent from South Africa values “the easy-going temperaments and friendliness of the local people, the weather, and the good travel options”, so it is not a surprise that many survey participants (71%) generally feel at home in Malaysia.

Although Malaysia’s position in the Personal Finance Index has improved by ten places (25th to 15th place), the results for individual factors remain largely the same as in 2016. It is possible that the country’s improvement is due to other destinations receiving worse ratings in 2017, bumping Malaysia up a few places.

Norway Joins the Top 20

In 2017, Norway ranks 20th out of 65 countries, a big improvement compared to its 43rd place among 67 destinations in 2016. Expats are generally satisfied with life abroad in Norway, improving from 56th to 25th place. In fact, 19% say that they are completely satisfied compared to only 7% in 2016.

People can be very blunt, but at least they are honest.

While Norway is still at the bottom of the Ease of Settling Index, it has improved across all subcategories, earning it 50th place — 13 places up from 2016. The friendly attitude towards foreign residents receives 58% positive ratings and 14% even find it very good, compared to 41% and 9% respectively in 2016. More than half of respondents (52%) also feel generally at home in Norway, an improvement of eleven percentage points. The general friendliness of the population is rated positively by 57%, while only 44% of respondents gave the same rating in 2016. As one Portuguese survey respondent puts it, people in Norway “can be very blunt, but at least they are honest”.

Norway’s ratings in the Quality of Life Index also improved, particularly in the Health & Well-Being subcategory. In 2016, only 59% rated the quality of medical care favorably, however, this factor receives positive results from over seven in ten respondents (72%) in 2017 — more than the global average of 63%. Moreover, 77% generally agree that healthcare in Norway is affordable, eleven percentage points more than in 2016.

Living the Good Life in Portugal

Portugal ranks 5th out of 65 countries in 2017, climbing an impressive 23 places. The Mediterranean nation mostly improved in the Quality of Life Index, where it makes it to first place, as well as the Ease of Settling In Index (4th place). Generally speaking, 93% are satisfied with their life abroad in Portugal and 29% even say that they are very happy with this aspect.

Portugal has improved across the board in the Quality of Life Index. Personal happiness had dropped in 2016 but shows significant improvements in 2017, landing the country in third place for this subcategory. In fact, 89% are generally happy with their life, while only 77% gave this factor a positive rating in 2016. When it comes to romance, expats in Portugal also have very little to complain about: 95% are generally satisfied with their relationship, compared to 76% in 2016.

According to survey respondents, the political stability in Portugal has vastly improved, contributing to the strong ranking in the Safety & Security subcategory: one third rate this factor as very good, compared to only 11% in 2016 — a positive perception that seems to be shared by the local population. While the results for personal safety were already well above the global average in 2016, 95% rate this factor positively in 2017 — an improvement of six percentage points.

I appreciate the kind people, nice weather and food, as well as the beautiful places to visit.

Portugal is also number one when it comes to friendliness and feeling welcome. In fact, 88% generally agree that it’s easy to settle down in this country, while only 75% gave this factor a positive rating in 2016. One Brazilian expat appreciates the “kind people, nice weather and food, as well as the beautiful places to visit” in Portugal.

In addition, 89% find it easy to get used to the local culture in Portugal, compared to 74% in 2016. The general friendliness of the population (92%) and the welcoming attitude toward foreign residents (94%) are other factors which have significantly improved (87% and 82% positive ratings respectively in 2016).

Down Under in the Middle

Though Australia ranked in the top 10 in 2016, it fell 27 places to 34th in 2017. One of the biggest drops can be seen in the Working Abroad Index where it dipped from 10th to 32nd place. While Australia was in the top 10 in the Work-Life Balance subcategory in 2016, it occupies 40th place in 2017. However, a closer look at the numbers shows that the results only decreased by eight percentage points for work-life balance and nine percentage points for working hours. It’s therefore likely that stronger performances from other countries contributed to Australia’s slide down the ranking.

Things look equally bad in the Job & Career subcategory. Only 54% are satisfied with their jobs, a 14-percentage point drop in comparison to 2016. Career prospects in Australia are rated positively by only 54%, compared to 67% in 2016. Survey respondents point out that the “ignorance regarding qualifications and experience” as well as the “closed job market” are big issues.

The availability of childcare is judged negatively by 53% of expat parents and only 28% say they are satisfied. In 2016, nearly half of all expat parents rated this factor positively. The cost of education also seems to put a damper on life down under for expat parents in Australia: only 33% rate this factor positively, compared to 64% in 2016.

Expats in Australia also don’t seem to be as satisfied with their financial situation as they were in 2016. With only 52% rating this aspect positively, the country drops to the bottom 5 of the Personal Finance Index.

Smog Clouds Opinions in Poland

Poland falls 25 places in 2017, dropping from 24th to 49th place. All in all, 71% are generally satisfied with their life abroad, a ten-percentage point decrease compared to 2016. When it comes to the Health & Well-Being subcategory, survey respondents are particularly unhappy with the quality of the environment: more than half rate this aspect negatively (54%). In 2016, only 23% were unsatisfied with this factor. “This winter the level of smog in the air was too high and it doesn't seem that the city is doing a lot to deal with it”, one Ukrainian survey respondent explains.In winter 2017, the air pollution in Poland’s south exceeded that of Beijing and was 20 times higher than EU limits.

Poland doesn’t have the most open culture towards foreigners.

According to survey respondents, the general friendliness of the population as well as the welcoming attitude toward foreign residents has suffered quite a bit. While 68% rated the general friendliness of the population positively in 2016, only 56% make the same assessment in 2017. Results look similar for the friendly attitude toward foreign residents in Poland. Survey respondents describe Polish people as having “not the most open culture towards foreigners”, and only 53% rate this aspect positively, compared to 68% in 2016.

Expats in Poland are also struggling with their financial situation. In 2017, only 65% are generally satisfied with their financial situation, nine percentage points less than in 2016. Moreover, 75% believe that their disposable household income is enough or even more than enough to get by. While this is still a good result, a whopping 86% said the same in 2016.

Ukraine — Struggling to Feel at Home

Ukraine drops to the bottom 10 in 2017, falling from 34th to 59th place. The effects of negative ratings are particularly clear in the Personal Finance Index, where Ukraine drops 37 places compared to 2016. The country loses 24 and 35 places respectively when it comes to the financial situation and the disposable household income of expats; in 2017, 63% are satisfied with their financial situation, 13 percentage points less than in 2016. Moreover, 73% agree that they earn enough or more than enough to get by, dropping below the global average of 77%.

Expats in Ukraine also struggle to find friends. Nearly half of the respondents (49%) generally find it easy to make local friends, compared to 68% in 2016. It doesn’t come as a surprise therefore that only 49% find it easy to settle down in this Eastern European country, 19 percentage points lower than in 2016. Moreover, 56% generally feel at home in the Ukrainian culture, compared to 70% in 2016.

The general friendliness of the population and the welcoming attitude toward foreign residents has also suffered. While these factors received 82% and 76% respectively in 2016, only about six out of ten (60% and 57% respectively) rate this factor positively in 2017.

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