Turning Tides in Myanmar: The Friendliest People in the World
Munich, 10 November 2015 — While the political future of Myanmar is on everyone’s mind and ethnic tensions continue to rise, foreigners living in Myanmar appreciate the friendliness of the local population more than anywhere else in the world, according to the latest global survey about expat living conducted by InterNations, the world’s leading social network and information site for people who live and work abroad. Myanmar comes in only 48th out of 64 expat destinations overall, but the friendliness of the local population receives the highest rating in the world. Also among the top ten of the most welcoming places for expats are Ireland, Colombia, Ecuador, Oman, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil.
The Friendliest Population is in Myanmar
Myanmar ranks first in the Expat Insider 2015 survey for its friendly attitude: An overwhelming 94 percent of foreigners in the country gave the general friendliness of the local population a positive rating, which is significantly higher than the global average of 72 percent. Myanmar also excels when it comes to friendliness towards foreigners in particular, with 96 percent rating this factor positively.
InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck says, "After a quarter of a century of being a pariah state, Myanmar has only recently started attracting foreign residents. Three-quarters of them have been living in the country for two years or less and the largest percentage gave looking for an adventure or a personal challenge as the most important reason for moving to Myanmar. As we continue to see change happening in Myanmar — with Sunday’s election being the latest example — we are expecting the number of foreigners in Myanmar and our local community in Yangon to grow further in the near future."
Based on the survey results, most expats living in Myanmar (63 percent) are male and 21 percent of them are teachers, academic staff or researchers, which is more than double the global average of 9 percent. In addition, a higher than average percentage of the expat population in Myanmar works in the (tele-) communications industry, 14 percent as compared to the 3 percent of expats around the world who find employment in the same sector. US Americans make up the largest percentage of the expat population (18 percent), followed closely by Indians (17 percent).
Despite the friendliness of the local population, only 3 percent of expats in Myanmar report having a friend group composed mostly of locals. The difficulty of the language may be one of the factors preventing foreigners from making local friends — nine out of ten expats in Myanmar say that they know the local language just a little or not at all, compared to the global average of 42 percent of expats around the world who report the same.
Myanmar is also a top choice for those in pursuit of happiness: the country ranks 8th out of 64 in the Personal Happiness category and 88 percent of expats in Myanmar are happy with their life in general. Political stability is still a concern for many though, with 46 percent rating the political stability of the country negatively, compared to a global average of 15 percent.
Where Foreigners Do Not Feel Welcome
On the opposite end of the scale, the local populations in Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia are considered to be very unfriendly towards those from other countries, and Kuwait even finds itself at the very bottom of the ranking: 13 percent of the expats find the general friendliness of the local population here to be very bad; overall 53 percent rate it negatively. A similar sentiment emerges among expats in Kuwait when it comes to the friendliness towards foreigners in particular, with 55 percent rating this negatively. Kuwait does a bit better when it comes to the attitude of the locals towards families with children, yet 36 percent of expats still rate this factor negatively. The unfriendliness of the local population might be one of the factors explaining why 61 percent of expats here describe their personal circle of friends as consisting mostly of other expats.
Malte Zeeck, InterNations Founder & Co-CEO, explains why numerous expats still decide to move to Kuwait, despite potential difficulties with finding friends: “The financial benefits of living in Kuwait are a draw for many expats. In fact, 41 percent of the foreigners surveyed in Kuwait say that their income is a lot higher there than it is back home, whereas only 24 percent globally say the same.”
Who Expats Are Friends With
Only 16 percent of foreigners report having primarily local residents as friends. Foreigners living in South America have the highest tendency for socializing mostly with locals, particularly in Peru (39 percent) and Argentina (33 percent), whereas the Arab Gulf states and Luxembourg are the countries where expats are the least likely to have local residents as friends.
Malte Zeeck describes: “Expats having friend groups consisting mostly of other expats in Luxembourg and the Arab Gulf states is not surprising considering that almost 44 percent of the population in Luxembourg and an overwhelming 80 percent of the UAE’s population are foreign-born residents.”
Of those who claim to have mostly expat friends or a mix of expat and local friends, 36 percent say that they have a fairly diverse group of expat friends. Younger expatriates under the age of 26 are more likely to have expat friends from countries other than their own and who have a different native language or cultural background. This seems to lessen with age as only 14 percent of expats over the age of 50 primarily have friends who fit this description.
Find more rankings, reports and infographics on www.internations.org/expat-insider.
With more than 2.7 million members in 390 cities around the world, InterNations (http://www.internations.org) is the largest global network and information site for people who live and work abroad. InterNations offers global and local networking both online and face-to-face at more than 6,000 monthly events and activities. Online services include country and city guides created by a team of professional writers, guest contributions about life abroad, and forums to help members with topics such as local housing and searching for jobs. InterNations is primarily a community for expats, but also global minds. As a community of trust, membership is by application only.