This article takes a look at the 25 countries with best quality of life for expats. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis of the global expatriate landscape, you may go to 5 Countries with the Best Quality of Life for Expats.
Exploring the Expatriate Landscape: Choices, Challenges, and Contributions to Quality of Life
According to the Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO), American expatriates have chosen to reside in more than 160 countries. 26% have moved to Europe, 14% headed to East Asia and the Pacific, while an additional 14% have traveled to the Middle East. Typically, expatriates departing from their home country aspire to enhance their quality of life through relocation. Over two-thirds (67%) of expats feel their quality of life is better abroad than at home, notes the Expat Explorer Study by HSBC.
The study by HSBC notes that the average expat earns an income of $99,900, a 25% increase from the salary in their home country. Expats not only report better salaries with these moves but also note that their work-life balance and quality of life have improved. Countries that promise job opportunities and a high quality of life tend to attract the most expatriates. For instance, the UAE is one of the best countries for expats to work, offering a high quality of life. The Cigna Group (NYSE:CI), a health insurance company, affirms this notion by stating that as of 2021, 4% of the expatriates from around the world wanted to move to UAE because of its visa reforms, progressive policy changes, and economic rebound following the pandemic.
While the UAE has been opening itself to expatriates, many other countries are tightening their laws to uphold the quality of life they extend to their residents. To quote an example, Sweden, one of the best countries for expats to live in, is currently exploring the prospect of reinforcing its criteria for an 'honest way of life' among individuals who wish to reside within its borders. Those involved in debts and abuse, are linked to criminal gangs, and lead a dishonest way of life may find these elements serving as grounds for potential deportation.
“A basic condition for successful integration is that people who want to live in Sweden respect basic norms and live in an honest and orderly manner.”
- Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard.
The UAE and Sweden may be beloved countries, but the Expat Insider Report 2023 hails Mexico as the best destination for expats, amongst 52 other countries. Mexico is deemed as the number one country because expats find it easy to settle in the country, consider the locals as very friendly, the culture easy to integrate into, and housing to be affordable and easily available. 90% of expats are happy with their life in Mexico, making it one of the happiest countries in the world for expats. However, Mexico hasn’t exactly shown flying colors in the Quality of Life index. 18% of expats feel the country is unsafe, and also report the political stability to be below optimal levels.
As such, in enhancing the quality of life for residents and expats, governments play a crucial role. Economic stability, employment opportunities, and infrastructure development contribute to citizens' financial well-being and convenience. Meanwhile, environmental sustainability and safety measures foster a healthy and secure living environment. Social inclusivity, cultural opportunities, and recreational facilities further enhance overall quality of life.
The government's influence on quality of life is undeniable, but the private sector also significantly contributes to shaping it. By driving economic growth and innovation, these companies create employment opportunities, stimulate local economies, and contribute to societal well-being. For instance, Nestle believes in the power of "food" to enhance quality of life for people. The company reports having generated $129.2 billion servings of affordable nutrition with micro-nutrient fortification. Nestle is also aiming to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, reduce waste, as well as the amount of water used in factories. These activities not only help the company boost sustainability and profitability, but also help improve the quality of life in the areas they operate in.
All in all, achieving a higher quality of life can help individuals improve life expectancy as well. McKinsey Health Institute reiterates this notion, stating that at least 6 years of higher quality of life can be well within our reach. According to their study, challenging beliefs about health and reorienting material portions of the economy and public policy can help add 45 billion years of higher quality of life.
To compile the list of countries with the best quality of life for expats, we have used Expat Insider Report 2023, the 2023 Natixis Global Retirement Index, and our lists of best countries for expats and countries with the best quality of life.
Next, we compiled countries with the best quality of life, according to our sources. The rankings from Expat Insider, Natixis GRI, and our own lists were averaged to produce final Insider Monkey ranks for this list. Countries' rankings have been adjusted based on their average rankings. The final list is presented in descending order of average rankings.
Here are the countries with the best quality of life for expats:
25. United Kingdom
Insider Monkey Rank: 27
Expats can enjoy a good quality of life in the United Kingdom. According to Expat Insider Survey 2023, 67% of expats are happy with their life in the UK. While the working life and business culture are great, expats do struggle with personal finances due to the high cost of living. Meanwhile, the Natixis GRI notes marginal improvements in the country's environmental factors.
Insider Monkey Rank: 26.5
As of 2022, the foreign population in Italy was 5.2 million. Expat Insider Survey notes that 71% of expats are happy with their life in Italy. Expats love the country for its food, climate, and friendly locals. Expats, particularly retirees, can enjoy a life of relaxation in the country. Working expats, however, struggle living here because of complicated bureaucratic issues and working conditions.
Insider Monkey Rank: 25.5
According to the OECD, Belgium ranks high in education, skills, water quality, and low pollution levels The country offers a high quality of life for expats. As of 2023, half a million employees in Belgium received an 11% raise, making it a feasible location for working expats. The Natixis GRI index notes improvement in water and sanitation, air quality, and environmental factor indicators.
22. New Zealand
Insider Monkey Rank: 23
The best thing about New Zealand for expats is its environment and climate. Ranking 8th in the sub-index, the Expat Insider Survey 2023 reports the air quality in the country to be 3rd best out of 53 countries. It also notes that 95% of expats are happy with the natural environment. There are many recreation opportunities in the country as well. The downside of the country is that many expats feel that their income is insufficient to lead a comfortable life.
21. South Korea
Insider Monkey Rank: 21
South Korea is best known for its strong public health system, as well as its excellent hospitals and clinics. Besides health, the factors it scores highly in are public transport, safety, and security. However, the country doesn’t perform well in the Working Abroad Index. Expat Insider Survey notes that only 65% of expats stated that they had an improvement in career prospects from their move.
Insider Monkey Rank: 20
Canada is one of the countries with the best quality of life for expats. The working life, work culture, and job market are great, according to expats. However, there is a consensus that the cost of living is not quite affordable. 65% rate their personal career options positively, and 71% are happy with their life here. The downside is that getting a visa can be tough. Nevertheless, it is one of the best expat countries for English speakers.
Insider Monkey Rank: 19
Safety, low levels of pollution, climate, and commuting are three factors contributing to the high quality of life in Estonia. The Natixis GRI reports improvements in water, sanitation, and air quality in the country. Estonia has also spent the past ten years renovating its water and sewage systems, spending over 1 billion euros in the process.
Insider Monkey Rank: 19
Expats enjoy a healthy lifestyle in Japan, indulging in clean eating, regular exercise, and spending time in nature. The quality of healthcare and level of safety in the country is outstanding, contributing to its high quality of life. According to the World Bank, the country has a joint-highest life expectancy in the world at 84 years.
17. Czech Republic
Insider Monkey Rank: 18
The Natixis GRI ranks the Czech Republic in the top 25 countries in its quality of life sub-index. The country has been actively working on its pollution levels, with the government actively phasing out coal as their energy source by 2033. Water and sanitation, air quality, and environmental factors have seen improvements, notes the GRI index. The Global Peace Index ranks the country among the top 10 safest countries in the world.
Insider Monkey Rank: 17.5
According to the OECD, Norway outperforms many countries in jobs, work-life balance, education, health, environmental quality, social connections, civic engagement, safety, and life satisfaction. Expat Insider Survey notes that 88% of expats are happy with the country's political stability, 88% are satisfied with the air quality, and 95% love the natural environment. However, it doesn't perform well in public transport affordability and culinary options.
Insider Monkey Rank: 17
One of the countries with the best quality of life for expats is Australia. 76% of expats are satisfied with their life in the country, notes Expat Insider Survey. Freedom of expression and the natural environment are the highlights of this country. However, expats report struggling with personal finances.
Insider Monkey Rank: 15
The Netherlands performs the best (1st) in the Working Abroad Index, notes Expat Insider. Expats are satisfied with the work culture, and the country also supports independent and flexible working hours. World Happiness Report deems it as the 5th happiest country in the world. The country is home to a great healthcare system, good safety and security, and excellent transportation and infrastructure.
Insider Monkey Rank: 15
According to the Expat Insider Survey, Germany ranks 15th in the working abroad index, 4th in the job market, and 5th in terms of job security. The quality of life is high, the infrastructure is great, and expats report the availability of green goods and services. However, the country ranks poorly in its Ease of Settling, ranking at 50th place.
Insider Monkey Rank: 14.5
One of the best countries for expats with families is Singapore. The city has a good quality of life, offering excellent infrastructure, a clean environment, numerous options for health and exercise, socializing, as well as food and culture. Expat Insider notes that the country ranks 3rd place in terms of availability, quality, and accessibility to healthcare. The country also ranks 1st for personal safety and 3rd for political stability.
Insider Monkey Rank: 14
One of the best countries to live in 2023 for expats is Taiwan. The country ranks high in healthcare, and also fares well in terms of personal safety and job security. Expat Insider Survey notes that 78% of expats are happy with their life in the country. 78% of expats also feel welcome in the country and even have a personal network.
Insider Monkey Rank: 14
Almost everyone loves France for its luxurious lifestyle. The language does make it hard to get settled, but expats still enjoy a high quality of life in the country. Expat Insider notes that the country ranks 14th in terms of quality of life, enjoying a good environment and climate, and boasting excellent gastronomy. The country's exceptional quality of healthcare has helped it rank in the top 10 in healthcare, with 84% of expats satisfied with this aspect of life.
Insider Monkey Rank: 13
One of the best countries for US expats to retire is Portugal. Expats love the quality of life this country offers, enjoying its safety, climate, and leisure options. Expat Insider notes that 85% of expats are happy and satisfied with their life in the country. 78% of them also feel welcome at home, and 76% report finding it easy to integrate into their culture. There is plenty to see and do, the weather is great, and the beaches are fantastic.
8. United Arab Emirates
Insider Monkey Rank: 12.5
According to the Expat Insider Survey, the UAE is one of the countries with the best quality of life for expats. The country holds top rankings in three of its sub-indexes, namely Quality of Life, Working Abroad, and Expat Essentials. It is one of the easiest destinations to get a visa, and the infrastructure for cars is amazing. 84% of expats are happy with the culinary variety and dining, while 76% love it for its culture and nightlife.
Insider Monkey Rank: 10
One of the happiest countries for expats is Spain. Ranking 1st in the Quality of Life sub-index in the Expat Insider Survey, expats report being particularly satisfied with their Health and Well-Being (4th place), Leisure Options (1st place), and Social Life (10th place). 87% of expats are happy with their life in the country.
Insider Monkey Rank: 9.5
According to Expat Insider Survey, 66% of expats in Luxembourg feel at home. It is one of the countries with the best quality of life for expats because of its excellent work-life balance, green and clean environment, as well as excellent health quality.
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Disclosure: none. 25 Countries with Best Quality of Life for Expats is originally published on Insider Monkey.