A survey with over 12,000 experienced expats was conducted to determine which country is the best to work, live, and retire in. It would be a waste of both your time and money if you moved to the wrong country that doesn’t match your expectations and lifestyle. Don’t start selling everything until you’ve finished reading this article.
People frequently have dreams of relocating to another country. Still, many are hesitant to make such a dramatic change to their regular routines to leave their nations behind—especially these days with the ongoing situation that has claimed the lives of millions of people worldwide. But there is some good news, and who doesn’t crave some good news? The 2021 InterNations Expat Report for the Happiest Countries to Work and Lived has been issued just in time. We read the report, so you don’t have to.
It’s a fascinating set of data that surveyed more than 12,400 expats for its 2021 Expat Insider survey, representing 174 nationalities and living in 186 countries.
Expats in this top 10 list are reported as being the happiest across a wide variety of characteristics. There are even countries where living costs are so low that you don’t even need to work.
Wait until the end to see if the country you currently live in, plan to retire in, or want to move to is one of the top ten. We think you’ll be surprised at who’s on the top ten list and who is not.
This article is about the best places for expats to have the highest quality of life, employment opportunities, retirement, leisure, safety, medical care, cost of living, infrastructure, social elements, and find happiness with life abroad.
Vietnam was ranked 10th on the overall list of the best places to live and work as an expat.
Since 2014, Vietnam has been on the chart seven times in a row and twice in the top 10.
In 2019, the country ranked second for the first time in its history. One reason for this is the cost of living, which made Vietnam take home the award as one of the top countries.
According to 63% of expats, making friends in the country is simple, while a whopping 81% say the Vietnamese people are kind in general. Many people aren’t surprised by this, given that Vietnam is known for its friendliness.
Despite this, 72% of those polled said it was simple to live in Vietnam without speaking the language, especially in cities like Ho Chi Minh City, where the expat presence is significant.
This year’s survey found that 90% of Vietnam’s expats agreed that their household income was enough or more than enough to pay for everyday costs, ensuring that the nation has been in the top five for the past seven years. The country ranks fourth overall but tops the list for total work happiness.
More than 78% of Vietnamese expats say their work-life balance is satisfactory, even though they work longer hours than the world average, at 44.5 hours per week, compared to the global average of 43.2 hours per week.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
Overall, expats like the most about living in Vietnam are personal finance and the cost of living.
Despite the high rankings in personal finance and cost of living, the country performs poorly in quality of life. More than 63% of expats dislike poor air quality and high plastic pollution. They also dislike poor water and sanitation infrastructure. The digital life category received a similar negative rating, with half of expats rating government services via the internet poorly.
If you don’t mind the poor air quality for some parts of the year, poor environmental quality, and maybe not having access to your favourite website, however, if you’d rather get better personal finances, a low cost of living, and eat authentic pho noodle soup every day, as well as Starbucks’ quality-tasting coffee at a fraction of the cost, then Vietnam might be a perfect fit for you.
There are numerous benefits to living in Canada, but no two people are alike, so you are sure to find new secrets about the nation.
Canada is a progressive, multicultural country. If you are contemplating moving there, especially in a large city, this is one of the perks.
Toronto, Canada’s largest metropolis, speaks over 140 languages. Over 20% of the population is foreign-born. Thus, expats should be welcome; most reside in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta.
Canada’s healthcare system is frequently rated as world-class. One of its advantages is universal public healthcare.
Private health insurance includes extra services, including dental and eye care, prescription medicines, and private hospital rooms. Employers or unions pay around 90% of these premiums.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
The quality of life in Canada is one of the best. Expats find political stability satisfying. North American countries do well with the ease of settling in. Job opportunities also did well.
However, no country is perfect. The Personal Finance Index places Canada in the bottom ten.
A third of expats say they lack the disposable income to cover all living expenses in their host nation, compared to only 23% on average internationally. One American expat said: “Housing costs are exorbitant.” Being a homeowner on a budget is challenging. A quarter of foreign residents are unhappy with their finances.
Canada is 40th on the list of nations with the highest cost of living. 41% of expats rate the country poorly for the cost of living. If you want the highest quality of life in the world, you will have to pay for it.
Imagine an untouched beach, a busy metropolis, a university town, or a tranquil mountain village.
It’s no surprise that so many expats in Ecuador report feeling better than they have in years. The quality of healthcare is comparable to that in North America. All citizens may now join the country’s social security healthcare system for less than $80 per month for a couple.
This South American nation’s unique environment will appeal to both history buffs and nature lovers!
Ecuador has something for every expat, from the Amazon and Andes to the Galapagos and the historic Spanish city of Quito.
For two years running, Ecuador has been awarded the top expat location. This is for several reasons. With a healthy economy and a low cost of living, expats in Ecuador are content with their financial status and find it simple to meet friends, settle in, and feel at home.
While many expats found it difficult to survive in Ecuador without knowing Spanish, many others felt it was a simple language to learn.
Most expats relocate to Ecuador for a better quality of life or retirement, rather than for work or a career.
If you want to work in Ecuador, you should know that the petroleum business accounts for more than half of the country’s export revenues.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
Expats in Ecuador are really happy with their personal finances, the cost of living and the ease of settling in. The categories for “feeling at home” and “friendly locals” are also highly rated by expats. But if you are looking for work and job security, this might not be a great spot for that.
Many expats flock to Australia for its welcoming culture, beautiful beaches, and sunny weather. The country’s culture is warm and welcoming, and the class system is less rigid than in other English-speaking nations.
Living in Australia has numerous advantages. Expats can get high-quality treatment and assistance from the country’s universal healthcare system. Permanent residents can get medical care for free or very cheaply.
Almost all Australian cities are among the world’s most livable. Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth are examples.
If you want to become a citizen, Australia is one of the easiest countries to do so in. Expats seeking permanent residency must stay in the country for four years before taking the citizenship exam. The road to citizenship is simple, but only once expats have obtained a work visa. Getting a work permit in Australia is a lengthy and challenging procedure that includes a “character check” by a government officer.
The average yearly wage in Australia is 91,550 AUD (64,000 USD), which is pretty high. But the high salary and quality of life come at a considerable cost.
Expats will face a competitive housing market. A single individual coming to Australia should anticipate paying between 800-1,000 AUD (560–700 USD) per month, not counting rent.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
Expats rated Australia highly for its quality of life, rating it in the top 6 out of 59 countries. Working abroad, environmental quality and digital life did great, making all the top 10. Also, leisure options are rated one of the highest, with 87% of expats rating them positively, compared to the 72% international average. Almost 9 out of 10 expats rated healthcare quality positively, compared to 7 out of 10 expats internationally.
60% of expats view their career prospects positively, compared to the 45% international average.
However, expats do not like the cost of living and personal finances, which come in at the 39th spot. 41% of expats are unhappy with the cost of living in Australia, compared to the 48% international average.
#6 New Zealand
In the suburbs, there are still numerous wild and unspoiled areas. You’ll feel like an adventurer when you first set foot there. New Zealand boasts one of the world’s most diversified landscapes for its size. Beautiful beaches, woodlands, coastlines, glaciers, and mountains. That’s why The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were shot in New Zealand.
If you live here, you will be surrounded by pleasant Kiwi and Mori people who value nature and efficiency. The best things about living in New Zealand are the sunshine, natural beauty, and the relaxed lifestyle. Nature, the weather, the low crime rate, and Kiwi friendliness are all positives. The natural beauty and friendly residents will make you feel at ease. This country has a warm climate all year, with more days of sunshine than rain. It’s cold and snowy on the South Island in the winter. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the country’s endless outdoor activities. Here, you may ski down a mountain and surf in the afternoon.
Large cities are not congested, while rural areas may have distant neighbours.
New Zealand’s population density is 18 per square km, or 47 people per square mile. The UK has a population density that is about 6 times higher. Due to the country’s rapid economic growth and low population density, qualified people are in short supply in IT, banking, healthcare, and tourism.
With a shortage of skilled workers, New Zealand has eased its immigration policies.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
New Zealand is rated in the top 11 spots for quality of life. They are in the top ten for environmental quality, safety & security, digital life, and a remarkable rating for working abroad categories. 83%, or about 8 out of 10 expats, said they are happy in this category, compared to the 66% international average. Then 39% are satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to only 25% of the international average.
81% said they were happy with the economy and job security, compared to 61% of the international average.
Two notable things expats do not like are transportation and the cost of living. As a result, New Zealand is one of the most expensive places for expats to live.
The average cost of living in Portugal varies greatly depending on where you reside. Lisbon and Cascais are the priciest cities in Portugal. Porto is close behind, especially in terms of rent.
The country’s cost of living is divided between the appealing but pricey west and south regions and the less desirable but cheaper middle and east regions towards the Spanish border. Many regions and cities in this section of the nation are desolate, with few job possibilities for foreigners.
Budget-friendly cities and districts include Braga, Viseu, and Coimbra. Rent in these cities usually ranges between 300 and 500 EUR, or about 330 to 550 USD. While Lisbon is the country’s most expensive neighbourhood and city.
Remember that public healthcare is mainly free. A visit to a public doctor should cost between 5 and 40 EUR, or about 5 to 44 USD.
Most Portuguese people speak English fluently, so a language barrier should not be an issue. The Portuguese are kind towards foreigners and will frequently go out of their way to be understood. However, when it comes to their social circle, the Portuguese tend to stick to their usual acquaintances and avoid inviting expats.
While Portugal is still one of the most affordable nations in Europe, low incomes and high rents make living here challenging.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
The quality of life in Portugal is one of the best, rated in the top 3 out of 59 countries. Also in the top 3 is personal happiness, with an impressive 84% of expats satisfied, compared to the 75% international average.
Feeling at home is rated second best, with 83% of expats happy with this category. The ease of settling in is rated at 9 spots, making Portugal one of the perfect spots to feel right at home.
Expats also like the leisure options and the cost of living in the country. Most Latin American and Asian countries do well in the cost of living category.
Most expats find living in Malaysia exciting. This country on Southeast Asia’s tip boasts a rich cultural diversity. Living in Malaysia for a few years might quickly change your life.
Most expats love living in Malaysia because of its stability, solid infrastructure (particularly for foreigners), and friendly natives.
Malaysians speak many languages. Although Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, English is commonly used among Malaysians, especially among business professionals.
Malaysians are deeply religious. Islam is the official religion, with over 60% of the population being Muslim. But everyone enjoys religious freedom. Malaysia’s other major religious groups include Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and Chinese faiths. Muslims are bound by Syariah law and prosecuted by Syariah courts throughout their lives.
Other problems and religious groups are dealt with by the civil courts.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
What expats really like about the country is the low cost of living. 82% of expats rated this positively, compared to the 75% international average.
The country is rated as the second-best country for expats for ease of settling in and 3rd best for feeling at home. 77% of expats rated this positively with ease of settling in, compared to the 62% international average. Other countries that also made expats feel at home are Mexico, Portugal, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Since the cost of living is low, expats have more disposable income. Giving it a high mark for personal finance, 83% of expats rate this positively, compared to the 64% international average.
#3 Costa Rica
Living in this tropical country is a dream for many foreigners. Residents may spend their weekdays in cool rain forests and their weekends on the beach.
Costa Rica is undeniably gorgeous. This nation has something for any adventurer, from relaxing on the beach to hiking in the cold highlands to swimming under waterfalls. Costa Rica is a tropical nation with year-round temperatures of 12–27°C or 70–81°F. This nation is suitable for anyone looking to escape the cold of their native country for a season or longer.
Not only that, this country is a great place to retire. Its numerous visas allow visitors to stay in the nation without a job. You will need to show sufficient funds or a pension, also a low crime rate. Excellent for solo female expats, though caution is always advised when travelling alone, both female and male.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
For expats, Costa Rica is one of the best countries in which to live, work and retire. What attracts them to moving there are the ease of settling in, friendly locals, personal finances, job security, leisure options, environmental quality, medical care, and overall personal happiness.
Costa Rica is rated 14th out of 59 for quality of life. An impressive 9 out of 10 expats reported being happy, or about 88%, compared to the 75% international average.
Ease of settling in was rated 3rd, while feeling at home and friendliness also did impressively well. 77% reported being satisfied with the ease of settling in, compared to the 62% international average. The friendliness of the local population is rated 3rd overall, with a whopping 91% satisfactory, compared to the 69% international average.
Personal finance is also in the top 10, rated in the 7th spot. 84% of expats reported being satisfied with their finances, compared to the 77% international average.
The only thing that didn’t get a high rating was the travel and transportation category, where expats rated 52 out of 59.
Expats come to Mexico for many reasons, both personal and professional. It’s a favourite Latino relocation destination. Mexico attracts over a million expats every year for its beautiful surroundings and affordable cost of living.
We all know that bad weather makes it harder to appreciate a place. Mexico offers beautiful weather most of the year and is very diversified. The country’s northern deserts are surrounded by green plains. This is due to its two main mountain ranges and forests. Finally, the coast and south have tropical weather with savannahs.
With stunning coastlines and beaches border four oceans: the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Sea of Cortez. These coastlines have it all: beautiful sand beaches, turquoise seas, and various water activities. Living in Mexico has several advantages, including advantageous currency rates. Everything is probably cheaper than in your home country. While prices vary by area, there are huge cost savings in transit, rent, food, and entertainment. You may have a late-night taco bite or a multi-course tasting menu at one of Mexico City’s numerous fine dining establishments.
It may surprise some, but Mexican healthcare is excellent. Every major city has a world-class hospital. They are manned by highly skilled doctors who speak excellent English. In this country, public and private healthcare systems coexist. Employed expats must pay for mandatory public health insurance.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
Although Mexico is rated slightly below average in quality of life, it is rated as the number 1 happiest place for expats in 2021. 89% say they are happy living in the country, compared to 75% of the international average.
It is rated as the best country for expats to feel at ease and feel at home. With 85% satisfied in this category, compared to the 62% international average.
78% say it is easy to make local friends, compared to the 62% international average.
Mexico also did impressively well with personal finance, placing it second best and the cost of living in the 4th spot. 90% are happy with their personal finances and have enough disposable income to cover everything, compared to the 77% international average.
Leisure options and socializing are things expats like placing Mexico second best in this category—80% positive compared to the 67% average internationally.
The two downsides we see that expats dislikes are environmental quality and safety and security. According to the survey, 20% of all expats are concerned about their personal safety, compared to the international average of 8%.
Taiwan is rated first in terms of quality of life, working overseas, and friendliness by expats. Taiwan, a tiny island around the size of Switzerland, is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Around 98% of the country’s population is Han Chinese. The remaining 2% is made up of indigenous Taiwanese and a large expat community.
According to the Ministry of Labor, there were 753,000 foreign employees in Taiwan in April 2021. Nearly 40,000 of those are overseas labourers. About 22% are from Japan, 10% from the US, and the remainder from Malaysia, the UK, and Korea.
Taiwan is an independent, democratic country that considers itself an independent state, while China sees it as a rogue province.
Many expats on the island enjoy a comfortable life because of their employers’ perks.
Many expats relocate to Taiwan to work for multinational corporations like Nike and Corning, an American tech giant specializing in advanced optics for LCD panels and other things.
Most corporations also pay significant relocation expenses like tax equalization (raising employees’ salaries to match their home country’s tax rate) and paying for their children’s education.
An average yearly wage is around $30,000. However, many foreigners make significantly more.
And many of them have their housing costs paid for by their employers. Free housing is a big deal in Taipei, where most foreigners reside. A three-bedroom apartment in Taipei’s expat areas was rented for $3,656 per month last year, according to ECA International.
Expats think one of the nicest things about living in Taiwan is affordable, high-quality healthcare. The accessibility, short waiting times, and low prices of Taiwan’s single-payer universal healthcare system. 96% of expats regarded Taiwan’s medical treatment favourably.
According to one expat, a doctor’s appointment in Taiwan normally costs around $18, including prescription drugs.
Expat Likes & Dislikes
Taiwan is rated by expats as the best country for quality of life, health and well-being, and working abroad.
80% reported being satisfied with their quality of life, compared to the 75% average internationally.
No one in the survey said they felt unsafe, compared to 8% on average internationally.
The working abroad rating is the best. At the same time, the economy and job security are rated 3rd overall, with 83% satisfied, compared to the 61% average internationally.
Health and well-being are also rated as the best at the number 1 spot. With 94% satisfactory, compared to the 61% average internationally.
Personal happiness and transportation are also in the top ten, as is the cost of living.
According to the 2021 InterNations survey, Taiwan is the best country for expats in terms of quality of life, employment opportunities, retirement, leisure, personal safety, medical care, cost of living, infrastructure, social elements, and finding happiness abroad.