There is something exciting and romantic about the idea of packing up your life and starting over in a new country. But many people don’t do it because of the unknown factor. Will you be able to find work, and a safe and comfortable place to live, will you be able to make friends, or will you feel lonely?

While the only way to know for sure is to go and find out, the annual Expat Insider Report, created by InterNations, also offers insights into what it is like for foreigners living abroad. The 2023 survey has just been released and ranks 53 countries on their liveability for foreign residents.


About the Expat Insider Report

InterNations, a global community of people who live and work abroad, surveyed 12,065 expats living in 172 different countries around the world to rate 56 different factors about where they live. These were a mix of relatively factual topics, such as the cost of housing and availability of healthcare, and subjective personal topics such as the ease of making friends.

These were brought together in 16 subcategories, and then five headline indices that were used to create the ranking. These are:

  • Quality of Life: including travel, environment, climate, leisure options, and healthcare.
  • Ease of Settling In: including friendly locals and finding friends.
  • Working Abroad: including work culture, career prospects, and work-life balance.
  • Personal Finance: including a variety of cost-of-living factors.
  • Expat Essentials: including digital facilities, life admin hurdles, housing, and language.

These factors were then used to rank countries, which were only included in the final list if they had at least 50 responses. This brought the final number to 53.

What do the expats who responded to the survey look like?

  • 50% Male, 49% Female, 0.6% Self-Describe
  • 57% in a relationship, 43% single
  • 20% with dependent children, 80% without dependent children
  • Average age 46.2
  • 82% with a university degree

Most respondents were from the United States, United Kingdom, India, Germany, Italy, France, Canada, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Turkey.

While the survey is by no means definitive or without its flaws, it certainly provides some food for thought when considering where to live abroad.


Top 10 Countries for Expats

Which countries made the top 10 on the list? Mostly warmer countries with a great climate and friendly people that make foreigners feel welcome.


1. Mexico

Mexico has consistently been in the top five of the best places for expats to live since the survey started in 2014. Mexico is known for its affordable cost of living, accompanied by great weather, stunning beaches, and amazing food. Another important factor is that it is considered friendly, and it is easy for expats to settle in and make friends, even if they are still learning the local language.

Read about living in Mexico City as a digital nomad.


2. Spain

Spain also ranked highly thanks to its excellent weather, friendly people, and affordable cost of living by European standards. It also stood out for its fascinating cultural attractions and the ease of finding a good place to live. Malaga, Alicante, and Valencia were the most popular cities.

Spain may also offer the best digital nomad visa in the world.


3. Panama

Panama also ranked highly because it was seen as friendly, making it easy to settle in and make friends. Foreigners say that they have no trouble making local friends and that there is also a large expat community in Panama. On top of this, expats enjoyed the rich natural landscape and excellent air quality.


More Top 10

Also in the top 10 are Malaysia, Thailand, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Portugal, which are known for a similar combination of great weather, very friendly culture, and affordable cost of living.

More surprising in the top 10 were Taiwan and Bahrain. Taiwan is known to have a difficult culture to break into, especially if you don’t speak the language. But according to people who live there, locals are welcoming even if you will always retain a status as “other”, it is extremely safe, has tropical weather, a low cost of living, and a thriving expat community.

While Bahrain is sandwiched between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it tends to be more welcoming to foreigners than its neighbors. When you arrive, you will find an extremely safe and modern country where English is widely spoken alongside Arabic. There is also a lot to see and do and the cost of living is affordable, including housing.


Bottom 10 Countries for Expats

The countries at the bottom of the list tend to be more expensive, making it harder to pursue a good quality of life. They also tend to be colder with less sunlight, which can be a very difficult adjustment for newcomers.


53. Kuwait

Kuwait offers a high standard of living, has lots of sunshine, and boasts many things to do. So why does it rank so poorly? According to the report, expats feel isolated, since it is hard to break into the culture dominated by Islamic Sharia law. Respondents said that they found it hard to make friends and that they did not feel free to openly express themselves.


52. Norway

While Norway might look fun in Scandi Noir novels (minus the murder), many expats found they could not adapt. Norwegians tend to keep to themselves until they get to know someone, so it can take a long time to make new friends. It also gets very dark and cold in the winter and the country enters a hibernation mode that it can take a long time for foreigners to adapt to. On top of that, it’s just super expensive.


More Bottom 10

Quite a few countries found themselves at the bottom of the list for similar reasons. New Zealand stood out for its high cost of living and its isolation. It is so far away that time zones can make staying in touch difficult and traveling anywhere else is very expensive.

Germany also didn’t score well because of the generally cold and bad winters and the fact that the people don’t seem immediately friendly. Similarly, South Korea and Japan are near the bottom of the list because it is very hard to break into the local community when you don’t speak the local language, and crowded cities mean tiny accommodation options.

The beautiful European countries of Italy and Malta are also in the bottom ten, largely due to bureaucratic issues that make day-to-day life challenging. For Turkey, the issue was the need to work long hours to make ends meet while having poor job security. South Africa rounds out the bottom ten mostly because expats reported that it was challenging to settle in and not that friendly.


Choosing Where to Live

Many people believe that life is what you make of it, and you can call anywhere home if you are willing to be open and adaptable and be grateful for what you have where you are. But arriving in a new country and settling down can come with a big dose of culture shock. Surveys like this can help you prepare for what to expect when you do decide to move abroad.