Expats Rank The Best Places To Live In 2023


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Looking for the best places to live around the world? There’s no better source than expats, who have a unique POV on what it’s like to live in a foreign country—and in the U.S.

For the 10th year in a row, InterNations has polled nearly 12,000 expats around the globe to come up with a definitive ranking of the best places to live.

The Expat Insider 2023 culls the opinions of expats representing 177 nationalities and living in 181 countries or territories. The report ranks 53 countries by analyzing factors such as quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finance and more.

The Winner: The Best Place To Live

The best destination to live as an expat in 2023? Mexico is the winner for the second year in a row, with 91% of expats saying they are happy with their life South of the Border.

This country has long been an expat favorite. “Mexico has actually received excellent results since our very first Expat Insider survey ten years ago. It has always made it into the top five worldwide,” InterNations founder Malte Zeeck told me in an interview.

According to Zeeck, Mexico’s continued popularity among expats is largely due to its outstanding performance regarding both personal finance and the ease of settling in. “For instance, it’s where expats worldwide find it easiest to get used to the local culture, where they feel most welcome, and where they describe the local residents as the friendliest population worldwide,” says Zeeck. “Together with the relatively low cost of living and the attractive climate, this turns Mexico into an expat magnet.”

But there are some drawbacks. “Personal safety remains one of Mexico’s biggest issues, for locals and expats alike,” says Zeeck. In 2022, Mexico ranked 49th out of 52 destinations for safety; this year, it comes in 49th out of 53 countries. Among the 2023 respondents, 18% report not feeling safe in Mexico (vs. 8% globally).

More Winning Places to Live

Second on the list this year is another expat favorite: Spain, which moved up a few notches from the number five spot in 2022. “Since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, Spain has always ranked in the top 10 of the Quality of Life Index. For example, the country has consistently featured among the best worldwide for its Leisure Options, placing first again in 2023,” says Zeeck.

Expats are also happy with the culture and nightlife in Spain (88% compared to 68% globally). Plus, 91% of expats are happy with their opportunities for recreational sports (vs. 75% globally). Spain ranks third for climate and weather, which makes it easy to get out and enjoy these activities.

Third on the list: Panama. “Panama’s performance in third place came as a bit of a surprise to us,” says Zeeck. “It hadn’t featured in the survey at all in 2022, due to a lack of local respondents that year, and now it has made quite a spectacular reentry with its best Expat Insider result ever.”

Some of Panama’s strengths are similar to Mexico’s. The country comes in fourth for the Ease of Settling In and eighth for Personal Finance. It also does well in the Expat Essentials Index: It has high scores in the Housing Subcategory (coming in fifth).

Living in the United States

The U.S. dropped considerably this year (from number 14 last year to number 30 this year). What contributed to that?

“In areas where the US has never done well before, it gets even worse,” says Zeeck. “For example, it has moved from 47th to 51st place for the affordability of public transportation. And with regard to topics where it usually gets average to good results, its performance is still okay, but slightly worse. For example, it came 18th for general friendliness last year and now ends up in a mediocre 26th place. All of this adds up to impact the overall ranking.”

But there are a few areas where the change is especially noticeable, and most of them are related to finances or work. “Expats report markedly lower satisfaction with the general cost of living and the affordability of housing, as well as factors such as the local job market, the state of the economy and their own job security,” says Zeeck.

The Nordic Paradox

Interestingly Norway is consistently named as the happiest place on earth, but in this list, it ranks really low—coming in at number 52 out of 53 countries. What is the disconnect?

“We’re well aware of what we like to call the ‘Nordic paradox.’ Norway, but also the other Nordic countries featured in the Expat Insider survey, do very well in other rankings such as the World Happiness Index—but that is usually not reflected in our results,” says Zeeck.

Why is that? “For starters, the World Happiness Index is based on a variety of hard facts, i.e., statistical data from official sources,” says Zeeck, who points out that the data in the World Happiness Index covers four dimensions: peacefulness & security (e.g., homicide rates), freedom, democracy & human rights (e.g., democratic participation), quality of life (e.g., air quality), education, communication, information & culture (e.g., internet access).

“It’s based on the implicit assumption that a good performance in these areas will automatically make the country’s local population happier,” says Zeeck.

The Expat Insider survey, on the other hand, doesn’t measure data from external sources. “We simply ask people about their personal satisfaction with selected aspects of everyday life abroad,” says Zeeck. Some of these factors are quite similar to some covered in the World Happiness Index, such as air quality, the ease of getting high-speed internet access and personal safety. “So, expats’ subjective opinions often agree with objective third-party statistics,” says Zeeck.

But according to Zeeck, the one reason for expats’ unhappiness in Norway and other Nordic countries might be something that’s not measured in the World Happiness Index—the ease of settling in. “Trying to make friends as adults and building a personal support network as an ‘outsider’ in a society that’s often described as introverted, aloof, or closed off can be extremely difficult,” says Zeeck. “And if you’re feeling socially isolated and lonely, you probably won’t appreciate a country’s local air quality or the high GDP per capita.”

The Lowest Ranked Country

Coming in at the bottom of the list again: Kuwait. “Kuwait is a bit like the polar opposite of Mexico,” says Zeeck. “This means that it has not only placed last in both 2022 and 2023, but it has consistently ranked among the worst-rated countries for the past decade.”

According to Zeeck, Kuwait performs poorly in most areas. “The overall Expat Insider survey ranking is based on up to 56 different rating factors, and in 2023, Kuwait ends up in the bottom five for more than 30 of them,” he says. “So, it’s no wonder that only 43% of expats are happy with their life in Kuwait, compared to a global average of 72%, with the low level of general satisfaction also impacting Kuwait’s final ranking overall.”

Making Friends Abroad

The Expat Insider 2023 also looked at where it’s easiest and hardest to make friends abroad. It’s an important subject, with so many digital nomads and retirees moving to other countries. With this new reality, expats need to know where they can make friends quickly, since they won’t have a network of social contacts provided by their workplace.

Zeek says he believes that the ease of making friends abroad is connected with a population’s general friendliness and their openness toward foreign residents. “Thus, the top five countries in the Finding Friends subcategory—Panama, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil and the Philippines—also get top 10 rankings in our Expat Insider survey for general friendliness of their residents and the friendliness towards foreign residents,” says Zeeck.

The bottom five countries for making friends—Denmark, Austria, Kuwait, Norway, and Germany—show a similar trend. “When it comes to the population’s general friendliness, they all rank among the bottom 10, which might explain the difficulty for expats to make friends there,” says Zeeck.

So do people tend to be friendlier in southern countries with warmer climates? “We can’t really say. We can only speculate that a mild climate probably allows people to go out more and therefore also to socialize more,” says Zeeck.

Another reason: “Less individualistic societies like the ones mentioned in our top five ranking for making friends tend to still have more tightly knit communities where people spend more time with each other and help out each other more,” says Zeeck. “They might therefore also naturally be more open-minded towards new arrivals, such as foreign residents, and embrace them. But again, this is mere speculation and is not based on our actual survey data.”

So how does the United States do when it comes to making friends? “The USA ranks pretty much midfield in our survey,” says Zeeck. “They come 24th for Local Friendliness and 28th for Finding Friends.”

Read on for the expat ranking of 53 countries around the world.

Ranked: The 15 Best Places to Live

  1. Mexico
  2. Spain
  3. Panama
  4. Malaysia
  5. Taiwan
  6. Thailand
  7. Costa Rica
  8. Philippines
  9. Bahrain
  10. Portugal
  11. UAE
  12. Oman
  13. Indonesia
  14. Vietnam
  15. Brazil
  16. Finland
  17. Colombia
  18. Kenya
  19. Luxembourg
  20. Australia
  21. Czech Republic
  22. Netherlands
  23. Switzerland
  24. Sweden
  25. Greece
  26. China
  27. Canada
  28. Saudi Arabia
  29. Estonia
  30. United States
  31. Qatar
  32. Cyprus
  33. France
  34. Hungary
  35. Poland
  36. India
  37. Singapore
  38. Belgium
  39. Ireland
  40. Hong Kong
  41. Denmark
  42. Austria
  43. United Kingdom
  44. Japan
  45. New Zealand
  46. Malta
  47. Italy
  48. South Africa
  49. Germany
  50. South Korea
  51. Turkey
  52. Norway
  53. Kuwait


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Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lamber is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes about arts, entertainment, lifestyle, and home news. Nicole has been a journalist for years and loves to write about what's going on in the world.

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