The Best & Worst Countries for Expats in 2021 (12K+ Survey Responses)

A map of the top expat countries of 2021

InterNations released its annual Expat Insider report in which they surveyed more than 12,000 expats about their lives abroad! Here are our favorite takeaways and learnings from the report.

Key details about the survey:

  1. It’s important to note that it’s an older demographic as 72% of the responses came from people over 36 and 36% of responses came from people over 51.
  2. The 37 question survey included expats of 174 nationalities living in 186 countries and territories.
  3. The overall country rankings factor in quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finance, and working abroad.

1. Taiwan Ranks Number One Overall For Expats

Taiwan ranked number one in 2019 and lands atop the rankings again in 2021. Having spent time living in Taiwan, this doesn’t surprise me as it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

I lived in Taipei, Taiwan for two months in late 2017 and there are a lot of things to love: incredibly kind people, amazing food, great nightlife, cheap but very modern city, phenomenal public transit, and nearby beaches.

It’s one of the most underrated destinations and after the coronavirus situation blows over, I highly recommend visiting (or moving there)!

I previously published a guide on getting a long-term visa in Taiwan if you’re interested in learning more.

2. The Top Expat Countries In Each Category

As you can see from the rankings, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Portugal rank at the top of countries with the highest personal happiness. While Taiwan, South Korea, and France take the top spots for places with the best health & well-being.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to me about these rankings is how happy people are in Brazil (#4 ranking) yet how dissatisfied they are with the overall quality of life (#46 ranking). I suppose this is likely because people are happy there but there are many safety, travel, and quality issues that make it rough around the edges.

It’s interesting that the USA (where I’m from) is ranked last in health & well-being and sixth to last in safety & security.

Country rankings for quality of life, leisure, happiness, travel, health, safety, digital life, and quality of environment

Country rankings for quality of life, leisure, happiness, travel, health, safety, digital life, and quality of environment - #2

Country rankings for quality of life, leisure, happiness, travel, health, safety, digital life, and quality of environment - #3

3. Which Countries Have The Most Expat Friendly Locals?

This is one of the more fascinating nomad/expat charts that I’ve seen. During my nomadic journey, friendly locals has become one of the most important factors in choosing new places. This chart would’ve been very helpful over the last few years!

Portugal, Colombia, and Indonesia are three of the most popular countries for digital nomads so it’s no surprise that they all rank highly for friendly locals and places where expats feel at home.

I’m surprised that so many European countries rank so poorly (the Netherlands, the Nordic Countries, Germany, and the UK) as from my own personal experiences, travelers from these places tend to be very friendly. Perhaps it has to do with the demographics of expats or that while travelers from these places are friendly, you’re treated as an outsider when living in these countries.

Which Countries Have The Most Expat Friendly Locals

4. Best and Worst Countries For Expat Families

Internations didn’t rank expat family metrics in the 2021 survey so I’m embedding the rankings from their 2019 survey. I found these rankings to be highly insightful and I believe they’re worth including.

I admittedly know very little about expat families but I’m surprised to see the U.S., UK and Hong Kong rated so poorly. It isn’t surprising that the Nordic countries rated so highly though as they’re known for their education and government support systems.

Best and Worst Countries For Expat Families

5. Best and Worst Countries For Expat Dating

This is a helpful list to all of the single expats and nomads out there! No surprise to see Brazil and Colombia on top.

Best and Worst Countries For Expat Dating

 

Final Thoughts:

This is a fascinating and extraordinarily thorough report. It also includes detailed breakdowns of responses for Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Czechia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA, GCC States, Nordic Countries, and the Asian Tigers.

If you’re thinking about where to move internationally or where to raise a family, I certainly recommend reading the full report!

Cam Woodsum
I've been building digital businesses, wandering the world, and writing about optimizing life for freedom since early 2017. My mission is to lower the barrier for people who want to live with more freedom: whether that be as an entrepreneur, a digital nomad, an early retiree, or just as someone who wants to live a happiness-driven life.