Ranked: where expats find it easiest to settle in

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13th February 2022
Puerto Vallarta beach in Mexico
Mexico appeals to expats and digital nomads

The countries where expats find it easiest to settle in have been ranked with Mexico taking the top spot. We take a closer look at the results of the survey

Mexico has topped the rankings of an expat survey of where expats find it easiest to settle in, with expats reporting that the country is friendly, welcoming and an easy place to make friends.

Other countries that performed well were Malaysia, Costa Rica, Colombia and Bahrain. At the other end of the spectrum, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Japan all performed poorly with Kuwait named the country where expats find it hardest to settle.

Expats feel at home in Mexico

92% of respondents said they find Mexicans are typically friendly towards foreign residents. Similarly, 89% said they are also happy with the general friendliness of the population – 20 percentage points higher than the global average of 69%.

73% of expats also said they find Spanish, the local language in Mexico, easy to learn compared to 39% globally.

With more than 4.1 million members in 420 cities around the world, InterNations is the largest global community and a useful source of information for people who live and work abroad.

Now in its eighth year, its annual expat survey draws on data from a survey of over 12,000 expat respondents from across the globe. Together, they represent a total of 174 nationalities and live in 186 countries or territories around the world.

Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia, where expats find it easy to settle in
Patrick Foto/Shutterstock Expats also find Malaysia welcoming

Respondents are asked to rate up to 37 factors related to various aspects of expat life on a scale of one to seven.

One of those factors is the Ease of Settling In. Members are asked questions on if they feel at home in their new destination; if they find it friendly; how easy it is to make friends; and if they find the local language a barrier to assimilating.

Their answers are used to create three subcategory indices, which are compiled to create an overall ranking of where expats find it easiest to settle in.

The minimum sample size per country is 75 respondents making it possible to rank 59 countries by where expats find it easiest to settle in.

Some interesting points from the research:

  • Mexico is where expats find it easiest to settle in.
  • Mexico and Costa Rica were rated the best places for making friends.
  • Expats find Taiwan the friendliest place to live.
  • Expats in Malaysia find it easiest to get by without learning the local language.
  • Kuwait, Japan and Denmark are ranked at the bottom of the index.
  • In Sweden, Denmark and Norway, expats say making friends is particularly difficult.
  • Mexico, Malaysia, and Portugal are where expats feel most at home.
  • Expats find the language barrier is particularly challenging in Hungary and Russia.
  • For expats in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland), making connections seems to be particularly challenging.
most and least peaceful places in Mexico
Rubi Rodriguez Martinez/Shutterstock Expats feel at home in Mexico

ranked: countries where expats find it easiest to settle in

The Ease of Settling In Index consists of four subcategories:

  • Feeling at Home
  • Finding Friends
  • Friendliness
  • Language

Respondents rated various factors in each subcategory on a scale from one (very bad) to seven (very good). These were then compiled to create the below ranking of the countries where expats find it easiest to settle in.

  1. Mexico
  2. Malaysia
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Colombia
  5. Bahrain
  6. Oman
  7. Philippines
  8. Indonesia
  9. Portugal
  10. Ecuador
a waterfall in Costa Rica
NICHOLAS COURTNEY/SHUTTERSTOCK Costa Rica also performed well
  1. Kenya
  2. Canada
  3. Taiwan
  4. Panama
  5. Spain
  6. New Zealand
  7. UAE
  8. Australia
  9. Greece
  10. Thailand
Chiang Mai in Thailand is one of the best cities for digital nomads
Guitar photographer/Shutterstock Thailand was ranked 20th
  1. Ireland
  2. Singapore
  3. Ukraine
  4. Brazil
  5. Vietnam
  6. USA
  7. Romania
  8. Cyprus
  9. Qatar
  10. Egypt
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Samet Guler/Shutterstock Turkey was ranked 32nd
  1. UK
  2. Turkey
  3. South Africa
  4. India
  5. Malta
  6. Saudi Arabia
  7. Luxembourg
  8. Hong Kong
  9. China
  10. Chile
The city of Valletta in Malta during sunset
krivinis/Shutterstock Malta is a popular expat destination
  1. Belgium
  2. Netherlands
  3. Estonia
  4. Italy
  5. France
  6. Poland
  7. Hungary
  8. Russia
  9. Czech Rep.
  10. Finland
The Northern Lights seen over Norway
Jamen Percy/Shutterstock Expats find Nordic countries harder to settle in
  1. Norway
  2. Switzerland
  3. Sweden
  4. South Korea
  5. Germany
  6. Austria
  7. Denmark
  8. Japan
  9. Kuwait

Other factors

While an additional ranking was not created for language, the other three are as follows.

RankFeeling at homeFriendlinessFinding friends
2PortugalMexicoCosta Rica
3MalaysiaCosta RicaColombia
5Costa RicaColombiaTaiwan
17PanamaNew ZealandPanama
18New ZealandCanadaEgypt
28VietnamPanamaNew Zealand
31MaltaCyprusHong Kong
32LuxembourgSaudi ArabiaRussia
34EgyptUKSouth Africa
35EstoniaSouth AfricaCyprus
37Hong KongBelgiumUSA
38PolandSingaporeSaudi Arabia
40South AfricaNetherlandsCzech Rep.
42Czech Rep.FranceUK
43ItalyHong KongChile
45Saudi ArabiaRussiaItaly
49ChinaFinlandSouth Korea
50FinlandSouth KoreaFinland
55DenmarkCzech Rep.Japan
56South KoreaSwedenKuwait

More rankings and articles can be found in our remote work area:

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► World’s worst countries to drive in
► Most peaceful countries in the world
► Best countries for women
► Poorest countries in the world – ranked
► Happiest countries in the world
► World’s most powerful passport
► Most stressed countries in the world
► Most expensive cities for expats
► World’s most democratic countries

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Lead image: Diego Grandi/Shutterstock