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The Best and Worst Countries for Expats in 2017

For the first time since the Expat Insider survey was introduced, none of the previous year’s top 3 destinations led the ranking in 2017. Here are the world’s best and worst countries for expats in 2017.

bahrain night

The small Arab monarchy Bahrain is the surprise winner of this year’s Expat Insider survey, followed by Latin American countries Mexico and Costa Rica. The three countries have their extremely friendly and welcoming local residents in common: between eight and nine out of ten expats rate the friendliness of the population towards foreign residents positively. At the other end of the ranking, Greece, Kuwait, and Nigeria are least popular among those living abroad. Issues range from insufficient incomes to a poor quality of life to problems with personal safety, as the Expat Insider 2017 survey reveals. 

With nearly 13,000 respondents living and working abroad, it is one of the most extensive expat studies, conducted yearly by InterNations, the largest expat community worldwide. Apart from offering an in-depth analysis of life abroad, the survey ranks 65 countries by a variety of factors such as quality of life, working abroad, and settling in. According to the survey, this year’s top 10 destinations for expats are Bahrain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Taiwan, Portugal, New Zealand, Malta, Colombia, Singapore, and Spain.

The best countries for working abroad have undergone quite some changes since 2016: only six destinations even remain among the 2017 top 10, for example, New Zealand (2nd), Malta (5th), Germany (7th), and Norway (8th). The Czech Republic, which came in 9th in 2016, dethrones Luxembourg, which now ranks 4th this year. Three-quarters of respondents in the Czech Republic are satisfied with their job, and job security in particular seems to have improved since 2016 (65% vs. 74% satisfied). “My working conditions are excellent here. My employer offers me a lot of benefits,” an Australian expat living in the Czech Republic states. The Netherlands is another big winner, jumping from 20th to 6th position. The country has especially improved in terms of work-life balance, as 75 percent now rate this factor positively, compared to 63 percent in the previous year. On the other hand, Taiwan (12th), Panama (30th), Austria (19th), and Australia (32nd) have suffered great losses, no longer ranking among the top 10 destinations for working abroad. Survey respondents in Australia point out that the “ignorance regarding qualifications and experience” as well as the “closed job market” are big issues. In fact, only about half the expats in Australia (54%) are satisfied with their job in Down Under, compared to nearly seven in ten (68%) in 2016.

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Greece, Kuwait, Nigeria, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Ukraine, Qatar, India, and Turkey are the worst expat destinations in 2017. What all these countries have in common is that they also rank among the lower third of the list, or even among the bottom 10, in terms of working abroad. The main issue often seems to be a lack of career prospects, as about three in ten expats rate this factor negatively in seven of the named destinations — Greece (60%) and Italy (51%) stick out for their extreme poor level of satisfaction with this factor. Apart from work-related matters, the constant struggle with quality of life remains a major issue in Kuwait and Nigeria: almost one quarter of the expats in Kuwait (23%) are unhappy with their life in general, compared to only 10 percent of all expats worldwide. In Nigeria, safety and security cause additional problems, with nearly seven out of ten (68%) rating their personal safety negatively. “It is a tough country in every aspect,” according to a Dutch expat living in the West African destination.

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