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Top 10 cities for expats in 2017

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

Bahrain Manama ShoppingA city in the Middle East ranked as the best city for expats in 2017, can you guess which one? If you guess, Dubai, you are wrong!

Manama, the capital of Bahrain, takes first place in this year’s Expat City Ranking, mirroring Bahrain’s overall lead in the Expat Insider 2017 survey. Following behind are Muscat (12th), Abu Dhabi (15th), and Dubai (17th), which are all found to have particularly friendly local residents. At the other end of the scale, Doha (45th), Riyadh (48th), and Jeddah (50th) are significantly less popular with their expat residents. They are found in the bottom 10 cities, with expat residents struggling to feel at home, as the so-far unpublished Expat City Ranking 2017 reveals. The ranking is based on data collected in the annual Expat Insider survey, conducted by InterNations, the largest expat community worldwide. With nearly 13,000 respondents living and working abroad, Expat Insider 2017 is one of the most extensive expat studies worldwide. Apart from offering an in-depth analysis of expat life in 51 cities, the survey ranks them by a variety of factors from the areas quality of urban living, getting settled, urban work life, as well as finance and housing. According to all these rating factors, the top 10 cities for expats are Manama, Prague, Madrid, Kuala Lumpur, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Basel, and Frankfurt am Main.

Jobs in Manama Are Secure and Expats’ Work Life Well-Balanced
The surveyed cities in the Gulf region perform poorly when it comes to urban work life, with Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Dubai, Riyadh, Doha, and Jeddah all appearing in the bottom half of the ranking for factor. Overall winner Manama, however, bucks the trend, coming in 12th out of 51 cities worldwide. In fact, more than six in ten expats in the Bahraini capital (63%) feel positively about their job security, followed by Abu Dhabi (55%), but far ahead of Jeddah (37%), Dubai, and Muscat (both 39%). While about half the expats in Dubai (53%), Riyadh (50%), and Manama (48%) rate local career prospects positively, less than four in ten in Jeddah (30%), Doha (37%), and Muscat (39%) agree. One Pakistani expat even mentions how there is “no growth opportunity” in Muscat. Work-life balance, on the other hand, does not seem to be an issue in the Omani capital: ranking 9th out of 51 cities, it comes in second for cities in the Gulf countries, only beaten by Manama (7th), while every other surveyed Gulf city ranks in the bottom 15. About two-thirds of expats are satisfied with their work-life balance in Muscat (65%) and Manama (64%), but at most 51 percent of expats say the same in Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Jeddah — compared to 60 percent globally.

Muscat Is Miles Ahead in Terms of Friendliness
The Gulf cities are a bit of a mixed bag in terms of getting expats settled in. The local residents in Abu Dhabi (75%), Dubai (73%), Manama (84%), and Muscat (85%) are perceived as particularly friendly towards foreign residents, with one Filipino expat living in Manama mentioning how “locals and expats co-exist and get on well together”. Conversely, the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah (47%) and Riyadh (40%), as well as Doha (56%), seem to be less welcoming, ranking well below the global average (67%). This might be one of the reasons why more than one-third of expats do not feel at home in these cities, compared to only about one in ten in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Manama, and Muscat. Furthermore, a majority of expats in the surveyed Gulf cities agree that the local language is hard to learn. However, with the exception of Riyadh (35%) and Jeddah (53%), about eight in ten expats in the Gulf cities agree that it is easy to get by without knowing Arabic, while an even more impressive 92 percent state the same for Manama.

expat city rankings2017 gulf countries

Top 5 Cities Make It Easy for Expats to Get Settled and Enjoy a Great Work Life
Manama, Prague, Madrid, Kuala Lumpur, and Amsterdam top the list of the best cities for expats: while Prague lags behind on 35th place for getting settled, the other four cities receive good to excellent ratings in this respect. A South African expat living in Kuala Lumpur likes “the easy-going temperament and friendliness of the local people” while an expat from the Philippines appreciates the “very friendly and helpful locals” in Manama. The majority of expats rates the general friendliness towards foreign residents positively in Manama (84%), Amsterdam (83%), Kuala Lumpur (78%), and Madrid (74%), compared to a global average of 67 percent. Prague, however, performs below average here: only about half the expats living there (49%) are satisfied with this factor. Nonetheless, the capital of the Czech Republic is one of the top destinations for expats in 2017, particularly due to its outstanding ratings in terms of work: nearly seven in ten expats (68%) are satisfied with local career opportunities in Prague — 19 percentage points more than the global average.

InterNations Communities in the GCC States
Out of 2.8 million members in 390 cities around the world, there are more than 200,000 InterNations members in the GCC States: about 80,000 of them live in Dubai, making the city in the UAE the largest community in the region, followed by Abu Dhabi and Doha with about 25,000 members each. Other communities in the GCC States include Riyadh with about 22,000 members, Muscat with about 15,000 members, Jeddah with about 12,000 members, Kuwait City with about 10,000 members, and Manama with about 9,000 members.

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