Spain: the 2nd best Expat destination in 2023
Spain came out 2nd in a survey breaking down where Expats are the happiest. Not only are Expats in Spain the 2nd happiest group of Expats in the world, 2 of the Top 5 Expat cities in the world are in Spain (including the #1 spot!)
The survey was done by InterNations, the largest Expat Network in the world. Every year they do a survey of its members, questioning them on different aspects of expat life. This year the survey included 12,000 Expats living in 172 countries.
Based on the survey, what are the best places for expats? What are the worst?
There a few surprises in the study.
The BEST Places for Expats in 2023
It is the 2nd year in a row that Mexico that comes out at the top of the list (Mexico has been in the Top 5 since 2014).
Overall, 91% of Expats say they are happy with their lives in Mexico (compared to 72% globally)
Breaking it down into categories:
- Ease of Settling In Index: 1st (out of 53 countries)
- Local Friendliness: 1st. 89% of Expats find that locals are friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 65% globally)
- Finding Friends: 2nd. 74% of expats say it is easy to make friends (vs 43% globally). Foreigners feel they have a good support network and are happy with their social lives.
- Ease of getting used to the culture: 1st
- Housing: 6th. Expats find accommodation both easy to find and affordable.
- Personal Finance Index: 2nd. The index includes different aspects of life including housing (above). Overall, 71% of expats are happy with the general cost of living (vs 44% globally). Overall, 80% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally).
- People are happy with their personal career opportunities (4th), fair pay (5th), and their work-life balance (7th).
- The Quality of Life Index (26th) is a mixed bag. While Expats judge their overall quality of life high (16th) as well as Leisure options (2nd), they gave Mexico a low score for political stability (45th of 53 countries) and safety (18% don’t feel safe, more than double the global average of 8%).
Summarizing the numbers: people love the culture, the social life and the affordability of Mexico. Political stability and personal safety are negatives.
Spain, the country we live in! #2 on the list. But it also includes 2 of the top 5 Expat cities in the world.
#1 Expat city in the world: Valencia. People love the access to recreational sports, the inexpensive and reliable public transport system, and they feel safe in Valencia. They place the city 1st for cost of living, 3rd for “ease of settling in” and they’re happy with their social lives. If there’s a negative it’s reflected in the Working Abroad index (which, if you read further below, you’ll see as being Spain’s weak point).
#5 Expat city in the world: Madrid. Unfortunately there’s no breakdown given, but if I’d have to guess people will give good marks for public transport and for Social and Leisure options. Madrid is more expensive than Valencia which weighs it down in the Personal Finance Index.
For those curious about the Top 10 expats cities in the world: #1 Valencia, #2 Dubai, #3 Mexico City, #4 Lisbon, #5 Madrid, #6 Bangkok, #7 Basel, #8 Melbourne, #9 Abu Dhabi, #10 Singapore.
How about Spain in general?
Overall, 87% of Expats say they are happy with their lives in Spain (compared to 72% globally)
Breaking it down:
- Leisure Options: #1 (out of 53 countries). 88% of Expats are happy with the culture and nightlife in Spain (compared to 68% globally) and 91% are happy with the available opportunities for recreational sports (vs 75% globally)
- Ease of Settling In Index: 12th.
- Culture & Welcome Subcategory. Four in five expats (80%) feel at home in Spain (vs 62% globally)
- Working Abroad Index: 34th. This is where Spain does worse than the global average. Less than half the expats (49%) agree that moving there has improved their career prospects (vs. 59% globally). 36% are unhappy with the local job market (vs. 26% globally).
- Personal Finance Index: 13th. 69% of expats are happy with the cost of living (vs 44% globally). In “affordability of housing”, Spain came in 13th (out of 53 countries).
Summarizing the numbers: Spain has good leisure activities and is in the 25th percentile among countries when it comes to personal finances. Negative: Spain is challenging if you come here to work.
I’m a bit surprised abut this one, I don’t hear of too many people Expat-ing to Panama.
Overall, 81% of Expats say they are happy with their lives in Panama (compared to 72% globally)
- Ease of Settling In Index: 4th (out of 53 countries)
- Finding Friends: 1st.
- Culture and feeling welcome: 2nd
- Quality of life is mixed at 28th, but expats like the climate and weather (11th) and air quality (10th).
- Working Abroad Index: 30th. The local job market (47th) and lack of job security (45th) are very low and among the worst of the 53 countries rated in the survey.
- Personal Finance Index: 8th. 80% of expats are happy with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally), a major component of that being affordability of housing (65% vs 38% globally).
Summarizing the numbers: Like Mexico, people like the culture, social life and the affordability of Panama. Unlike Mexico (but like Spain), Expats coming here have a harder time finding work.
Rounding out the Top 10 “Best” places for Expats
7. Costa Rica
A few surprises above: Seeing Portugal down at 10th, Thailand being superseded by Malaysia, and the Philippines making it in the Top 10.
The WORST Places for Expats in 2023
Overall, only 43% of respondents say they’re happy in Kuwait (vs 72% globally). That’s the worst number by far.
Kuwait doesn’t do well in any category:
- Personal Finance Index: 38th. It’s the brightest spot among the categories. The general cost of living is high but there is availability of housing (only 15% of expats struggled to find housing compared to 31% globally).
- Quality of Life index: 53rd (dead last). People feel they don’t have leisure options, have poor available healthcare, and can’t express themselves and their opinions.
- Kuwait isn’t great for friendliness or making friends. Local friendliness: 52nd, making friends 51st, Culture and welcome 53rd. 36% have a hard time fitting into local culture (vs 18% globally). 37% are happy with their social life (vs 56% globally).
- Working Abroad Index: 48th. 30% feel they are not paid fairly (vs 19th globally) and 45% say that the work culture does not support flexibility (vs 18% globally)
Summarizing the numbers: Not a friendly place for either living or working with no bright spots except in availability of housing.
Note: I wonder though if it’s fair to compare Kuwait to Mexico, Spain or Panama. It’s a different kind of expat that goes to Kuwait – they don’t go there to retire, I’ll bet 99.9% go there for work (probably in the oil industry).
61% of Expats say they’re happy in Norway (vs 72% globally)
Breaking it down:
- Personal Finance Index: 52nd. Norway is expensive. 37% of expats say their disposable income is not enough to have a comfortable life (vs 27% globally)
- Settling In Index: 48th. People are unfriendly towards foreign residents, expats have a hard time making friends…overall 37% do not feel at home in Norway (vs 20% globally)
- Quality of life index: 31st. Expats unhappy with unaffordability of public transport and opportunity to travel. It ranks last (53rd) for culinary variety and dining options and 51st for culture and nightlife. But they value the political stability, the high air quality and the natural environment.
- Working Abroad Index: 18th. Expats appreciate the high job security, the state of the economy but are negative on their personal career opportunities.
Summarizing the numbers: Expensive and unfriendly.
60% of Expats say they’re happy in Turkey (vs 72% globally)
Breaking it down:
- Working Abroad Index: 53rd (last). High working hours, lack of job security, lack of job opportunities. 24% are not happy with their work (vs 16% globally)
- Expat Essentials Index: 45th. Online internet restrictions, lack of high-speed internet…
- Quality of life index: 39th.
- Safety and security: 52nd
- Personal Finance Index: 34th. 44% of expats are satisfied with the general cost of living, the same as the global average, while less than half (48%) are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally)
Summarizing the numbers: A lot of political and economic upheaval in the last few years behind these numbers.
Rounding out the Top 10 “Worst” places for Expats
50. South Korea
48. South Africa
45. New Zealand
A few surprises above: Germany and Italy. Why so low in the rankings?
The Countries in Between
It’s just as interesting as seeing the countries that fall in between on this list of 53 countries
Full ranking below
A survey is not the perfect way of determining the Best and Worst places for Expats. There is no perfect calculator for that. But I think it’s quite telling how people feel about some of the countries they live in.
Thoughts on the above?
Related: Where to live on the Costa Del Sol
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