Best and worst expat cities in the world

best and worst expat cities

If you’re thinking of relocating in the next year or two, you might want to take a look at where the best life is to be lived. The expats have spoken and the numbers are in. The annual Expat Insider survey had more than 12,000 respondents last year, and they’ve dished on everything from cost of living to general happiness.

Breaking down the survey

A couple of broad factors go into the overall ranking that determined the best and worst cities for expats. The first major factor is quality of life, which includes leisure options, safety and security, and personal happiness. The second is ease of settling in, which rates the language, the ability to make friends, and general friendliness of a place. The third factor is everything related to work, work-life balance, and job security. Next is family life and how available and costly childcare and education are in a specific place. The last major factor is personal finance.

The survey also revealed all sorts of fun information about the kind of people that are expats. For instance, 65% of expats are in a relationship, 26% of them have kids abroad. And if you think being an expat is a young people thing, you’d be surprised to find out that the average expat age is 43. Over 82% of respondents were older than 31. And 29% of people who live in another country say their planned length of stay is possibly forever.

The best expat cities in the world

3. Madrid, Spain

best and worst expat cities

Cracking the top 3 for 2017 was Madrid. Like most cities in Spain, the economy is not great and there is a high unemployment rate. But that doesn’t seem to bother the expats in the city much, even the 14% that say they are actively looking for a job. So what’s good about Madrid? Almost everything else.

It ranks high in leisure options and awesome weather. And it is number one in the world for availability of healthcare, coming in the top 3 overall of affordability and quality of medical care. The locals in Madrid are friendly overall and toward foreigners in particular. And the majority of expats consider it easy and affordable to find housing there.

2. Prague, Czech Republic

I can personally vouch for Prague. I came here for a week two years ago and decided I never wanted to leave. So what do expats love about Prague? For one, people love the quality of life. There were no negative responses about transportation and an 86% positive responses about local leisure options. Our nightlife and street fests are pretty fantastic, indeed. But more than anything else, people love their financial situation here and the local career opportunities.

What don’t people love? Locals are super unfriendly, though this happens to be my favorite thing about Prague. And 4 in 5 respondents consider learning Czech difficult, which is why I still only know like 4 words.

1. Manama, Bahrain


Who knew? Apparently this tiny Middle Eastern nation is an incredible place to live. It’s second in the world for getting settled (#1 is Kuala Lampur). Expats rave about how easy it is to live in Manama, even without Arabic skills. Apparently, it’s also incredibly easy to find affordable accommodations and it’s full of friendly people. Financially, the city is booming and the majority of people moving there moved because of financial reasons. The city ranks weakest on transportation and the general urban environment. Well, if you moved to Bahrain for the entertainment options, that’s your bad.

The worst cities for expats

49. Paris, France

paris in the rain

If you were thinking of renting a studio in the French capital and having wine and cheese every day, think again. Perhaps surprisingly, Paris is not so great for expats. It’s hard to find affordable housing, making over a third of expats living there unhappy with their financial situation. Expats also find it difficult to live in the city without speaking French and of course, 43% of respondents consider locals unfriendly to foreigners.

50. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Jeddah has a combination of negative factors making it the second worst city for expats. It has a low quality of life and comes dead last when it comes to work. Only 30% of respondents believe career opportunities are favorable there. All that and apparently the expats don’t even feel welcome.

51. Lagos, Nigeria

But worst of all is Lagos. An overwhelming amount of expats give the local economy poor ratings. Local political stability is viewed negatively and 52% of people report feeling unsatisfied with their personal safety. Most people also feel like the quality, availability, and cost of healthcare leave a lot to be desired. On the plus side, it’s not terribly difficult to get settled and find housing. But given everything else, who wants a place there?

And how does the US look to expats?

new york city skyline

The US overall dropped 17 spots since 2016. Of 65 countries surveyed, it came in at 43. In quality of life, the US ranks 47th. Yeesh. These results aren’t surprising considering that German, French, and British expats make up nearly a third of all expats in the US and quality of life is significantly higher in their countries. It ranks slightly above average in ease of settling in and working abroad. Thanks to all the chaos going on in DC, it also ranks 20% lower than the global average on political stability.

Maybe it’s time to plant your flag elsewhere, Americans. Maybe Manama?