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Expat City Ranking 2018 reveals the best and worst cities for expats

Author: Theodore Koumelis / Date: Tue, 11/20/2018 - 12:35
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Taipei, Singapore, and Manama are top destinations for expats, while Rome, Jeddah, and Riyadh rank at the bottom of the list.

Munich, Germany - Taipei comes in 1st out of 72 cities worldwide in the Expat City Ranking 2018. The city is in good company, with many other Asian metropolises also ranking in the top 10 cities for expats, such as Singapore (2nd), Ho Chi Minh City (4th), Bangkok (5th), and Kuala Lumpur (6th). Other cities which are also regarded highly by expats include Manama (3rd), Aachen (7th), Prague (8th), Madrid (9th), and Muscat (10th). On the other hand, many European cities can be found in the bottom 10 cities for expats. According to respondents, the worst ten cities in the world are Milan (63rd), Johannesburg, Stuttgart, Dublin, Paris, London, Stockholm, Rome, Jeddah, and Riyadh (72nd).

The so-far unpublished Expat City Ranking 2018 is based on this year’s Expat Insider survey, conducted by InterNations, the largest expat community worldwide. With more than 18,000 respondents living and working abroad, it is one of the most extensive expat studies in the world. Apart from offering an in-depth analysis of expat life in 72 cities, the survey ranks them by a variety of factors such as quality of urban living, getting settled, urban work life, as well as finance & housing.

The Top 10 Cities for Expats in the World

Taipei (1st) Is the World’s Friendliest and Safest City for Expats

Taipei, the winner of the Expat City Ranking 2018, ranks in the top 5 for all main categories of the survey, receiving its best ratings in terms of quality of urban living (1st). All expats in the city (100%) are happy with the local transportation system (vs. 70% globally) and safety in the city (vs. 80% globally). What is more, more than seven in ten expats (72%) rate the local cost of living as good, compared to 44 percent globally. Lastly, Taipei is named the friendliest city for expats in the world: 94 percent of expats rate the general friendliness of local residents positively (vs. 62% globally). 

A High Level of Safety, but Cost of Living Is an Issue in Singapore (2nd)

The majority of expats in the city-state Singapore (88%) is extremely satisfied with their personal safety, compared to 48 percent globally. An Indian expat living in Singapore notes: “It is easy for everyone to enjoy life here without worrying about safety.” What is more, expats seem to get settled into life in Singapore easily (10th). It might help that 83 percent find it easy to live in the city without speaking the local language (vs. 48% globally). However, the high cost of living (50th) poses an issue: more than half (52%) are dissatisfied with that factor, compared to 37 percent globally. 

Manama (3rd) Is the World’s Easiest City to Get Settled In as an Expat 

Ranking 3rd overall, Manama is the world’s best city to get settled as an expat. More than seven in ten expats (72%) find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 61% globally), and 87 percent say the local residents are generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 62% globally). “The locals are very friendly and helpful,” a British expat shares. However, expats express dissatisfaction with the quality of urban living (50th) in the city. For example, close to three in ten (28%) are unhappy with the local transportation (vs. 19% globally).

Expats in Ho Chi Minh City (4th) Enjoy the Best Cost of Living

The affordability of housing (1st worldwide) and the low cost of living (1st) are the main reasons for Ho Chi Minh City’s excellent ranking in the Expat City Ranking 2018. In fact, 77 percent find housing affordable (vs. 37% globally), and 82 percent rate the local cost of living positively (vs. 44% globally). However, expats are unhappy with the quality of the urban environment (71st) — only ranking better than Jakarta for this factor — and the availability (65th) and quality of healthcare (66th). A US American expat states: “The healthcare including foreign medical services are substandard”.

Expats Laud Are Happy with their Finances and Housing in Bangkok (5th)

Only beaten by Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok is the second-best city for finance & housing according to expats in 2018. Three-quarters (75%) are satisfied with their financial situation, which is 17 percentage points more than the global average (58%). Additionally, 83 percent of expats in the city say that it is easy to find housing (vs. 52% globally). But expats bemoan the low quality of the urban environment (63rd). “The air and water quality in Bangkok could be improved,” says an expat from the US. More than two in five (45%) are dissatisfied with this factor, compared to 18 percent globally.

Kuala Lumpur (6th) Is the World’s Easiest City to Find Housing as an Expat

Expats in Kuala Lumpur find it easy to get settled in the city (4th out of 72): two-thirds of expats (67%) say making new friends is easy, compared to 46 percent globally. It also seems like there is close to no language barrier, as 88 percent claim it is easy to live in Kuala Lumpur without speaking the local language (vs. 48% globally). What is more, it is easy to find (1st) and afford housing (6th) in Kuala Lumpur: in fact, close to nine in ten (86%) agree that it is easy for expats to find housing (vs. 52% globally).

Aachen (7th) Is the Best Expat City for Urban Work Life 

Coming in 7th out of 72 cities worldwide, Aachen is the best-rated German city in 2018. It is even the world’s best city in terms of urban work life, due to high job satisfaction and security (83%, respectively, satisfied), as well as a good work-life balance (74% satisfied). “Work and personal life are in a good balance,” says an expat from Venezuela. Moreover, Aachen boasts the most affordable housing among the German cities surveyed (5th worldwide). Two-thirds (67%) find housing affordable in Aachen, which is 59 percentage points more than in Munich (8%), the worst-rated German city for this factor.

Prague (8th) Is a Top Destination for Career Expats

Prague is the second-best European city for expats in the Expat City Ranking 2018, coming in 8th worldwide. The city ranks in the top 10 for urban work life (3rd), quality of urban living (5th), and local cost of living (7th). In fact, it even comes in first for local career opportunities, with 76 percent of expats satisfied with this factor (vs. 51% globally). This is also an eight-percentage-point increase since 2017 (68%). In terms of urban living, an expat from Macedonia names the “local transportation” among her favorite things about the city — and close to every expat in the city (97%) agrees that it is good (vs. 70% globally).

Top Transportation and Leisure Options Impress Expats in Madrid (9th)

Madrid (9th) ranks far ahead of its Spanish counterpart Barcelona (27th) in the Expat City Ranking. The city receives its best ratings in terms of quality of urban living (3rd): close to every expat (97%) is satisfied with the local transportation (vs. 70% globally), and 91 percent praise the leisure options (vs. 74% globally). “There is always something to do and events going on,” says an expat from the US. However, urban work life (52nd) seems to pose an issue, particularly in terms of job security (65th). One-third (33%) is unhappy with this factor, compared to 21 percent globally.

It Is Easy to Get Settled in Muscat (10th), but Expats Miss Career Opportunities 

Muscat shows varying results, ranking highly for some factors whilst landing in the bottom 10 for others: close to three in five expats (58%) laud the affordable housing (8th), compared to 37 percent globally. Expats also find it easy to get settled (7th), which might be because 83 percent find the local population friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 62% globally). But the city ranks low for transportation (62nd) and career opportunities (66th). In fact, 40 percent are unhappy with the transportation system (vs. 19% globally), and 39 percent are dissatisfied with their career prospects (vs. 27% globally).

The Bottom 10 Cities for Expats in the World

Expats in Riyadh (72nd) Have the Worst Work-Life Balance  

Riyadh ranks low for quality of urban living (72nd), getting settled (70th), and urban work life (70th). Expats do not feel at home (72nd), and almost half of them (46%) claim that locals are unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs. 21% globally). A US American expat states that “people are not welcoming” in Riyadh. Furthermore, 38 percent of expats are unhappy with their work-life balance (vs. 20% globally), which might be partly due to the long working hours (46.1 h per week vs. 44.0 h globally) and a lack of local leisure options to pursue in their free time (72nd). In fact, 60 percent of expats are unhappy with this factor, compared to just 13 percent globally.

Expats in Jeddah (71st) Face a Low Quality of Urban Living

Expats in Jeddah struggle with many aspects of life, including a low quality of urban living (70th), poor urban work life (69th), and issues with getting settled (68th). For example, more than half the expats (51%) are dissatisfied with the local leisure options (vs. 13% globally). “The culture and the lifestyle” are one of the worst things about life in Jeddah for an expat from Egypt. Furthermore, 47 percent find it hard to adapt to the local culture, compared to 22 percent globally. To make matters worse, the city ranks 71st out of 72 cities for satisfaction with working hours, only better than Santiago de Chile.

Rome (70th) Is the Worst European City for Expats 

Rome ranks worse than its Italian counterpart Milan (63rd), and only ahead of Jeddah and Riyad globally. Its poor performance is largely due to the poor urban work life (72nd): close to three in five (58%) are dissatisfied with the career opportunities (vs. 27% globally). An Albanian expat states that “career opportunities are non-existent”. Except for a great climate (88% satisfied), expats rate the quality of urban living low as well (65th). More than half (56%) are, for example, dissatisfied with the local transportation, compared to just seven percent in Milan.

Stockholm (69th) Is the World’s Hardest City to Find Friends

Stockholm comes in last for expats’ satisfaction with their social life and the ease of finding new friends. Close to three-quarters (73%) find it hard to make new friends (vs. 34% globally), and 48 percent are unhappy with the friendliness of locals (vs. 21% globally). “Socializing with the locals is quite difficult,” shares an expat from Macedonia. What is more, 56 percent are dissatisfied with the local weather, compared to 27 percent. However, the urban environment is ranked highly (2nd), with 96 percent of expats being pleased with its quality (vs. 70% globally).

The High Cost of Living Lands London (68th) among Worst Destinations for Expats

London ranks 68th out of 72 cities in the Expat City Ranking 2018, with a lack of affordable housing being a major issue (70th). Close to nine in ten expats (86%) state that housing is not affordable, compared to just 44 percent globally. Additionally, expats in London have to deal with an extremely high cost of living in general (77% dissatisfied vs. 37% globally). A French expat names “the cost of living and cost of accommodation” as the worst things about life in the city. Similar to Dublin, at least the career opportunities are great: 68 percent of expats are pleased (vs. 51% globally).

Paris (67th) Is Hard to Afford and Get Settled 

Paris is among the worst cities for expats in 2018, ranking in the bottom 10 for local cost of living (65th) as well as finance & housing (68th) and coming in 62nd in terms of getting settled. Close to half the expats (46%) claim that the local residents are unfriendly towards foreign residents, compared to 21 percent globally. A Swiss expat even states that the worst thing about life in the city is the “Parisian attitude”. Maybe that is the reason why 51 percent of expats find it difficult to make new friends, which is 17 percentage points higher than the global average (34%).

Dublin’s (66th) Top Career Opportunities Do Not Compensate for Unaffordable Housing

Dublin fails to impress expats in the Expat City Ranking 2018, coming in last worldwide for housing. Expats struggle to find (72% dissatisfied vs. 30% globally) and afford housing (90% dissatisfied vs. 44% globally) in the city. “The housing market and rents are crazy,” says an expat from Croatia, “it is very difficult and expensive to rent an apartment.” On the bright side, the Irish capital offers expats great career opportunities (3rd worldwide), only beaten by Prague (1st) and Houston (2nd). More than seven in ten respondents (71%) are satisfied with their career opportunities in Dublin (vs. 51% globally).

Expats Do Not Feel Welcome in Stuttgart (65th)

Stuttgart ranks last in the world for getting settled as an expat: 42 percent state that the local residents in the city are unfriendly towards foreign residents, compared to 16 percent in Aachen, the best-rated German city. A French expat living in Stuttgart even names “the lack of friendliness of the people” as one of the worst things about life in the city. Maybe that is why 36 percent of expats do not feel at home in Stuttgart (vs. 23% globally). Stuttgart does well in regard to urban work life (6th), though: more than seven in ten (71%) are satisfied with local career opportunities, compared to 51 percent globally.

Safety Fears Worry Expats in Johannesburg (64th)

Johannesburg (64th) ranks far behind Cape Town (20th) in the Expat City Ranking 2018. Expats are particularly unhappy with the urban work life (66th) and the quality of urban living (68th). In fact, the city is rated worst in the world for personal safety, with 63 percent worrying about this factor (vs. 9% globally). A US American expat living in the city notes that “it is dangerous”. The biggest difference between the two South African cities can be seen in terms of getting settled: while expats find this is easy in Cape Town (8th), they struggle more in Johannesburg (34th).

Bad Finances and a Poor Working Life Make Milan (63rd) Unpopular among Expats

Milan finds itself in the bottom 10 cities, mostly due to expats’ growing dissatisfaction with their finances and urban work life (both 67th). In fact, 38 percent are unhappy with their local career opportunities, compared to 29 percent in 2017. Moreover, only about four in ten (38%) state that their disposable household income is more than enough to cover their daily costs, which is 13 percentage points lower than the global average of 51 percent. “Life in the city is very expensive,” says an expat from Albania.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theodore Koumelis

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.