Prepare to be shocked – these are officially the worst countries for expats

I’ve been speaking to the people at Internations about the best places to live as an expat and I also thought to ask about the worst. I was expecting Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to top the list but in terms of numbers, these are actually the worst according to their survey.

Clearly expat life is subjective and personal. Or clearly some expats are delusional as many of these are awesome places to live. What do you think? Here’s the list in reverse order. Please note that I did not create the ranking myself; the poll was conducted by Internations and is a reflection of the views expressed to them by its members.

10. Turkey. The magical land of flying carpets, Turkish delight and fairytale souks ranks very poorly. I appreciate holiday life is not the same as expat life but my all time favourite family holiday hotel is located in Turkey and we will be returning year on year.

turkey photo
Touching down

9. India. India?! Seriously?! Yes, my beloved India is right down here at the bottom. Seems like not everyone appreciates fabulous fashions, amazing curry and a proper cup of tea. What is wrong with these people?  india photo

8. Qatar. I haven’t been but an Expater mummy friend raved about the work life balance, the job security and the childcare here. She also explained that not everyone was lucky enough to enjoy the same expat package so clearly it varies from case to case. Qatar can be awesome it seems, if your company is awesome too.qatar photo

7. Ukraine. We’ve all seen the fighting on the TV. Add to this a national diet laced with animal fat, a prevalence of thyroid cancer due to the chernobyl disaster, high living costs, a scarcity of family doctors and a population addicted to smoking, and I understand why this country is not top of the expat wish list. Then again my brother my returned from a trip to Lviv and it looked beautiful. So now I’m unsure. lviv photo

6. Italy. Luxury cars, designer handbags, beautiful clothes and superb coffee. But alas no jobs.

italy photo
That sinking feeling

5. Saudi Arabia. Women need a permit to exist. Western Expaters go there begrudgingly but often end up loving it though. I’m rather confused. Can anyone living there set the record straight?

saudi car woman photo
You can forget about doing this when you grow up. Photo by Denis Bocquet 

4. Brazil. My sister in law lives here and while she regularly post photos of their children smiling in the sunshine, Brazil for expats is no holiday. Bullet proof cars, locked doors at all times, security 24/7. On my list for a holiday but as for a long term expat assignment? Not for me, obrigada.

brazil beach photo
Life sucks. Let’s go to the beach

3. Nigeria. My husband still compares anything rubbish in the UK to the magical land that is Lagos. In his eyes, Nigeria can do no wrong. Ikoyi, Victoria and Banana Island trump Notting Hill, Primrose Hill or anywhere along the Kings Road. Like Qatar, it seems that Nigeria is a love hate place and very much depends on your personal expat package. nigeria photoPhoto by andryn2006

2. Kuwait. While some Expaters have praised their lifestyle in Kuwait, almost one quarter of the expats surveyed for Internations (23%) mentioned they are unhappy with their life there. While salaries tend to be generous, a decent quality of life cannot be bought it seems.

kuwait photoPhoto by Defence Images

1. Greece. After a family holiday on a Greek island this summer one thing is for certain, the people here are lovely. Alas another thing is also true, it badly needs a lick of paint. Greece really needs a makeover, or rather cash, and a lot of it. Unsurprisingly, three in ten expats bemoan the lack of career prospects here, making it the worst place for expats in 2017.greece photo

The UK is not everyone’s cup of tea either. Britannia was voted the 54th best place to live. A significant slide over the years, mostly due to fears over Brexit and expensive housing. The not so Great Kingdom now ranks below Chile, Argentina and Indonesia, and just before China, Turkey and India.

London photo
Out of order

Do you live in any of the countries above? Share your experiences in the comments below and check out the best places to live as an expat (and as an Expater)


  1. M C MCManus
    September 7, 2017 / 4:24 pm

    i live in Greece. I am Irish. It was a total shock to move here for work, after working all my life in Europe – London, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
    First of all there is a totally flat wage system in place – doctors earn the same amount as cleaners in private houses – no one seems to earn over 1000 euros a month – there is no where to go as far as work is concerned.
    It's exploitative – because there are few jobs – the people who have jobs are exploited – especially Greek workers by Greek companies – and believe it or not people are often not paid – but they can't leave the jobs because having a job means access to health care for children and families – it's shockingly exploitative.
    Those Greeks who have money – abuse those who don't.
    Those government workers who have jobs – abuse the system and strike with impunity.
    There is no social security system for the disadvantaged.
    There is no government spending on public services – the bus system is failing and depressing to use.

    It is like a third world country after working in the Czech Republic.

    • theexpater
      September 7, 2017 / 4:53 pm

      Gosh, how awful to hear. Sorry to hear it's so rough for you. Fingers crossed your next expat assignment will be somewhere which works better for you.

    • Yianna
      September 8, 2017 / 5:33 pm

      Ty living in South Africa…..Greece is absolute paradise in comparison. If one's priorities mean a luxury lifestyle, it probably isn't great. However, the older you get, the mor you realise that the important things (in abundance in Greece) cannot be bought.

      • theexpater
        September 8, 2017 / 5:43 pm

        Hi Yianna, thanks yes, the good things in life cannot be bought indeed. I can't speak for South Africa as I've only ever been there on relaxing holidays but it's interesting to hear your thoughts. The perfect lifestyle is personal and not for sale I guess. Wishing you all the best, Nina

  2. theexpater
    September 8, 2017 / 8:28 am

    Thank you Simona for sharing your experiences. It is heart warming to hear your story. Wishing you all the best.

  3. Maria
    September 8, 2017 / 10:56 am

    I agree with most of what you say about Greece. I dont live in Greece as an expat, but yeah, a lick of paint, a makeover, cash, and a lot of it – we need all that. As for lack of career prospects for expats, the same can be said for the locals. You dont come to Greece for a career – you come to Greece for a holiday, to retire, to escape the rat race, to see family, to spend summer months here, to live cheaply, because you are Greek, etc. You dont come here to work. If you do end up working, you have to be happy to be underpaid and the trade off is to live in a more humane country. But its also true that most of us who dont wish to leave Greece are happy here becuse we've seen enough of the western world to know that we dont really want to live in a rat race

    • theexpater
      September 8, 2017 / 11:28 am

      This makes perfect sense. From what I hear Greece is a fantastic place to be, if you can find a job. And yes, who wouldn't avoid the rat race for a lovely life in Greece!

  4. Rene Cyr
    September 8, 2017 / 11:36 am

    I'm a Canadian living in Greece for about 7 years now. It is certainly a challenge living here career wise. But the quality of life here is, in my opinion, very good. This country has so much to offer, in terms of weather, culture, history, scenery, food, friendly people and great philosophical perspectives. As far as work here, a person has to be creative and think outside the box, but if you are resouceful, it can be very rewarding. I know I will likely die without much materially, but I will be very wealthy in life experiences..I think of my wealthy friends who have 2-5 weeks vacation time a year and I'm in no big hurry to exchange places with them. I traded in my Canadian snow shovel for a Greek snorkel kit and have few regrets.

    • theexpater
      September 8, 2017 / 5:28 pm

      Hello Rene, yes you're right. Sometimes we forget the true meaning behind 'quality of life'. It sounds like you have made a wonderful life for yourself in Greece. Keep up the snorkelling 🙂

  5. Tracey Petsivas
    September 8, 2017 / 11:41 am

    I have lived in Greece for over 20 years (so it cant be that bad, can it?!!) and would hate to leave (due to Brexit or other reasons). I can understand that anybody moving here during the last 5 years might have a negative view due to the financial situation here, and yes, it is difficult sometimes. But, as others have pointed out, Greece has so many other positives (the Greek attitude to life in general, sunshine, the sea, beautiful scenery, a more relaxed frame of mind, just to name a few) that I and many other of my expat friends are happier here than we would be back in the UK.

    • theexpater
      September 8, 2017 / 5:26 pm

      Hi Tracey, that's lovely to hear. The people surveyed in the Internations report do comment positively on the way of life I understand but yes, it's a shame that this is not reflected in the rankings. You seem to have the right take on life there. Wishing you all the best in sunny Greece! Best, Nina

  6. Villy
    September 8, 2017 / 12:27 pm

    So someone asked 10 expats living on a Greek island – that is not even mentioned which one of the 300 hundreds- and came to the conclusion that Greece is the worst country for an expat because three of them said they could not find a job on that island???!!!! Seriously??!!!!

    • theexpater
      September 8, 2017 / 5:33 pm

      Hi Villy, yes, clearly it's very subjective. I think the same applies for Nigeria – so many people I know rave about the country as an expat destination but then it also scores very low. In case you want to read the full Internations report and understand the methodology, here is the link: Wishing you all the best, Nina

  7. Christine
    September 9, 2017 / 11:06 am

    Luv greece 36 years and love it, would not think of living anywhere else.Guess I was lucky as I worked for British tour operators for six months every year. Part of a huge extended Greek family all of who have jobs six months of the year and unemployment benefit for three but the glorious sunshine , being able to fish for food and collect olives xorta etc MORE than makes up for any lack of funds. Six months of not working as stressful as it may be for some ensures that you do get pleasure out of life. You just have to cut your coat according to your cLoth.

    • theexpater
      September 9, 2017 / 1:55 pm

      Yes, Christine that's right. Mind you, I imagine some people really struggle and it's hard to stay as positive as you do. It's great to hear such a positive story and you are certainly an inspiration. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Jane
    September 9, 2017 / 2:15 pm

    I too live in Greece..for more tha 20yrs…I adore it and although life is challenging now it still has so many positive points. My husband wanted to move back to the UK yrs ago but I refused to bring our kids up there..heaven forbid..!!! Ideally dont buy a house or you will get bogged down with paying huge taxes but it has great food..sunny climate..and I feel much safer here…Ah and I dont need to get drunk every weekend to have fun… creative and you can live in paradise on a smallish wage …happily drinking your 3rd coffee of the day!!

    • theexpater
      September 9, 2017 / 6:03 pm

      Thanks for this, Jane. It's interesting to hear that you feel Greece is safer as well as sunnier. I think we all forget how important safety is. Now with kids of my own safety is a top priority for me.
      Lots of people have also been talking about adapting to the life in Greece and making it work for you and I think this applies to expat life in general. Every country has its challenges and as you say, it's about carving a lifestyle that works for you personally.
      So good to hear such a positive story, thank you again.
      Best, Nina

  9. September 9, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    How strange it is that the comments on this post all talk about only one country! The most ambivalent of them all, obviously! Greece is a country of extremes: as much as one loves her, they hate her too!

    • theexpater
      September 9, 2017 / 8:28 pm

      Yes, expat life is very subjective and personal isn't it? One man's heaven is another's hell I guess. I've lived in places which I adored but which others really found challenging and vice versa.
      Thanks for commenting, Maria.
      All the best,

  10. Lagos is cool
    September 10, 2017 / 10:19 am

    I lived in Nigeria for almost over a year and couldn’t agree more with your husband. The place is small and really easy to move around, lots of expats and locals are very nice people. Weather is never depressing raining.

    • theexpater
      September 10, 2017 / 10:40 am

      Glad to hear you share my husband's love of Lagos! Speaking as someone currently based in the UK, the rain here can indeed be depressing. Like you say, having great people around is the key to a good life isn't it? Thanks for your comment.

Comment on this post

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Connect on Instagram
%d bloggers like this: