I’ve just got off the phone from a chat with a man called Malte Zeeck. If anyone gets expat life, it’s Malte. Ten years ago as a German TV reporter struggling to get by in very foreign climates (India, Brazil and China, to name a few), he decided to get together with a couple of his university mates and start a club for expats. Today his little club has morphed into 2.7 million members.
The club goes by the name Internations and I’m sure you veteran expats know it well. If you don’t, and if you want a job, a friend, a boyfriend or some local admin help, then do check it out.
Malte asked his 2.7 million friends for their thoughts on expat life. He asked them about their quality of life, how easily they settled into their new expat home, about their work and family life, personal finances, and their general cost of living. Here are the results – the best countries to live in as an expat, in reverse order:
10. Spain. Apparently people from southern Europe focus on finding a decent job, Americans yearn to be closer to home and Brits are fixated on getting a tan. The number of Brits fleeing the grey skies of the UK explains why Spain ranks so highly. Pass the sunscreen, por favor.
9. Singapore. I’ve written before about the top places I’d like to move and Singapore also gets a mention here. Perhaps it’s a sign I should start packing?
8. Colombia. No longer the preserve of drugs barons, Colombia is high on many expat wish lists. A seemingly endless run of luxury hotels have put down roots in cities like Cartagena and Bogota, and expats are now following on hot on their heels.
7. Malta. Sunshine and its handy location within Europe make Malta a hotspot for Brits fleeing an uncertain post Brexit future. After speaking to Expater friends, I hear it’s also one of the few countries where it’s easy to marry a foreigner, making it a favourite destination for couples of different nationalities looking to tie the knot.
6. New Zealand. Lord of the Rings did a lot to promote this island and it’s interesting that it leaps ahead of its larger neighbour, Australia (which ranked at a poor 32nd place). OK, it’s a zillion miles away from anyone, but isn’t that its charm? Time to escape that horrible boss for good…
5. Portugal. Open any current issue of a fashion magazine and I reckon you’ll spot Portugal in some shape or form. Everywhere I look I see Lisbon’s hipster bars, Porto’s restaurants or Algarve’s beaches. Ladies if you haven’t been recently, you need to ask yourself why.
4. Taiwan. The asian star slipped to number twelve from its top ten ranking in terms of job opportunities, but it still does well overall in terms of general expat happiness. Expater buddies tell me it’s a safe, efficient and friendly country. It’s also well placed for holidaying on Asian beaches in the region, so I wouldn’t say no myself.
3. Mexico. Statistically Mexico is a rubbish place to live in terms of personal safety, but the local people are so friendly and it’s so easy to settle in that expats here are a rather happy bunch. Sharing a flat with two Mexicans in London a few years ago I can concur. Mexicans are awesome.Photo by D-Stanley
2. Costa Rica. Along with Mexico, this latino country is ranked one of the friendliest, pushing it near the top of the list. Contrary to all the FARC stuff in the papers, they’re a peaceful lot and haven’t had an army since 1949. Perhaps this happy go lucky lifestyle explains why the average life expectancy is 79 (the highest in the region). Oh, and let’s not forget the coffee is rather good. No wonder they greet each other with ‘pura vida’, a phrase which translates as ‘pure life’.
1. Bahrain. It was quite a surprise for me to hear that Bahrain tops the list. Malte tells me that in addition to scoring the highest among its expats in terms of all round happiness, it’s also a hub for other expats living in nearby countries, with ladies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait checking in regularly to enjoy its more relaxed lifestyle. I haven’t visited the gulf state yet, but stay at home mummy friends, as well as high flying business buddies concur that Bahrain is a great place to be, especially for women and families. Time to pay it a visit I reckon… Photo by Harold Laudeus
What are your thoughts? Take a look at the worst places to live as an expat too.