Retirement

Expats Rank The Best Places To Live In The World

According to reports, interest in moving abroad spiked after the recent presidential debate. So what are the best places to live in the world? Ask the expats—they offer a unique perspective on living in foreign countries, making their feedback invaluable.

This year marks the 11th edition of the Expat Insider report by InterNations, which is one of the most comprehensive studies on expat life, gathering responses from over 12,500 expats representing 175 nationalities in 174 countries or territories.

The report ranks the best countries to live by analyzing factors such as Quality of Life, Ease of Settling in, Working Abroad, Personal Finance and the Expat Essentials Index (which covers housing, administration, language and digital life).

This year, Panama has climbed to the top—an impressive leap from its third place ranking last year—knocking Mexico to the second spot. Compare these results to 2023 and 2022, when Mexico ranked number one.

The Best Place To Live In 2024

Expats have named Panama the best place to live in 2024. According to the Expat Insider report, a remarkable 82% of expats in Panama report being happy with their life there, well above the global average of 68%.

So what makes Panama so appealing? “Panama saw a big improvement in the Working Abroad Index, from 30th place in 2023 to 12th place in 2024,” Malte Zeeck, founder of InterNations, told me in an interview. “Another index where Panama gained significantly is Quality of Life, with improvements in the following subcategories: Travel & Transit (notably for affordability of public transportation), Leisure Options and Healthcare (notably for affordability, availability and quality of medical care).”

Financial satisfaction is a standout factor in Panama, with 74% of expats content with their financial situation, compared to the global average of 54%. The country ranks first for this aspect and fourth overall in the Personal Finance Index. Additionally, 88% of respondents feel their disposable income is sufficient for a comfortable life, and 62% praise the affordability of housing—well above the global average of 34%.

Panama also excels in the Expat Essentials Index, particularly in ease of finding a place to live and obtaining visas. With a significant portion of its expat community already retired, Panama also ranks well for work-life balance and general working hours, making it an attractive destination for both retirees and working expats.

Mexico: Another Expat Favorite

Mexico continues to be a top choice for expats, securing the second position in 2024. Nearly nine in ten expats (89%) express happiness with their life in Mexico, which is significantly higher than the global average.

“Mexico is a beautiful and very varied country, with nice, warm people. I like the history and culture, it’s a balance of traditions and modernism,” one French expat said in the Expat Insider report.

The friendliness of the Mexican people and the ease of settling in are key factors that make Mexico attractive. An impressive 86% of expats rate the general friendliness of the population positively, and 85% feel welcome.

So why did Mexico dip after two years on the top? “The biggest drop—although far from dramatic—can be seen in the Personal Finance Index, where Mexico went from a second place in 2023 to a seventh place in 2024,” says Zeeck.

Safety also remains a concern, with only 66% of expats feeling safe compared to the global average of 80%. This, combined with average ratings for healthcare and transportation, places Mexico at 25th for Quality of Life.

“To sum up: It’s not that expat life in Mexico is a lot worse now than it was last year; it’s just that Panama made some bigger jumps ahead in the ranking and also saw small improvements across more single factors than Mexico,” says Zeeck.

Rising Stars

A few countries making notable leaps include Indonesia, South Korea and Belgium. This year, Indonesia went from 13th to to third place. Expats appreciate the low cost of living, friendly locals and excellent work-life balance, with 84% expressing overall happiness.

Expats in Indonesia also benefit from shorter working hours and a positive work-life balance, contributing to the country’s high ranking in the Working Abroad Index. The affordability of housing and overall financial satisfaction are other strong points, with many expats finding their income sufficient for a comfortable life. “It definitely takes less money to live comfortably here,” says a U.S. expat.

South Korea managed an impressive recovery from its place in the bottom 10 in 2023, coming in 50th out of 53 countries. This year, South Korea shot up the list to rank 23rd in 2024.

The biggest gains are related to Personal Finance: South Korea went from a below- average 37th rank to place 15th in 2024. “Not only do expats feel that their disposable household income is enough for a comfortable life, they’re also less likely to complain about the cost of living,” says Zeeck.

Gains in the Quality of Life (17th to 10th) and Working Abroad (46th to 37th) Indices are not as striking, but also contribute to South Korea’s much improved ranking.

Jumping up 20 places in the ranking, Belgium (now 18th) is another big winner in 2024. “In contrast to South Korea, Belgium’s results in the Personal Finance Index hardly changed (25th to 23rd),” says Zeeck. “But it leapt onto the podium for the 2024 Working Abroad Index (21st to 3rd).”

Expats also have a more favorable view on their work-life balance (71% satisfied vs. 65% in 2023) and their personal career opportunities.

The Happiest Country: Not A Happy Outcome

It is shocking to see Finland—which is always named the happiest country on earth—drop so dramatically. “Finland was indeed the ‘biggest loser’ in this year’s Expat Insider ranking. However, it has to be said that the country’s 16th place in 2023 was more of an exception; in 2022 and 2021, Finland had ranked in place 32 and 39, respectively,” says Zeeck.

Finland’s rankings falter in the Ease of Settling In (50th), Working Abroad (46th) and Personal Finances (52nd) Indices. Learning the language is also tough, and the weather has its challenges: The worst-performing factor in the index is climate and weather, with only 31% of expats rating it favorably, versus 58% globally.

“It’s possible that the topics covered under Working Abroad and Personal Finance, which play such a big role in Finland’s drop, have a bigger influence on the happiness of the majority of expats than on the happiness of the local population,” says Zeeck. “Expats tend to compare their country of residence with their home country, or other countries they’ve lived in before, especially when it comes to career prospects and salaries.”

“All in all, we look at areas of life that are either not necessarily relevant to locals (such as the Ease of Settling In Index, or the Language Subcategory in the Expat Essentials Index), or may pose fewer problems to locals (such as housing),” says Zeeck. “So I believe that the contrast between Finland having the happiest people wordwide and Finland’s bad performance in our ranking is partly because we look at the expat perspective on life in Finland in isolation.”

The State Of Affairs In The United States

The United States has seen a considerable drop in its ranking, falling to 35th place in 2024 after being 30th in 2023 and 14th in 2022. “We haven’t observed a significant drop in any of the indices in particular, just a small decrease in average ratings for most factors,” says Zeeck.

Expats rank the U.S. 46th out of 53 countries when it comes to Quality of Life, citing expensive healthcare (53rd) and safety concerns (48th) as major issues. Only 19% rate the affordability of healthcare as good, compared to 58% globally. The U.S. also ranks low for political stability and the affordability and availability of public transportation.

In terms of settling in, the U.S. has fallen from 19th place in 2022 to 28th in 2024, with expats finding it difficult to make local friends and navigate social life. “Only 47% of expats are happy with their social life, and a mere 38% find making local friends easy,” says Zeeck.

Kuwait: Struggles Continue

Kuwait remains at the bottom of the list for the seventh year in a row. Expats in Kuwait report low satisfaction in areas such as Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In and Personal Finances.

“In summer, the heat can go above 50°C [122 degrees fahrenheit],” says an Austrian expat, highlighting the extreme weather conditions as a significant drawback.

Expats in Kuwait also face challenges with public transportation and building a supportive social network. Only a small percentage of expats find the local population friendly toward foreign residents.

Expat Ranking: Where The Countries Ranked In 2024

  1. Panama
  2. Mexico
  3. Indonesia
  4. Spain
  5. Colombia
  6. Thailand
  7. Brazil
  8. Vietnam
  9. Philippines
  10. UAE
  11. Costa Rica
  12. Oman
  13. Saudi Arabia
  14. Kenya
  15. Portugal
  16. Australia
  17. Qatar
  18. Belgium
  19. China
  20. Luxembourg
  21. Hong Kong
  22. Malaysia
  23. South Korea
  24. Austria
  25. Denmark
  26. Netherlands
  27. Greece
  28. Poland
  29. South Africa
  30. Singapore
  31. New Zealand
  32. India
  33. Bahrain
  34. Switzerland
  35. USA
  36. Cyprus
  37. Japan
  38. France
  39. Czechia
  40. Chile
  41. Egypt
  42. Sweden
  43. Hungary
  44. UK
  45. Ireland
  46. Malta
  47. Italy
  48. Norway
  49. Canada
  50. Germany
  51. Finland
  52. Türkiye
  53. Kuwait

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