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The Happiest Expats Live Here

While it may seem appealing to ditch the daily grind and live an adventurous life abroad, being an expat comes with its own trials and tribulations, and not all expat locations are created equal.

This is – or, rather, was – a sponsored guest post, originally published by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 13, 2015. The Hipmunk brand was acquired by SAP Concur and closed down as of January 2020. I’ve updated and revised the article considerably.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on them and spend money, I will receive a small percentage of what you spend.

A view in Norway: blue water in the foreground, a small cluster of houses on the shore. On either side of the village, huge tree-covered mountains. In the background, even higher mountains, covered in snow.

That’s the gist of an InterNations survey that looked at the 30 best locations for living and working abroad in 2019. Even if you’re not in a position to leave the country for good, you can still get a taste of what it’s like to truly enjoy international living by visiting the countries that topped the list.

Survey Says…

InterNations is an online community for expats. Those polled were asked to rank locations based on factors like job and career satisfaction, work-life balance, and job security.

At the top of the list? The island country of Taiwan, off the southeast coast of China. The respondents particularly praised the low cost of living and the high-quality medical care. The country has also been earning a reputation as a vacation destination, with beautiful scenery, tropical beaches and cultural sights, all within a relatively small area.

Just after Taiwan is Vietnam, known especially for the great local food and interesting culture. As for vacations, there’s plenty to see and do, both in terms of cultural and historical sites and natural scenic beauty.

Coming in third this year is Portugal, which, especially compared to other countries in Europe, has a low cost of living. The weather is moderate and the scenery is lovely.

The Netherlands came in 24th.

The full list

What other countries made the cut? The full list is as follows. I’ve added links on some countries to articles here on Rachel’s Ruminations:

  1. Taiwan
  2. Vietnam
  3. Portugal
  4. Mexico
  5. Spain
  6. Singapore
  7. Bahrain
  8. Equador
  9. Malaysia
  10. Czechia
  11. Bulgaria
  12. Luxembourg
  13. Panama
  14. Israel
  15. New Zealand
  16. Colombia
  17. Australia
  18. Qatar
  19. Finland
  20. Canada
  21. Costa Rica
  22. Kazakhstan
  23. Estonia
  24. The Netherlands
  25. Thailand
  26. Morocco
  27. Philippines
  28. Belgium
  29. Indonesia
  30. Hungary
Two row houses in Singapore: each is two stories high, with the ground floor shaded by a small roof. The upper floors are quite decorative, with tall windows with shutters and arched windows at their tops, and ornate decorative elements between and above the windows. The left-hand house is predominantly a pastel purplish-blue and the right-hand house is beige with brown edging and shutters. I think Singapore would be a great place to live as an expat.
Row houses in the Emerald Hill neighborhood of Singapore

Notably, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada topped another recent expat survey, the HSBC Expat Explorer. I find it interesting that Switzerland came in first in one survey when it doesn’t even show up in the top 30 in the other.

Being an expat

I’ve been an expat in the Netherlands for more than 25 years, though you could debate my use of the term “expat.” I have moved here permanently and taken citizenship, so the more accurate term would be “immigrant.”

Two houses, each about 2 stories. Both are in redbrick. The left-hand one has big arched windows and beige horizontal stripes among the brick rows. It has a mansard roof. The one on the right is also red brick with beige detail, but the detail is less: only above the windows and beside the front door. These windows are square rather than arched and have shades, which are blue and white striped but now closed. Groningen has been a great place to live as an expat, without the cost of living they have in places like Amsterdam.
Some houses in Groningen, where I live

Whatever you call me, I’m not surprised to see the Netherlands on this list: it’s a good place to live, with a healthy work-life balance, good medical care, an English-speaking population, and job security. I suspect it didn’t rank near the top because of the cost of living, which is very high, especially in the places where expats generally work: Amsterdam and The Hague.

If you’re thinking of visiting any of these places, use this booking.com link to find your hotel.

So which countries didn’t make the cut? Kuwait, Italy, and Nigeria are home to the most dissatisfied expats, largely because of career dissatisfaction. I’ve been to all three, and I’d certainly recommend Italy as a travel destination. Kuwait and Nigeria? Not so much.

And therein lies the joy of being a traveler instead of an expat: You can go to tons of nice places to visit, and you don’t need to stay there.

Are you an expat? Where do you live and what do you think of it? If you’re not an expat, would you live in another country? If so, where?

Pinnable image: 
Image: the same photo as above of the village with mountains looming around it. 
text: Are you an expat? Where the happiest expats live. (and a Rachel's Ruminations logo.


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I guess Canada is too close to the US to be considered “expat country”? I’m also not seeing any Asian countries up there. I would probably move somewhere over there since the cost of living is so inexpensive.