The Best & Worst Cities for Expats

Destinations in the Iberian Peninsula had the greatest prominence in the Expat City Ranking 2020, with Valencia, Alicante and Lisbon on the podium beating all the competition.

  • Expats in Valencia (1st out of 66) are particularly happy with the local healthcare and climate.
  • In Alicante (2nd), over four in five expats feel at home in the city.
  • No respondent has anything negative to say about their personal safety in Lisbon (3rd).
  • Five of the top 10 cities are found on the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Results at the other end of the ranking are geographically diverse, with Salmiya (66th), Rome (65th), and Seoul (64th) in the bottom 3.

Top 10: The Iberian Peninsula Is Ahead

The trend that can be observed in the top 3 also holds true for the top 10 of the Expat City Ranking: five of the ten best cities are located on the Iberian Peninsula, with Málaga (6th) and Madrid (9th) joining ValenciaAlicante, and Lisbon.

All five cities see some of their best results in the Quality of Urban Living Index (Alicante’s 19th place is the worst result here), as well as the Getting Settled Index. In the latter, only Madrid does not make it into the top 10, ranking 13th. While Alicante (2nd), Valencia (3rd), and Málaga (9th) all rank in the top 10 of the Finance & Housing Index, though, Madrid (34th) and Lisbon (27th) stand out with fairly average results. In both capitals, expats face more of a struggle when it comes to finding housing: around a third think that this isn’t easy in Lisbon (37%) and Madrid (32% vs. 27% globally).

The rest of the top 10 are more of an international mix, with Panama City (4th), Singapore (5th), Buenos Aires (7th), Kuala Lumpur (8th), and Abu Dhabi (10th) completing the list.

The Best & Worst Cities for Expats

For those who choose Lisbon to live, the city is “friendly, relaxed and sunny”, and occupies the third place in the study of InterNations, a social network for expatriates, where it is given a maximum score in terms of ease of installation (it ranked 3rd in this index), and the local quality of life (4th overall).

Virtually 9 out of 10 expatriates (89%) said they were satisfied with the various leisure options in the city (71% globally), while an even larger proportion, around 96%, said they were very satisfied with the climate and the local weather conditions. This is no surprise! Whoever chose the city knows that it has 300 days of sunshine a year, with good average temperatures, even in the coldest months.

Another of the highlights of this study was that none of the respondents has anything negative to say about their own safety, with 87% considering the urban environment to be very safe and positive.

Last January Portugal has topped the charts (5th place) for the best places to live in the 30th Annual Global Retirement Index for 2021.

Unhappy Expats in the Bottom 3

At the other end of the ranking, there are Salmiya (66th), Rome (65th), and Seoul (64th).

Expats in Salmiya are not at all happy with their quality of life and the ease of getting settled; the city ranks last in both indices. Ranking second to last, Rome (65th) ends up among the bottom 5 in two out of four indices: it ranks 63rd in the Quality of Urban Living and last in the Urban Work Life Index (66th). In fact, Rome receives bottom-10 results for all underlying factors in this index. On the other side of the globe, expats in Seoul (64th) are particularly dissatisfied with the ease of getting settled in the South Korean capital (64th), as well as their urban work life (61st). Ranking last in the Work-Life Balance subcategory, Seoul features nearly two in five expats (38%) who are dissatisfied with their working hours (vs. 17% globally).


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