Top 10 Worst Destinations For Expats To Live and Work in The World
Top 10 Worst Destinations For Expats To Live and Work in The World
Table of Content

The Expat Insider survey is conducted annually by InterNations, a community for expatriates. This year’s survey was conducted online and saw 11,970 respondents representing 177 nationalities and living in 181 countries and territories worldwide.

In the top destinations of 2022, expats especially appreciate the ease of settling in and their finances. The same cannot be said about the bottom 3, which include some surprises.

New Zealand, which has consistently ranked high in human index rankings, has been ranked as one of the least-preferred destinations by expatriates, according to the Expat Insider Rankings for 2022. Mexico, meanwhile, has topped the list with respondents scoring it high on indices indicating the ease of settling in, friendliness of locals and culinary variety.

Around 91 percent said that they are happy with their life in Mexico. Indonesia, Taiwan, Portugal and Spain made up the top five slots, while Kuwait, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Cyprus and Luxembourg made up the bottom five.

The Best and The Worst for Expats - Summary

Top 10: Mexico, Indonesia, Taiwan, Portugal, Spain, UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, Singapore

11 to 20: Estonia, Oman, Kenya, USA, Bahrain, Brazil, Russia, Malaysia, Switzerland, Czechia

21 to 30: Philippines, Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Hungary, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Belgium, Denmark

31 to 40: France, Finland, China, Norway, Egypt, India, UK, Ireland, Sweden, South Korea

41 to 52: Greece, Germany, Malta, Italy, Turkey, South Africa, Japan, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Kuwait

10 Worst Destinations For Expats

1. Kuwait

Photo: Xinhua
Photo: Xinhua

For the seventh time in eight years, Kuwait comes in last place in the Expat Insider survey (59th out of 59 countries). The country ranks last in the Quality of Life Index (59th), with especially poor results in the Leisure Options, Personal Happiness, and Travel & Transportation subcategories (59th for all). Kuwait is also the worst expat destination worldwide in the Ease of Settling In Index (59th), with 46% of expats not feeling at home in the local culture (vs. 20% globally) and 45% finding it difficult to settle down in this country (vs. 22% globally). Moreover, 51% have trouble finding new friends (vs. 32% globally), and 62% find it difficult to make local friends in particular (vs. 36% globally).

Placing 56th in the Working Abroad Index, Kuwait performs poorly in both the Work & Leisure (58th) and the Career Prospects & Satisfaction (57th) subcategories. More than three in ten respondents (31%) are dissatisfied with their job in general (vs. 16% globally), and 34% are unhappy with their work-life balance (vs. 17% globally).

2. New Zealand

Expats in New Zealand struggle the most with their Personal Finance (52nd): they rate the general cost of living (75% vs. 35% globally) and their financial situation (30% vs. 21% globally) negatively. It might play a role that 32% do not feel fairly paid for their work (vs. 20% globally). Since 15% also do not see a purpose in their work (vs. 9% globally) and 26% do not like their working hours (vs. 17% globally), New Zealand only ranks 42nd in the Working Abroad Index.

New Zealand has a mediocre performance in the Expat Essentials and Quality of Life Indices (39th for each). The latter is mainly due to the high transportation costs (36% vs. 17% globally) and a lack of culture and nightlife (40% vs. 16% globally). But expats love the natural environment (95% vs. 83% globally) and the opportunities for recreational sports (84% vs. 75% globally). Lastly, the country ranks 34th for the Ease of Settling In. Overall, 60% of expats are happy with their life in New Zealand.

3. Hong Kong

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

Expats rank Hong Kong among the bottom 10 in the Personal Finance Index (44th), and 68% are unhappy with the general cost of living (vs. 35% globally). The destination narrowly escapes the bottom 10 in the Working Abroad Index (41st): 46% miss creativity in the local business culture (vs. 26% globally), but moving to Hong Kong has indeed improved their career prospects (70% vs. 60% globally).

Things do not look much better in the Quality of Life Index (40th). While the availability (96% vs. 73% globally) and affordability (93% vs. 70% globally) of public transportation is a highlight, expats feel that they cannot openly express themselves and their opinions (56% vs. 18% globally). They are also unhappy with the urban environment (33% vs. 17% globally). Hong Kong does best, but still not very well, in the Expat Essentials (35th) and Ease of Settling In (33rd) Indices. Overall, 56% of expats are happy with their life in Hong Kong.

4. Cyprus

Cyprus ranks worst in the Working Abroad Index (49th): expats are unhappy with their personal career opportunities (34% vs. 22% globally) and working hours (29% vs. 17% globally). Nor do they see a purpose in their job (22% vs. 9% globally). Close to three in ten (28%) also feel they are not fairly paid (vs. 20% globally), which might be one reason why they also rate their personal finances negatively (35% vs. 21% globally). Overall, Cyprus only ranks 47th in the Personal Finance Index.

Cyprus does a bit better in the Quality of Life (37th) and Expat Essentials (34th) Indices. In the latter, 34% are unhappy with the availability of government services online (vs. 21% globally). In the end, the country’s best, but still mediocre, performance is in the Ease of Settling In Index (27th): 62% of expats feel welcome (vs. 66% globally), and 58% are happy with their social life (vs. 56% globally). Overall, 66% of expats are happy with their life in Cyprus.

5. Luxembourg

Photo: agoda
Photo: agoda

Luxembourg also ranks in the bottom 10, criticized for its lack of leisure activities and high cost of living. 42 percent of expats are unhappy with their social life compared to 26 percent globally.

Thanks to the good state of its economy (89% vs. 64% globally), Luxembourg does well in the Working Abroad Index (27th). But 26% are unsatisfied with their job in general (vs. 16% globally). While the result for the Expat Essentials Index (38th) is still mediocre, Luxembourg lands in the bottom 10 in the Ease of Settling In Index (46th). Expats are unhappy with their social life (42% vs. 26% globally) and lack a personal support network (35% vs. 24% globally). Lastly, the country comes 51st in the Personal Finance Index. Overall, 60% of expats are happy with their life in Luxembourg.

6. Japan

Coming second to last, Japan ranks worst in the Expat Essentials Index (51st). Expats find it hard to pay without cash (20% vs. 8% globally) and are unhappy with the availability of government services online (35% vs. 21% globally). The country also lands in the bottom 10 for both the Ease of Settling In (45th) — 30% find it hard to get used to the local culture (vs. 19% globally) — and Working Abroad (43rd) Indices. The latter is mainly due to their unhappiness with their working hours (25% vs. 17% globally) and work-life balance (31% vs. 19% globally). Moreover, 25% feel they are not fairly paid for their work (vs. 20% globally).

Japan ranks midfield for Personal Finance (28th) and even 17th for the Quality of Life. Expats generally feel safe (93% vs. 81% globally) and find it easy and safe to get around on foot and/or by bicycle (89% vs. 77% globally). Overall, 66% of expats are happy with their life in Japan.

7. South Africa

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

Coming in 57th place, South Africa performs worst in the Personal Finance Index (55th): over one-third of expats in South Africa (34%) do not consider their disposable household income enough to cover all their expenses (vs. 24% globally), and just 57% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally). South Africa also ends up among the bottom 10 of the Working Abroad Index (54th), coming last worldwide in the Economy & Job Security subcategory (59th). Only 47% of expats are satisfied with their job security (vs. 61% globally), and less than a third (31%) are happy with the state of the local economy — exactly half the global average (62%).

Ranking among the bottom 10 in the Quality of Life Index (52nd), South Africa comes in last worldwide in the Safety & Security subcategory (59th). More than one-third of expats (34%) do not consider South Africa a peaceful country (vs. 9% globally) and just about one in four (24%) feel safe there (vs. 84% globally). An Ethiopian expat even says: “You are not able to walk around safely.”

8. Turkey

Expats in Turkey are extremely unhappy with the state of the economy (57% vs. 17% globally) and their personal career opportunities (33% vs. 22% globally), ranking the country worst worldwide in the Working Abroad Index (52nd). What is more, 27% do not feel fairly paid for their work (vs. 20% globally). This might also influence expats’ unhappiness with their financial situation (26% vs. 21% globally). Overall, Turkey ranks 36th in both the Personal Finance and Expat Essentials Indices. While expats had no issues getting a visa (72% vs. 56% globally), they are unhappy with the restricted access to online services (14% vs. 7% globally).

Turkey performs a lot better in the Quality of Life (30th) and Ease of Settling In (22nd) Indices. Expats describe the local residents as friendly (67% vs. 66% globally) and find it fairly easy to make local friends (51% vs. 42% globally). Overall, 62% of expats are happy with their life in Turkey.

9. Italy

Photo: vnexpress
Photo: vnexpress

Despite its reputation for la dolce vita, Italy ranks in the bottom 10 destinations for expats in the InterNations survey.

Italy recently announced a new digital nomad visa to make it easier to work from the country. But it still comes in at 44th overall in the survey with expats finding it particularly hard to deal with the local bureaucracy and to open a local bank account.

The country also lands among the bottom 10 in the Working Abroad Index, where 29 percent of expats do not feel fairly paid for their work compared to 20 percent globally.

Nearly half of those asked also said they are unhappy with the local job market.

The country performs much better in terms of the ease of settling in, with 68 percent finding it easy to get used to the local culture compared to 62 percent globally.

Expats also enjoy the climate and weather as well as the culinary variety and dining options.

10. Malta

Malta, too, performs badly with expats unhappy with the infrastructure for cars, the urban environment, and the availability of industries that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment.

Expats in Malta are particularly unhappy with the infrastructure for cars (57% vs. 13% globally), the urban environment (65% vs. 17% globally), and the availability of green goods and services (44% vs. 17% globally), ranking the island 49th in the Quality of Life Index. It only performs slightly better in the Expat Essentials Index (43rd), where, for example, expats find it extremely hard to open a local bank account (69% vs. 21% globally).

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