Mobility suddenly became a risk in 2020. This hit people who work or retire there in another country particularly hard during the corona pandemic. The expat organization Internations stated in its seventh annual report: In almost every second respondent (45 percent), Covid-19 had an impact on their current stay abroad or their plans to move abroad. Many people returned to their homeland prematurely, wanted to change the host country or preferred to postpone the planned stay abroad or return home.
Some countries scored particularly high among expats during the pandemic, while others fell in popularity. Almost half of the representatives of the top 10 in the “Expat Insider 2021” ranking have risen to the top group (this comparison relates to the study published in 2019; Internations published a city ranking in 2020). Europe has particularly lost its reputation among foreign skilled workers. It was represented in the top 10 with three countries in 2019. In 2021 only one European country managed to do this.
Best countries for expats
Internations is a network for people who live and work abroad. According to its own information, it has around four million members. According to the organization, 12,420 of them took part in the online survey on the expat study from January 7th to 31st, 2021. The participants lived in 186 countries and territories. At least 50 respondents were necessary for a state to be included in the ranking. This resulted in a ranking from 59 countries. The expats rated their host country on the basis of 37 factors from the main categories of quality of life, settling in in the host country, work, finances, cost of living and general satisfaction.
How badly a country was affected by Covid-19 and how it reacted to the pandemic was not a dedicated factor in the analysis. However, it probably played a role in the assessment of the local health system, the security situation, the labor market and personal satisfaction.
These are the best countries for expats in 2021 according to Internations.
@IMAGO / agefotostock
# 10 Vietnam
Vietnam got through the corona pandemic very well for a long time. That could be a factor in why the Asian country stayed in the top 10 in Internations’ expat study. However, it has declined by eight places compared to the 2019 study. Vietnam scored particularly well with expats in the categories of personal finance and cost of living. “Vietnam also achieves good results in the Working Abroad Index (ninth place): the vast majority of expats (86 percent) are generally satisfied with their job (versus 68 percent worldwide),” the authors said. On the other hand, Vietnam received very poor marks for the quality of life, among other things because of the enormous environmental pollution. “Even so, 85 percent of expats in Vietnam are by and large still happy (vs. 75 percent worldwide),” said Internations.
@IMAGO / Andia
# 9 Canada
Canada made a leap in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, it was ranked 20th out of 64 countries. Now it was enough for ninth place worldwide. Canada did well in most categories, including quality of life, work and settling in abroad. 64 percent of the expats were satisfied with their career opportunities in the host country. Only 45 percent of survey participants worldwide could claim that. “Health care is a fundamental right, and the quality of life in Canada is very good,” praised an expat from the US. However, the high costs in Canada clouded the overall impression. In terms of personal finances, the North American country came tenth from the bottom of the ranking. 32 Percent of expats found that their disposable household income was insufficient to pay the bills, compared to just 23 percent globally.
@IMAGO / VWPics
# 8 Ecuador
Ecuador held eighth place from 2019. The best result came in the personal finance category (fifth place). Thanks to the low cost of living, 91 percent of the expats living here have enough or more than enough household income (worldwide: 77 percent). Hospitality makes it easy for foreigners to make new friends (68 percent, worldwide: 48 percent). “The nature and the landscape are great,” praised a Venezuelan expat.
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# 7 Australia
Expats in Australia gained a new appreciation for their adopted home during the Corona crisis. The country rose from 17th to seventh place. In terms of leisure activities, it outperformed all other 58 countries in the ranking. Quality of life, digital infrastructure, career opportunities, work-life balance, medical care or acclimatization: Australia performed above average everywhere.
@IMAGO / agefotostock
# 6 New Zealand
New Zealand also made it into the top 10 best countries for expats worldwide in Corona year 2020. It improved from 15th to sixth place. New Zealand ranked second in the world in the Working Abroad category. Secure job, excellent career opportunities, great work-life balance convinced expats. Good quality of life and the environment, digital administrative structures and very friendly New Zealanders rounded off the positive picture. Also not to be underestimated: “95 percent of expats describe New Zealand as peaceful (vs. 80 percent worldwide), and not a single respondent rates the political stability negatively, compared with 16 percent of expats worldwide,” said Internations. “I love my peaceful, calm and safe life in New Zealand,” said one US expat.
@IMAGO / Olaf Schuelke
# 5 Portugal
During – and probably directly because of – the Covid-19 pandemic, Europe has lost a lot of its popularity for foreign skilled workers. In 2019, the continent was represented with three countries in the top 10 of the international rankings. This year only Portugal was able to keep the place in the top group. Spain fell from fifth to 16th place. The Czech Republic fell from tenth to five places. Portugal continued to score points with expats for its quality of life. In this main category, the southern European country came third behind Taiwan and Austria. “I like the weather and the relaxed lifestyle,” said one French expat. Because of their career, however, fewer skilled workers are likely to come to Portugal. 51 percent of expats in Portugal were dissatisfied with their career prospects (worldwide: 33 percent).
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# 4 Malaysia
Malaysia has improved its reputation among expats during the pandemic. It rose from ninth place in 2019 to fourth place. The stay in Malaysia is already getting off to a good start for foreigners. “It’s easy to live here and the people are wonderful,” said an expat from the USA, describing the acclimatization process, according to Internations. With the low cost of living, Malaysia was only beaten by Vietnam. Malaysia had its worst score on the Working Abroad Index. It came in 25th, but was still slightly above the global average.
@IMAGO / YAY Images
# 3 Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the high-flyer of this ranking. In 2019, the Central American country was still in 21st place. Now it has been raised to third place by completely satisfied expats. Among other things, they attested to their host country being open-minded locals, high quality of life and low cost of living. Only the public transport system received very bad marks.
@IMAGO / robertharding
# 2 Mexico
The USA only came 34th in the “Expat Insider 2021” ranking. However, they did 13 places better than in 2019. Neighbor Mexico, on the other hand, is in a completely different league from the perspective of expats. It improved from fourth to second place. In none of the 49 countries surveyed was it easier to settle in, and nowhere were more expats satisfied with their lives (89 percent, worldwide: 75 percent). The good financial situation of the respondents played a major role in this positive assessment. But Mexico is not a pure idyll for expats either. One in five people was worried about their personal safety (worldwide: eight percent).
@IMAGO / Imaginechina-Tuchong
# 1 Taiwan
Taiwan shielded itself very early in the pandemic and was seen around the world as a prime example of a successful strategy against the virus. However, a very low vaccination rate (the government accuses China of torpedoing the purchase of vaccines) in the spring of 2021 ensured that there was a sudden wave of Covid-19 diseases. At least in January 2021, however, no country in the world could hold a candle to Taiwan from the perspective of expats. The island nation came in first in the study by Internations for the third time in a row. The respondents praised secure jobs and a good economic situation and were satisfied with their work and private life. Taiwan’s health system, for which Germany once served as a model, received particularly good marks. “The Taiwanese health system really sees people as people and not just as numbers,” said one expat from Chile. “I can live independently here. I feel safe wherever I go and everything is practical and convenient, ”said one interviewee from Canada.