The Best and the Worst

I’m always curious when I hear a news organization post an article about expats rating the best and the worst places to live and work. After all, we create destination reports for a living. So, I was excited to see that Bloomberg recently posted the top 10 best and worst cities for expats. The study came from InterNations who surveyed almost 12,000 expats living in 181 countries or territories!

Beautiful Valencia in Spain was the top pick with expats rating the quality of life, public transportation, and the opportunity to play recreational sports as the reason for its number one ranking. Close behind was Dubai, which boasts a lot of leisure activities as well as a great place to work. In third was Mexico City, a surprise because it is still highly unsafe. However, it’s very affordable and Mexicans are very welcoming to foreigners.

Here are the top 10 destinations:

  1. Valencia, Spain: Great transit, friendly, affordable, and safe.
  2. Dubai, UAE: Opportunities for career growth, ease of driving, and social life.
  3. Mexico City, Mexico: Friendly, affordable, and lots of dining options.
  4. Lisbon, Portugal: Amazing climate, quality of life, feel welcome.
  5. Madrid, Spain: Great weather, excellent culture and nightlife, easy to assimilate.
  6. Bangkok, Thailand: Fantastic cost of living, affordable housing, and friendly culture.
  7. Basel, Switzerland: Financial opportunities, easy travel options, and quality of life.
  8. Melbourne, Australia: Great work-life balance, friendly, pleasant urban environment.
  9. Abu Dhabi, UAE: Excellent health care, worry-free bureaucracy.
  10. Singapore: Great digital access, satisfying financial status, and career opportunities.

South Africa, with its share of problems, ranks at the bottom of the list based on unaffordability and safety concerns. Frankfurt, Germany also rated at the bottom of the list because of lack of infrastructure supporting digitization, and language concerns. While Paris, France, a beautiful place to visit, is extremely expensive especially for housing, which is why expats rated it so low.

The bottom 10 destinations are:

  1. Rome, Italy: Lack of public transportation, poor healthcare, unstable economy.
  2. Tokyo, Japan: Hard to navigate, expensive, high quality of life.
  3. Vancouver, Canada: High cost of living, lack of affordable housing, and residents not so friendly.
  4. Milan, Italy: No work-life balance and lack of career opportunities.
  5. Hamburg, Germany: Low life satisfaction, language barrier, housing shortage.
  6. Hong Kong, China: Politically unstable, bad air quality, and tough working conditions.
  7. Istanbul, Turkey: Low job satisfaction, poor economy, bad working conditions.
  8. Paris, France: Expensive, residents unfriendly, safety concern.
  9. Frankfurt, Germany: Difficulty settling in, lack of services online, and language barrier.
  10. Johannesburg, South Africa: Bad public transportation, safety and security concerns, low personal career opportunities.

I find these ratings very useful especially if you have employees requesting temporary or short-term assignments.  But – while interesting – remember that these are based on subjective perspectives and people have different experiences. One of the best things employers can do is set expectations about life in the host country. The good news is that Living Abroad covers every single destination listed above.

We support your assignees, their families, and business travelers no matter where they relocate – for better or worse.


Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President