The top 10 countries where expats are happiest with work, life and cost of living

The coronavirus pandemic impacted lives around the world, but depending on where you reside and the local response to prevention efforts, your experience may have varied greatly.

Those experiences are among the data collected by Internations, a global expat community, for its latest Expat Insider survey of more than 12,000 people to capture how happy they've been living and working abroad in the last year.

At No. 1, expats living in Taiwan reported being the happiest across a broad range of factors including quality of life, career prospects, ease of settling in and satisfaction with life abroad in general. With a population of about 23 million, Taiwan to date has reported 1,682 cases and 12 deaths from the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins, and largely stopped local transmission by the summer of 2020. However, a recent spike in cases led officials in the country's capital to raise the city's coronavirus alert level in the last week.

Taiwan's capital of Taipei has been recognized for several years as the top city for expats to live in, with especially high marks for efficient local transportation, available and affordable health care, and friendly residents who expats say help them feel more settled in their new life abroad.

Other countries that made headlines early in the pandemic for their bold leadership to contain the coronavirus, including New Zealand, Australia and Vietnam, also make the top 10. In addition to those in Taiwan and New Zealand, expats in Qatar reported being most satisfied with the official communication they received from leaders and health authorities about Covid-19 as the pandemic evolved over the last year.

Overall, 45% of survey respondents say that Covid-19 had an impact on their current stay abroad or their relocation plans. About 1 in 3 people said the pandemic delayed their plans to move abroad, and roughly 1 in 5 expats already living abroad said the health outbreak kept them from returning home in the last year.

The survey, conducted in January 2021, asked expats to rate their satisfaction across four main categories, including quality of life (like a healthy environment and robust WiFi infrastructure), ease of settling in (such as language barriers and friendliness of local residents), personal finance (such as access to affordable health care) and working abroad (such as job security and a stable local economy). Locations with affordable costs of living, larger investments in social safety nets and with access to plenty of outdoor and leisure activities to balance work and life also top the list.

Here are the top 10 countries where expats are happiest with their work and personal lives in 2021.

1. Taiwan

  • 75% are happy with their job
  • 74% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 78% are happy with the cost of living
  • 96% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 62% say making new friends is easy
  • 80% are happy with life in general

2. Mexico

  • 80% are happy with their job
  • 72% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 79% are happy with the cost of living
  • 68% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 77% say making new friends is easy
  • 89% are happy with life in general

3. Costa Rica

  • 70% are happy with their job
  • 69% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 55% are happy with the cost of living
  • 83% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 65% say making new friends is easy
  • 88% are happy with life in general

4. Malaysia

  • 69% are happy with their job
  • 72% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 82% are happy with the cost of living
  • 82% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 66% say making new friends is easy
  • 85% are happy with life in general

5. Portugal

  • 62% are happy with their job
  • 70% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 75% are happy with the cost of living
  • 78% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 59% say making new friends is easy
  • 84% are happy with life in general

6. New Zealand

  • 78% are happy with their job
  • 83% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 29% are happy with the cost of living
  • 78% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 54% say making new friends is easy
  • 77% are happy with life in general

7. Australia

  • 73% are happy with their job
  • 76% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 42% are happy with the cost of living
  • 88% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 54% say making new friends is easy
  • 80% are happy with life in general

8. Ecuador

  • 72% are happy with their job
  • 79% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 78% are happy with the cost of living
  • 73% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 68% say making new friends is easy
  • 88% are happy with life in general

9. Canada

  • 69% are happy with their job
  • 72% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 42% are happy with the cost of living
  • 78% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 52% say making new friends is easy
  • 76% are happy with life in general

10. Vietnam

  • 86% are happy with their job
  • 78% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 85% are happy with the cost of living
  • 57% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 67% say making new friends is easy
  • 85% are happy with life in general

Global expats on average

  • 68% are happy with their job
  • 66% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 48% are happy with the cost of living
  • 71% are happy with the quality of medical care
  • 48% say making new friends is easy
  • 75% are happy with life in general

If you moved abroad during the coronavirus pandemic and are interested in sharing your story, email work reporter Jennifer Liu at [email protected].

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