Expats rank the best places to live in the world


What are the best places to live in the world? Ask the expats—they offer a unique perspective on living in foreign countries, making their feedback invaluable.
Snorkelling near Isla de Perro in the San Blas archipelagos in Panama. the top place to live in 2024, according to expats. Image: Getty

This year marks the 11th edition of the Expat Insider report by InterNations, which is one of the most comprehensive studies on expat life, gathering responses from over 12,500 expats representing 175 nationalities in 174 countries or territories.

The report ranks the best countries to live by analysing factors such as Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance and the Expat Essentials Index (which covers housing, administration, language and digital life).

This year, Panama has climbed to the top—an impressive leap from its third place ranking last year—knocking Mexico to the second spot. Compare these results to 2023 and 2022, when Mexico ranked number one.

Panama world's best city to live
The skyline of Panama City in Panama—the world’s best city to live. Image: Getty
The Best Place To Live In 2024

Expats have named Panama the best place to live in 2024. According to the Expat Insider report, a remarkable 82% of expats in Panama report being happy with their life there, well above the global average of 68%.

So what makes Panama so appealing? “Panama saw a big improvement in the Working Abroad Index, from 30th place in 2023 to 12th place in 2024,” Malte Zeeck, founder of InterNations, told me in an interview. “Another index where Panama gained significantly is Quality of Life, with improvements in the following subcategories: Travel & Transit (notably for affordability of public transportation), Leisure Options and Healthcare (notably for affordability, availability and quality of medical care).”


Financial satisfaction is a standout factor in Panama, with 74% of expats content with their financial situation, compared to the global average of 54%. The country ranks first for this aspect and fourth overall in the Personal Finance Index. Additionally, 88% of respondents feel their disposable income is sufficient for a comfortable life, and 62% praise the affordability of housing—well above the global average of 34%.

Panama also excels in the Expat Essentials Index, particularly in ease of finding a place to live and obtaining visas. With a significant portion of its expat community already retired, Panama also ranks well for work-life balance and general working hours, making it an attractive destination for both retirees and working expats.

mexico best place to live
On a rooftop in Mexico City, Mexico—the second best place to live. Image: Getty
Mexico: Another Expat Favourite

Mexico continues to be a top choice for expats, securing the second position in 2024. Nearly nine in ten expats (89%) express happiness with their life in Mexico, which is significantly higher than the global average.

“Mexico is a beautiful and very varied country, with nice, warm people. I like the history and culture, it’s a balance of traditions and modernism,” one French expat said in the Expat Insider report.

The friendliness of the Mexican people and the ease of settling in are key factors that make Mexico attractive. An impressive 86% of expats rate the general friendliness of the population positively, and 85% feel welcome.

So why did Mexico dip after two years on the top? “The biggest drop—although far from dramatic—can be seen in the Personal Finance Index, where Mexico went from a second place in 2023 to a seventh place in 2024,” says Zeeck.

Safety also remains a concern, with only 66% of expats feeling safe compared to the global average of 80%. This, combined with average ratings for healthcare and transportation, places Mexico at 25th for Quality of Life.

“To sum up: It’s not that expat life in Mexico is a lot worse now than it was last year; it’s just that Panama made some bigger jumps ahead in the ranking and also saw small improvements across more single factors than Mexico,” says Zeeck.

A group of friends celebrating Indonesia Independence Day. Image: Getty
Rising Stars

A few countries making notable leaps include Indonesia, South Korea and Belgium. This year, Indonesia went from 13th to to third place. Expats appreciate the low cost of living, friendly locals and excellent work-life balance, with 84% expressing overall happiness.

Expats in Indonesia also benefit from shorter working hours and a positive work-life balance, contributing to the country’s high ranking in the Working Abroad Index. The affordability of housing and overall financial satisfaction are other strong points, with many expats finding their income sufficient for a comfortable life. “It definitely takes less money to live comfortably here,” says a U.S. expat.

South Korea managed an impressive recovery from its place in the bottom 10 in 2023, coming in 50th out of 53 countries. This year, South Korea shot up the list to rank 23rd in 2024.

The biggest gains are related to Personal Finance: South Korea went from a below- average 37th rank to place 15th in 2024. “Not only do expats feel that their disposable household income is enough for a comfortable life, they’re also less likely to complain about the cost of living,” says Zeeck.

Gains in the Quality of Life (17th to 10th) and Working Abroad (46th to 37th) Indices are not as striking, but also contribute to South Korea’s much improved ranking.

Jumping up 20 places in the ranking, Belgium (now 18th) is another big winner in 2024. “In contrast to South Korea, Belgium’s results in the Personal Finance Index hardly changed (25th to 23rd),” says Zeeck. “But it leapt onto the podium for the 2024 Working Abroad Index (21st to 3rd).”

Expats also have a more favourable view on their work-life balance (71% satisfied vs. 65% in 2023) and their personal career opportunities.

A snow-covered scene in Helsinki, Finland. where expats aren’t as happy. Image: Getty
The Happiest Country: Not A Happy Outcome

It is shocking to see Finland—which is always named the happiest country on earth—drop so dramatically. “Finland was indeed the ‘biggest loser’ in this year’s Expat Insider ranking. However, it has to be said that the country’s 16th place in 2023 was more of an exception; in 2022 and 2021, Finland had ranked in place 32 and 39, respectively,” says Zeeck.

Finland’s rankings falter in the Ease of Settling In (50th), Working Abroad (46th) and Personal Finances (52nd) Indices. Learning the language is also tough, and the weather has its challenges: The worst-performing factor in the index is climate and weather, with only 31% of expats rating it favourably, versus 58% globally.

“It’s possible that the topics covered under Working Abroad and Personal Finance, which play such a big role in Finland’s drop, have a bigger influence on the happiness of the majority of expats than on the happiness of the local population,” says Zeeck. “Expats tend to compare their country of residence with their home country, or other countries they’ve lived in before, especially when it comes to career prospects and salaries.”

“All in all, we look at areas of life that are either not necessarily relevant to locals (such as the Ease of Settling In Index, or the Language Subcategory in the Expat Essentials Index), or may pose fewer problems to locals (such as housing),” says Zeeck. “So I believe that the contrast between Finland having the happiest people wordwide and Finland’s bad performance in our ranking is partly because we look at the expat perspective on life in Finland in isolation.”

United states where to live
The United States didn’t rank as well in the expat report. Image: Getty
The State Of Affairs In The United States

The United States has seen a considerable drop in its ranking, falling to 35th place in 2024 after being 30th in 2023 and 14th in 2022. “We haven’t observed a significant drop in any of the indices in particular, just a small decrease in average ratings for most factors,” says Zeeck.

Expats rank the U.S. 46th out of 53 countries when it comes to Quality of Life, citing expensive healthcare (53rd) and safety concerns (48th) as major issues. Only 19% rate the affordability of healthcare as good, compared to 58% globally. The U.S. also ranks low for political stability and the affordability and availability of public transportation.

In terms of settling in, the U.S. has fallen from 19th place in 2022 to 28th in 2024, with expats finding it difficult to make local friends and navigate social life. “Only 47% of expats are happy with their social life, and a mere 38% find making local friends easy,” says Zeeck.

Kuwait: Struggles Continue

Kuwait remains at the bottom of the list for the seventh year in a row. Expats in Kuwait report low satisfaction in areas such as Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In and Personal Finances.

“In summer, the heat can go above 50°C [122 degrees fahrenheit],” says an Austrian expat, highlighting the extreme weather conditions as a significant drawback.

Expats in Kuwait also face challenges with public transportation and building a supportive social network. Only a small percentage of expats find the local population friendly toward foreign residents.

A tropical island in the San Blas archipelago in Panama. Image: Getty
Expat Ranking: Where The Countries Ranked In 2024

1. Panama

2. Mexico

3. Indonesia

4. Spain

5. Colombia

6. Thailand

7. Brazil

8. Vietnam

9. Philippines

10. UAE

11. Costa Rica

12. Oman

13. Saudi Arabia

14. Kenya

15. Portugal

16. Australia

17. Qatar

18. Belgium

19. China

20. Luxembourg

21. Hong Kong

22. Malaysia

23. South Korea

24. Austria

25. Denmark

26. Netherlands

27. Greece

28. Poland

29. South Africa

30. Singapore

31. New Zealand

32. India

33. Bahrain

34. Switzerland

35. USA

36. Cyprus

37. Japan

38. France

39. Czechia

40. Chile

41. Egypt

42. Sweden

43. Hungary

44. UK

45. Ireland

46. Malta

47. Italy

48. Norway

49. Canada

50. Germany

51. Finland

52. Türkiye

53. Kuwait

This article was originally published on forbes.com.

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