The report, produced by InterNations – an international network for people living and working abroad, analysed responses from nearly 14,000 expats living in 61 countries as part of a desire to discover their reasons for relocating, their happiness once the relocation has been completed, and how they find life abroad. Expats were asked to judge their adopted nation on different issues across a number of categories – personal finance, family life, ease of settling, their work life abroad, and quality of life – and ranked each nation accordingly.
Perhaps surprisingly, Ecuador emerged as the overall winner – coming top in the personal finance and personal happiness categories and scoring highly when considering ease of settling into their new life by expats. 91 per cent of expats reported that they were satisfied with their life in Ecuador, with 42 per cent of planning to reside there ‘possibly forever’. The sole negative to an expat’s life in Ecuador was seemingly that 37 per cent felt that it would be very difficult to live in the country without speaking Spanish, although that drawback is tempered somewhat when 30 per cent of the same respondees describe learning the language as ‘very easy’.
One reason why Ecuador could rank so highly is that most of the expats who move there do not do so for work purposes, with Ecuador having a higher percentage of retirees (39 per cent) and older people (the average age of expats in Ecuador is 52.8 compared to the global average of 39.5) amongst their expats, suggesting that those moving to Ecuador are financially secure before arriving, leaving them free to enjoy the country’s pleasures unfettered by economic concerns.
Ranked second on the list, Luxembourg was mainly carried there through its high ranking concerning aspects of an expat’s working life, with 89 per cent of respondents satisfied with their lot – despite Luxembourg coming a lowly 50th out of the 61 nations in terms of how happy expats are with their personal life. Perhaps because of this, only 28 per cent of respondents envisaged themselves staying in the country for ‘the long run’. This is in contrast with third-placed Mexico, where almost half (44 per cent) of expats interviewed felt that they would like to permanently settle in the country because of the ease of settling in and quality of life they achieve, despite concerns over job security and workplace issues.
Of the bottom three countries, Greece scored very low due to their current economic woes – coming last in categories concerning how happy expats were with their financial situation and sufficiency of their household income, their career prospects and job security. Saudi Arabia seemingly suffers from a lack of leisure activities (54 per cent of participants dissatisfied with what is accessible to them), thus scoring low in the Quality of Life index and coming 60th out of the 61 nations. Kuwait, meanwhile, comes firmly last with the majority of expats finding it near impossible to settle there – a mere five per cent feel completely at home there, and only seven per cent find it very easy to befriend locals.
This inability of Kuwait’s expats to make local friends is seemingly endemic within the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s expat communities responding in kind. One theory behind this is that it may simply be due to the considerable number of expats that reside in these nations with expats in other Middle Eastern countries often settling in expat-only neighbourhoods and attending expat events, clubs and associations – an ‘Expat Bubble’ or ‘Costa del Sol Syndrome’ if you will. This is illustrated best by the percentage of respondents who stated the majority of their friends were other expats: 71 per cent in Qatar, 54 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 70 per cent in Kuwait.