If you wondered where the happiest expats live or which countries offer the best career prospects to expatriates, or where it is especially easy to meet new people and make friends, then the latest survey by InterNations, an online community of people who live and work abroad, should prove to be an eye-opener.
Contrary to expectations, it is not the Scandinavian nations or those countries in the developed world, whichtraditionally rank in the top of lists of best countries to live in, that seem to attract expatriates. Internations annual survey, the Expat Insider, revealed that it is the tiny South American nation of Ecuador that ranks in top of its 2014 survey.
InterNations, which claims to represent more than 390 communities all over the world, quizzed over 14,000 expatriates in 160 countries to draw up the results of this year’s survey. The Expat Insider 2014 survey covered a broad spectrum of expatriates, including those employed by multi-national companies and their family members, foreign correspondents, staff working in intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
The in-depth questionnaire used in the survey touched upon various areas of expat living to determine how satisfied the respondents were with these different aspects of relocation and expatriate life.The rankings of the most and least popular destinations around the globe were arrived at by averaging results from several sub-indices, including the General Quality of Life Index, the Ease of Settling-in Index, the Working Abroad Index, the Family Life Index, as well as the Personal Finance Index, as well as the results for the question: "how satisfied are you with life abroad in general?". As this last factor is a single question, it carries disproportionate weight in the overall country ranking.
For each question in the survey, participants were asked to rate their own opinion or experience on a scale of one to seven, or one to five, in some cases. A sample size of at least 50 survey participants was necessary in order to feature in a specific ranking. The only exception to this was the Family Life Index, where a sample size of 30 respondents was required.
The Top Three:Ecuador emerged as a top destination in the expat survey. This can be explained by its high ranking in various sub-indices, notably the Personal Finance Index. Here, the South American country ranks first, as expats are generally very pleased with their financial situation in Ecuador.In the Ease of Settling-in Index, Ecuador holds spot eight. It has the highest result of all survey countries for the ease of making friends. Over eight in ten expats (82%) find it easy to settle down and feel at home in Ecuador.
However, Ecuador has a less than average result when it comes to language difficulties. Over one-third (37%) agree that it is very difficult to live in this country without speaking Spanish. Luckily, one in three expats (30%) also think that learning the language is very easy.Ecuador also comes in first place for personal happiness. A high 85 percent are satisfied with their relationship. In addition, nearly half the participants (44%) say they are "very happy" with their lives in general.
It is thus unsurprising that over nine out of ten expats (91%) report being satisfied with their life in Ecuador. As so many participants seem to be content with life there, it makes sense that almost half of the expats in Ecuador plan to stay there "possibly forever" (42%).Most of the expats here report that they enjoy living abroad and that they moved here for a better quality of life. Although Ecuador ranks fifth in the Working Abroad Index, not many expats relocate to this country for work purposes. Ecuador has a high percentage of retirees (39%) and the average age of expats in Ecuador is 52.8, well above the global average of 39.5
The small, land-locked European country ranks second overall in the expat survey. This is primarily due to Luxembourg’s second-place ranking in the Working Abroad Index.Indeed, two out of three expats (64%) report career opportunities – whether they found a job themselves, were sent by their employer, or were recruited – to be the most important reason for their move abroad. Two in five even found a job in Luxembourg on their own, a higher percentage than for any other country in the survey.Only about one in three expats (28%) want to stay in Luxembourg for the long run, however. One-fifth of expats (21%) plan to complete an assignment of one to three years.
In striking contrast to Luxembourg, Mexico, which ranked third in the survey, is the clear winner in the Ease of Settling-in Index.Nine in ten expats (91%) are pleased with their expat life in Mexico, the same percentage as for the overall winner, Ecuador. Another measure of satisfaction is the high number of expats (44%) that would like to stay forever.About one in three expats (28%) moved to Mexico for a job. Interestingly, the next highest percentage (19%) list love as their main motivation for moving to Mexico. They either moved in order to join their partner in Mexico or moved along with them.Mexico ranks the lowest of our top three countries in the Working Abroad Index, coming in at 25th place out of 61. The lowest ranking was in the subcategory "job security" (32nd place).
The Bottom Three:The economic crisis in Greece and the resulting very low rankings in the Working Abroad Index help explain its third to last place overall. Greece holds last place in the "job and career" category and has the lowest score for job security by a large margin. Greece also fares poorly in the Personal Finance Index with another last place ranking.
Saudi Arabia holds the 60th place in the overall country ranking. This is primarily due to the country’s poor results in the Quality of Life Index (59th place). Saudi Arabia comes in last place in the "leisure activities" subcategory. A majority (54%) of participants are dissatisfied with the availability of leisure activities in the country.
Kuwait ranks last in the overall country ranking. This is largely due to its low results for personal happiness and in the Ease of Settling-in Index. Expats in Kuwait do not think it is easy to settle down there, make friends, or feel at home. Only 5 percent of survey participants feel completely at home there, and only 7 percent find it very easy to make local friends.