Asia tops 'Best Expat Cities' rankings

For the second year running, Taipei has emerged as the favourite city in the world among expatriates with traditional destinations such as New York, Paris, Rome and San Francisco among the bottom ten in the rankings.

Taipei at night
Based on responses from more than 20,000 expats across the world who took part in tis year's Expat Insider survey conducted by InterNations, the rankings placed three other Asian cities - Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore - in the top four.

How did InterNations rank cities worldwide?

The 2019 Expat City Ranking assessed 82 cities around the globe, analysing four areas: quality of urban living, ease of getting settled, urban work life, and housing and finance.Montreal, Lisbon, Barcelona, Zug, The Hague and Basel rounded off the top ten most favoured expat cities."While each city is appreciated by expats for different reasons, they have some aspects in common: they typically rank highly in the urban work life, the quality of urban living, and the local cost of living indices. What is more, expats find it (very) easy to get settled in most of these cities, but not so much in the Swiss cities of Basel and Zug," said InterNations.Taipei again occupies top position with respondents saying they remain particularly happy with Taipei’s high quality of life. The vast majority also expressed satisfaction with the city's transport system and healthcare, while Taiwan’s capital is also one of the leading cities for cost of living and housing.But it was second-placed Kuala Lumpur that got the nod as the world’s easiest city to get settled as an expat. Unlike in Taipei, language did not seem to be a problem in Kuala Lumpur, with 92% reporting it easy to live in the city without speaking the local language.
Internations infographic of best and worst cities for expats
Taken from the InterNations Expat Insider Business Edition

Which cities are worst for expats?

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the list was Kuwait City with expats rating it the worst in the world as far as the ease of settling it was concerned. Almost three in five felt that local residents were unfriendly towards foreigners (compared to a global average of 19 % feeling that way) while 62% said they struggled to find new friends and 57% reported they were unhappy with their social life.Rome, Milan, Lagos, Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Lima, New York City, and Yangon rounded off the bottom ten of least liked cities.In both 81st-placed Rome and Milan, in 80th place, expats rated the biggest weakness to be in the urban work life category, with a third of respondents in the capital expressing dissatisfaction with their current job and more than half expressing unease over job security.Although placed just above San Francisco and Los Angeles among US cities in the index, New York City still finds itself in the bottom ten. "It performs poorly in most sub-categories and is even placed in the bottom ten for finance, health and environment, work-life balance and local cost of living," said the report.

London: too expensive, with safety worries for expats

London comes in at 70th on the index with the city rating poorly in the local cost of living index. Some 72% of respondents said costs were too high with more than three-quarters expressing concerns over availability of affordable accommodation.Additionally, more than a fifth of the respondents were unhappy with the availability of healthcare and only 60% said they felt safe in London, compared with a global average of 81%.However, nearly three-quarters of the survey participants expressed satisfaction with their career opportunities by working in London, compared to the global average of just 51% of expats.

Top findings

  • #1 Taipei manages to defend its first place from 2018.
  • #2 Kuala Lumpur is rated the best city for getting settled.
  • #3 Ho Chi Minh City ranks first in the Finance & Housing Index.
  • Following Singapore (#4) and Montréal (#5), European cities make up the rest of the top 10.
  • However, the bottom 10 also feature some prominent European and US American cities.
  • Bern and Doha are among the biggest winners compared to 2018.
  • Rankings for Manama, Cape Town, and Auckland, meanwhile, declined from 2018.

Best cities for getting settled into abroad

  • Kuala Lumpur, Manama, and Nairobi: None of the top 3 of the Getting Settled Index are much of a surprise: they’ve all already ranked in the top 5 in 2018.
  • At the other end of the scale are Kuwait City, Paris, and Copenhagen, with respondents noting a lack of friendliness in particular.
  • The friendliest people live in Muscat, Yangon, and Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Expats feel quite at home in Madrid, while making friends is particularly easy in Mexico City.
  • Language is not much of a barrier for expats in Singapore.
  • Doha, Bern, and Lausanne have gained in popularity when it comes to expats getting settled, while Amsterdam and Taipei have worsened.

The Best (and worst) places for expats on a budget

  • Ho Chi Minh City places first in the Finance & Housing Index for the second year running.
  • It gets better and better for Kuala Lumpur, as it moves to second place in both the Finance & Housing Index and the overall ranking.
  • Third-ranked Bangkok completes the top 3 thanks to the ease of finding reasonably priced housing.
  • Dublin, San Francisco, and Vancouver make up the bottom 3 in 2019.
  • Athens still hasn’t recovered in regard to finances, coming last in the respective subcategory.
  • Doha and Swiss city Bern, on the other hand, managed to improve their rankings in the index, while Beijing and Cape Town see worsened results.

About the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition

The InterNations Expat Insider is one of the world’s largest surveys on life abroad — 20,259 expats took part. The Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition focuses specifically on global employees and their spouses — 10% of respondents were foreign assignees, 23% were international hires, and 7% were relocating spouses. Through detailed results, infographics, and expat quotes, the report provides insights that can assist global mobility and HR professionals in understanding the needs of expat employees better.

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