Kuala Lumpur: cream of the crop for expats

Kuala Lumpur has taken this year's title as 'the world’s best city for expats' in the annual survey conducted by InterNations, the global expatriate network.

Kuala Lumpur skyline at night
Based on responses from more than 12,000 members across the world, the 'Expat City Ranking 2021', published on Wednesday, judged 57 cities on the basis of quality of urban living, ease of getting settled, work life, finance and housing.Málaga, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Prague, Mexico City, Basel, and Madrid rounded off the top ten in this year's rankings.Kuala Lumpur claimed top spot largely because expats felt at home there, praising the ease of settling in and the friendliness of the local population."Kuala Lumpur also ranks first out of 57 in the finance and housing index," said InterNations. "Expats find housing both affordable and easy to find. Another 80 per cent are satisfied with their financial situation (against the global average of 64 per cent) and 64 per cent say that their household income is more than enough."However, it gets average results in the urban work life index. Expats are happy with their working hours and their work-life balance, but not so much with the local economy and the career opportunities."


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Málaga comes in at the No 2 position after being adjudged the best city for making friends and socialising. It also came out top in the local cost of living index and for its climate, but came near the bottom of the rankings when it came to career prospects and job security.In third place, Dubai scored highly in the getting settled category and was rated the easiest city in the world to live in without speaking the local language. More than four-fifths of expats described local people as generally friendly towards foreigners and 97 per cent felt safe living there."However, it falls behind in the urban work life index," reported InterNations. "It even ranks among the bottom ten for job security. Expats are also unhappy with their work-life balance and only 65 per cent are satisfied with their job in general."The cost of accommodation was also criticised, with 41 per cent considering it "unaffordable".
Internations Best and Worst cities for expats chart
At the other end of the table, Rome occupies 57th place with Milan, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Tokyo, Cairo, Paris, Maastricht, Moscow and New York making up the rest of the bottom ten.Rome came out as the worst in the urban work life index with expats unhappy about career prospects, job security and work-life balance. The city also scored poorly when it came to quality of life, although the local climate was rated positively.Among other global cities, New York came in at 48th with InterNations describing it as a city "where expats sacrifice their work-life balance for their careers".Some three-quarters of expats in the Big Apple expressed dissatisfaction with the cost of living, with the cost of housing and healthcare being particular bugbears. Almost half of expats in New York expressed concerns over political stability and 28 per cent feared for their personal safety.London beat New York by ten places, coming in at 38th, though it, too, ranked poorly when it came to cost of living and housing. Also, the local weather was ranked in 56th place globally, only one above last-placed Amsterdam in the climate category."On the bright side, 80 per cent rate the local leisure options positively," said the report. "London ranks a lot better in the urban work life index, even ranking third out of 57 for the local career opportunities."Comments on other cities in the report included: Sydney (4th) "a sunny destination with great career opportunities for expats; Singapore (5th) "high quality of life but poor work-life balance; and Paris (51st) "lacking in friendliness, personal safety, and affordable housing".

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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