Five of the best countries for expats in 2023

by Lindsey Galloway.

Whether it’s navigating the nuances of a new culture, seeking out the best local haunts or establishing new friendships, living abroad has no shortage of joys and challenges. But depending on what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for, some places make expat living easier than others.

Internations, the world’s largest expat network, recently put together its annual Expat Insider report, which ranks the top countries based on 56 aspects of expat life from cost of living to housing to high-speed internet availability. More than 12,000 expats representing 171 nationalities and living in 172 countries or territories responded, which resulted in an eclectic and sometimes-surprising list spanning the globe.


Ranked number one in this year’s survey, Mexico is no stranger to the recognition, after placing within the top five every year since 2014. The country ranks first in the Ease of Settling In index and its local friendliness subcategory, which also results in high scores in finding friends. In fact, 75% of expats surveyed said it’s easy to make local friends here, compared to just 43% globally.

“The people are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet,” said Dutch expat Aemilius Dost, who has lived in Mexico for a year and a half and blogs at Road to the Unknown. “I thoroughly enjoy the interactions I have while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at my local market. The simplicity of the lifestyle is easy for many to adopt.”



Spain has ranked in the top 10 in the survey’s Quality of Life index since 2014, due to its culture and nightlife, opportunities for recreation and leisure, and its moderate climate and weather.

“Even though it differs significantly from the south to the north of the country, the temperatures are generally mild and pleasant,” said resident Patricia Palacios, co-founder of España Guide, who has lived in Spain for the past decade. She says the weather is one of the main benefits of living here. “For example, cities such as Valencia and Malaga boast more than 300 sunny days per year and have an average temperature of 18C (65F).” She also loves the food options that the Mediterranean climate provides, and that the landscape and architecture that has been influenced by so many cultures over the years.


Cost of living continues to be less here than in other European countries, which can either be a blessing or a curse depending on your career status, since local salaries tend to be lower. “It would definitely be best if you could work remotely and earn a higher foreign income so that you could have a better standard of living,” advised Palacios.


This Central American country ranks third in the index thanks to high scores in the ease of settling in, ease of finding friends and the culture and welcome categories. Like Spain, the country has introduced a digital nomad visa, with one of the world’s lowest fees – in fact, expats in the index rank it one of the top-five countries where it’s easiest to get a visa. The climate and weather also help the country’s high placement, ranking 11th overall in that subindex.

“Panama has amazing weather per my personal preference – 75F-85F [24-29C] all year, and a good mix of rain and sun,” said expat Sarah Bajc, owner at the local Camaroncito EcoResort & Beach. The country is also closer geographically to the United States, making it easier for her to have phone calls and visits with family and friends after 10 years of living in Asia.



The only Middle Eastern country in the top 10, Bahrain ranked ninth and was the most improved country on the list from 2022 to 2023, moving up 19 places. It moved up the most in the Personal Finance index, as nearly half of expats surveyed rated the cost of living more favourably than in 2022, and reported a great satisfaction with their financial situation.

The country also scored well across multiple types of indexes, ranking number one in the Expat Essentials category, which includes topics like administration (such as opening a bank account), housing, digital access and language. It’s also one of the easiest places to get a visa and deal with local authorities, and 78% of those surveyed reported that it’s easy to live here without speaking Arabic.


Residents also say the country grows on you, with appreciation for its benefits only deepening over time. “During expat gatherings and events, other expats inevitably gush over how beautiful the country is and how welcomed they feel with Bahraini friends and colleagues,” said Internations ambassador Sharmila Vadi, who is originally from India and a 23-year resident of Bahrain’s capital, Manama.


Ranked number four in the overall index, Malaysia jumped up the Quality of Life subindex this year, with residents ranking the country third in its availability of travel opportunities. The Southeast Asian country also scores well in local friendliness and personal finance. Spanning two regions (Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo), Malaysia is a stellar homebase for those looking to travel frequently. “The ability to reach the whole of Southeast Asia within two hours of flight time makes it the centre of the region, allowing easy access to regional markets,” said resident and Internations ambassador Shawn Bhushan, who was born here but has also lived in Singapore, London, Hong Kong and Miami. H

Bhushan finds the cost of living here to be very manageable, with income and overheads easy to balance. English is widely understood, and the local language is written in Romanised script, making it easier for English speakers to read. As a teacher who previously lived in Malaysia for two years, Bajc added that education is respected here. “The Malay culture prizes education, and my students (and their parents) treated me with great affection and respect,” she recalled.


Published in GI-Mail 10/2023 (English edition).

  • Do you already know our monthly newsletter GI-Mail with useful tips on postgraduate courses?
    Sign up here.
  • Are you looking for vacancies or new career challenges? Here you will find the latest vacancies and job offers.
  • Do you already know our monthly job-information GI-Jobs with current job offers for doctors, managers and nurses? Sign up here.
  • Are you interested in up to date postgraduate courses and CME? In our education database »medicine & health« you will find new education events from over 2300 organizers.




    Comments are closed.