Where To Live Abroad – Top 5 Countries For Quality Of Life

If you are dreaming of moving overseas, good research is where you should start. There’s no point in moving somewhere where you’re going to face problems with integration and the quality of life leaves much to be desired.

How the countries are ranked

In this report, we’re going to be analysing the top 5 countries for the best quality of life where expatriate respondents to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey state that the quality of life is excellent. 

We’ll be looking at what constitutes a high quality of living for foreign residents, and what the pros and cons are for each top-ranking country for would-be expatriates. 

We hope that the following information will enable your relocation decisions and that you can find a happier and better life abroad.

We’ll be looking at the pros and cons of each country so that you can hopefully discover where you could be happiest living abroad. 

If you would like to tell us about where you’ve been happiest living abroad, whether you’re a serial expat or you’ve just relocated for the first time in your life, please do get in touch.

The top 5 countries for the best quality of life are as follows:

Thailand: one of the friendliest countries

This stunning Asian nation consistently ranks highly as one of the friendliest nations where expatriates find it easy to integrate and even find love.  It is also now ranking exceptionally well with retirees looking for a more affordable cost of living, as well as a decent quality of life balance.

Best countries for quality of life - Thailand
Phuket, one of the most popular expat destinations in Thailand

Thailand is considered a lifetime move by a high proportion of expats surveyed, i.e., it seems that once you make a home in Thailand you really don’t want to leave.  However, visa issues and dodgy property ownership laws and problems mean that Thailand does have its complications and complexities.

For those marrying a local or legitimately relocating to Thailand for work, the visa issues aren’t so complex, and the quality of life on offer can really make any bureaucratic issues seem less significant anyway!

You have an almost perfect climate year-round, exceptionally beautiful scenery including idyllic beaches and lush flora, and many of the issues relating to poverty and the slightly seedier side of Thailand are improving.

Bahrain: excellent for career-orientated expats

This is an excellent country for career-orientated expats looking for a high salary, good job prospects and all the benefits that come hand in hand with these factors. 

Best countries for quality of life - Bahrain
Palm Avenue in Manama city, Bahrain

It’s not as difficult as many countries in the Middle East when it comes to integration either, although you do of course need a sponsored visa to live and work in Bahrain.

The quality of life on offer is high grade – with excellent healthcare and educational offerings, high-grade infrastructure and exceptional weather all being big plus points in this country’s favour.

The lifestyle expats enjoy is good, with the social side of life varied and plentiful.  Expats can usually afford a housekeeper which can mean they have more time on their hands to enjoy life in Bahrain too.

The cost of living is not cheap, however, and Bahrain is not considered a place to move to for life.  It’s one of the best countries for working expats who want to earn well, live well and set themselves up for life financially speaking.

South Africa: easy to integrate

In sharp contrast, South Africa is definitely a life destination as far as the majority of expatriates surveyed were concerned.  It was also the country that came out on top in terms of creating a positive first impression for expats because relatively speaking, the ease of relocation to South Africa was reported to be simple.

Best countries for the quality of life - South Africa
From late September to middle November, Jacarandas bloom all over Pretoria and turn the face of the city purple

The only area where expats reported having difficulties was in arranging their finances, and because of the country’s reluctance to allow the removal of wealth from the nation at a later date, all expats are certainly urged to consult an expert before moving or receiving any monies into South Africa.

The country scored very well as a place to integrate with ease – although this may be because most expats surveyed were living in well-populated parts of the nation already popular with international citizens!

South Africa certainly has good weather and stunning scenery going for it too, it also has high healthcare standards, a large expat community and decent infrastructure…but on the downsides, it has well-reported incidences of violent crime, an uncertain political landscape and an extreme problem with AIDS.

Canada: a relocation destination for life

Canada came a close second to South Africa in terms of the ease of relocation and integration.  These plus the lifestyle that Canada offers make it one of the top countries for expats.

Best countries for quality of life - Canada
Frontenac Castle in Old Quebec City in the beautiful sunrise light

Once an expatriate has overcome the hurdles required to get a visa to relocate to Canada, it seems the entire experience of settling in is relatively smooth.  Naturally, for Britons, the lack of a language barrier in most of Canada helps on this front.

Canada is also considered a relocation destination for life by most expats surveyed, with one of the only main downsides, cited being the geographical distance of Canada from the surveyed expatriates’ home countries.  This was cited as an issue as it meant that expatriates missed their friends and family after immigrating.

Achieving an improved quality of life was a reason cited by many expats now living in Canada as a reason behind their original move…and the weather in the nation was cited as one of the most challenging aspects of settling into life.

Bermuda: good financial prospects

Finally, we come to Bermuda, which ranks alongside Bahrain in terms of the main reasons cited by expats as choosing the destination for relocation – i.e., namely for career and financial prospects.

Best countries for quality of life - Bermuda
Waterfront view along Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda

Bermuda is certainly not a destination chosen for the cost of living or even ease of integration by expats, but of those who make the move successfully into well-remunerated employment, the majority state that their quality of life is high.

The absolute most critical downside of this destination to cite is that the cost of living is almost unbelievably high, however.  Therefore you really do have to move to Bermuda and land up in a very highly paid job to really get the most out of your relocation.

Immigration red tape can be challenging too, there is also a very sharp contrast between ‘those who have’ and ‘those who have not’ in Bermuda, and until you really get in with the expats you can feel slightly isolated in this rather alien environment.

If you are earning well then yes, you can enjoy the high quality of life available for those who can afford it.  You are also more likely to really get the most of the natural benefits of living in Bermuda too such as the climate and geography, the natural environment and the decent local infrastructure.

On the whole, Bermuda really does has a lot going for it, but it is only at number five in the rankings because of its very high cost of living!

Where expats are better off living abroad

These five nations are extremely diverse in terms of their natural offerings, and yet each nation is a strong draw for expatriates specifically looking to improve their quality of life.

You can improve the quality of your life in terms of finding a lower cost of living (Thailand), or you can improve it by moving to a high paying country with lots of career and salary options for expats (Bahrain).

You can also go in search of amazing weather and scenery that will assault your senses (South Africa), or you can simply find an excellent quality of life for the long-term for the entire family (Canada).

It’s up to you how and why you want to change your life for the better  – and it’s up to you to choose the one country that will offer you the perfect balance. 

Suffice to say there are nations out there where expatriates are much happier, so what’s stopping you from making the break and going in search of a better life abroad?

You might find useful:

If you’re looking for inspiration our best-of lists are a great place to start.

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