Bahrain tops the list of best destinations for expatriates in the new Expat Essentials Index of 52 nations that make life abroad easiest and those that make life most challenging for foreign residents.
The index is based on data from the Expat Insider 2022 survey by InterNations, the world’s largest expat community with over 4.5 million members.
All top three destinations, Bahrain (1st), the UAE (2nd), and Singapore (3rd), offer easy communication with the lack of a language barrier, while also posing minimal bureaucratic issues.
On the other hand, expats struggle the most with getting started in Germany (52nd), Japan (51st), and China (50th). Expats in all three countries struggle with the local language and a lack of modern digitalization, the suvey said.
Bahrain: Ideal place for easy beginnings
Luckily for expats in Bahrain, finding their feet in this island country appears to be a breeze -- it secures the first place out of 52 in the ranking of the best and worst destinations to get started in.
The Admin Topics subcategory (2nd) is a particular highlight for expats in Bahrain. About two in three (67%) report that it is easy to deal with the local authorities, an impressive 27 percentage points more than the global average (40%).
Visa issues also pose very few problems: 70% say it is easy to get a visa to move there (vs. 56% globally). When it comes to Digital Life, Bahrain ranks below the global average for unrestricted access to online services, such as social media (34th) but lands in a top 10 spot for the availability of government services online (8th).
The majority of expats in Bahrain (82%) says that it is easy for them to find housing, while only about half of expats globally (54%) can say the same. However, only 39% find housing in Bahrain affordable, the same share as the worldwide average (39%). But expats in Bahrain are at least not held back by language barriers; 82% say it is easy to live there without speaking the local language (vs. 51% globally).
UAE offers worry-free bureaucracy
The UAE offers expats a smooth transition to life abroad, claiming second place in the ranking. Just like in No 1 Bahrain, the Language Subcategory (2nd) is also a major highlight for the UAE. While only 40% of expats say that learning the local language is easy (vs. 41% globally), this doesn’t seem to be a major issue, since the majority (85%) also says that it is easy to live there without speaking the local language (vs. 51% globally). Expats are also very pleased with the way Admin Topics (3rd) are handled in the UAE, voting the country 1st worldwide for the ease of obtaining a visa to move there.
Additionally, 61% say that it is easy to deal with the local bureaucracy in the UAE, compared to 40% globally.
The UAE receives mixed results in the Digital Life Subcategory (14th). On the positive side, expats vote the country 3rd out of 52 for the availability of administrative services online, as well as 10th for the ease of getting high-speed internet access at home. However, the UAE ranks 49th for unrestricted access to online services, such as social media. In fact, 19% of expats do not feel that they have unrestricted access there, almost triple the global average (7%). When it comes to the Housing Subcategory (14th), 75% consider it easy to find housing in the UAE (vs. 54% globally), but only 38% say that it is affordable (vs. 39% globally).
Ranking third out of 52 destinations, Singapore makes it especially easy for expats to get started. With English as one of its official languages, it is hardly surprising that the city-state lands in first place in the Language Subcategory.
In addition to the lack of a language barrier, expats appreciate its great infrastructure for Digital Life (4th). In no other place is it as simple to get high-speed internet access at home (1st). An impressive 97% are happy with this factor (vs. 79% globally). Another 91% are satisfied with the availability of administrative services online (vs. 61% globally).
An Indonesian respondent points out the “fast and organised online services for many administrative purposes” as a major benefit of life in Singapore. Nearly all expats (97%) also agree that cashless payment options are easily available (vs. 84% globally).
Singapore also performs strongly in the Admin Topics Subcategory (5th). About two in three expats (63%) find it easy to deal with the city-state’s authorities (vs. 40% globally), and the majority doesn’t have any difficulties opening a local bank account (81% vs. 64% globally). Lastly, Singapore gets mixed results in the Housing Subcategory (34th). On the one hand, housing is easy to find (15th), but on the other hand it is difficult to afford (47th). In fact, 71% are unhappy with the affordability of housing (vs. 43% globally).
Estonia: No. 1 for Digital Life
Estonia owes its outstanding fourth place mainly to its strong performance in both the Admin Topics and the Digital Life Subcategories (1st for both). Sorting out the basics of expat life in this Baltic state is easy in many ways.
For example, 80% of expats in Estonia found it easy to obtain their visa for moving there, compared to a worldwide average of 56%. About eight in ten (81%) have no issues dealing with the local authorities, either (vs. 40% globally).
When it comes to the availability of government services online, Estonia even ranks 1st out of 52 destinations.
“I really like how easy it is to live here,” says a British expat. “Services are usually (though not always) free of bureaucratic difficulties and demand less paperwork than in the UK.” Expats in Estonia also love the unrestricted access to online services (1st), the cashless payment options (5th), and the ease of setting up high-speed internet access at home (6th).
However, the country only gets average results in the Language and Housing Subcategories (27th for both). It is still easy enough to get by in Estonia without speaking the local language (77% happy vs. 51% globally). But expats who would like to immerse themselves deeper in the local culture might face certain challenges: 61% describe the local language as hard to learn (vs. 38% globally).
Oman: a smooth start
Expats find it very easy to find their footing in Oman — the Arab country excels in the Expat Essentials Index (5th), ranking among the top 10 in both the Housing (8th) and the Language (7th) subcategories.
Expats report that housing is both easy to find (79% vs. 54% globally) and to afford (57% vs. 39% globally). It is also easy to live in Oman without speaking the local language (75% vs. 51% globally). In fact, only 33% speak it fairly or very well, 20 percentage points less than the global average of 53%.
However, expat life in the sultanate has its restrictions: Oman (50th) joins China (52nd) and Kuwait (51st) among the bottom three destinations for unrestricted access to online services (e.g., social media).
In fact, 13% of expats feel that their online access is limited, nearly twice the global average (7%). This leads to a below-average 38th place in the Digital Life Subcategory. As far as Admin Topics (12th) are concerned, though, Oman makes life for expats relatively easy again.
Housing is a highlight in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia facilitates a smooth transition to local life for expats, ranking 7th in the Expat Essentials Index (after sixth placed Indonesia). Like its fellow Gulf states Bahrain (1st), the UAE (2nd), Oman (5th), and Qatar (8th), it offers expats relatively worry-free bureaucracy, easily available housing, and not much of a language barrier.
Not only do 62% say that housing in Saudi Arabia is easy for expats to find (vs. 54% globally), another 42% say it is affordable as well (vs. 39% globally).
“What I particularly like about Saudi Arabia are the cheap houses and the good road network,” says an expat from Uganda.
Admin topics (11th) offer little frustration for expats in Saudi Arabia, and 73% say it is easy to open a local bank account (vs. 64% globally). Only 19% speak the local language very well, compared to 33% of expats globally. But language (11th) still does not seem to pose a problem: only 18% say it is difficult to live there without speaking the local language (vs. 32% globally). Although 77% are happy with the availability of government services online (vs. 61% globally), just 51% feel they have unrestricted access to online services (e.g., social media), compared to 82% globally. This results in a mediocre rank for Saudi Arabia in the Digital Life Subcategory (25th).
Easy to get by in Qatar
Qatar ranks 8th in the Expat Essentials Index overall. It claims a place among the top 10 in the Language (5th) and Admin Topics (10th) subcategories. Close to four in five (79%) find it easy to live in the Gulf state without speaking Arabic (vs. 51% globally). As an Indian expat explains: “Everyone converses in English”.
Half the expats (50%) also find it easy to deal with the local authorities in Qatar (vs. 40% globally), and in terms of housing, the country does quite well on a global scale: 64% say it is easy for expats to find housing there (vs. 54% globally).
Qatar gets mixed results in the Digital Life Subcategory (17th). On the one hand, 91% say it is easy to pay without cash (vs. 84% globally), and another 81% like the availability of government services online (vs. 61% globally). However, the country only ranks 46th out of 52 when it comes to unrestricted access to online services, for example, social media.
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