Bahrain is the best destination for expatriates in the Middle East, according to a new survey by InterNations, the world's largest expat community with more than 4.8 million members.
Bahrain is placed 9th out of 53 destinations globally in the Expat Insider 2023 survey. Mexico (1st), Spain, Panama, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Bahrain, and Portugal (10th) are the top 10 destinations in the survey, which provides insights into expat life in the destinations, offering in-depth information on the respondents’ satisfaction with their respective countries in five indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and the Expat Essentials Index, which covers housing, administration, language, and digital life.
With more than 12,000 respondents, Expat Insider is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad. This year marks the survey’s 10th anniversary.
The UAE is placed 11th on the list, Oman 12th, Saudi Arabia 28th, Qatar 31st and Kuwait is at 53, the survey said.
Moving to and settling down in Bahrain is easy to handle for expats -- the country ranks first for admin topics (i.e., getting a visa, dealing with local authorities, opening a bank account). Digital services (8th) are also widely available, and the language (1st) is not a big hurdle for expats. But survey respondents in Bahrain are unhappy with their disposable household income (51st), and many say that they are not paid fairly for their work (48th). Still, 71% are happy with their life in Bahrain, about the same as the global average of 72%.
All top 10 destinations perform better than the global average in the Ease of Settling In Index, but with the exception of Taiwan (9th), none of them manage to rank highly in the Working Abroad Index. The top performers also see very different results when it comes to the Quality of Life Index: Spain (1st) and Taiwan (2nd) excel here, while the Philippines (48th) ends up among the bottom 10.
The worst destinations for expats are Kuwait (53rd), Norway, Türkiye, South Korea, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, and Japan (44th). All bottom five countries have average to very poor rankings in the Ease of Settling In Index. The Working Abroad Index, on the other hand, reveals a wide range of results among the bottom five destinations: Germany and Norway perform above average, while Türkiye, Kuwait, and South Korea show very poor results, the survey said.
Admin topics are not an issue in Bahrain
Administrative topics are not a reason for concern in Bahrain, finds the survey. In fact, nearly nine in ten (86%) say that opening a local bank account is easy (vs. 62% globally). For over seven in ten (73%), applying for a visa was not difficult either (vs. 57% globally), and 59% do not struggle when dealing with bureaucracy and the local authorities (vs. 39% globally).
The language barrier is rather low: 78% find it easy to live in Bahrain without speaking the local language (vs. 50% globally). And though about one in four (27%) find it difficult to learn, this is actually lower than the worldwide share of 38%.
Housing is easy to find in the country (75% vs. 49% globally).
Also, Bahrain is thriving when it comes to digital life (8th). It is easy to get high-speed internet access at home (6th), and administrative tasks can easily be taken care of online (7th), says the survey.
Finding friends is easy for expats
Ranking 9th in the Ease of Settling In Index, Bahrain is a great destination for Finding Friends (6th).
In fact, 64% of expats in Bahrain find it generally easy to make local friends (vs. 43% globally). The Local Friendliness (15th) probably plays no small part in that — 82% describe the local population as generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 65% globally). But for many survey respondents, their social life is a particular highlight: 70% are happy with this factor, compared to a global average of 56%. Unsurprisingly, the majority of expats feels welcome in Bahrain (84% vs. 67% globally).
Due to some mixed results, Bahrain ranks only 20th in the Quality of Life Index. Expats are particularly happy with the easy access to all kinds of healthcare services (78% vs. 65% globally).
And 78% appreciate the quality of medical care (vs. 70% globally).
Still, the Environment & Climate (40th) offers some reasons for concern: 17% rate the natural environment poorly (vs. 6% globally), while 20% say the same about the urban environment (vs. 16% globally). Many expats also do not seem to cope well with the arid climate and weather (51st).
Great career prospects
Moving to Bahrain has improved their career prospects, according to 71% of survey respondents (vs.59% globally). Another 63% agree that the local business culture encourages creativity and thinking outside the box, compared to 51% globally.
At the same time, 24% are unhappy with their working hours (vs. 16% globally). With an average of 49.3 hours per week for full-time employees, these are indeed much longer than the global average
of 42.7 hours. Bahrain ranks only 41st for work-life balance.
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