Expat Exile: These Are the Worst Countries in the World to Move to for a Happy Life
America continues to be a melting pot of varying nationalities as waves of foreigners trek across the waters to live and work in the United States. But as millions are coming, many are leaving. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that numerous celebrities and everyday Americans threatened a move overseas after Donald Trump’s presidential win.
Immersing oneself in a different culture sounds exciting for those looking for a change of pace. But living in another country as an expatriate can be rough, and the good life can turn overwhelming if you aren’t supported in other ways. Americans sometimes take things, such as safety, job security, and culture, for granted. And once overseas, you could be in for a shock if you arrive unprepared.
Have you ever wondered how welcome you’d feel in another country? What about how long your paycheck will last in a different economy? Internations attempted to answer those very questions in its 2017 Expat Insider study. It surveyed expats to see how they felt about living and working in certain countries, considering quality of life, personal finances, cost of living, education, and safety.
Bahrain, Costa Rica, and Mexico are solid choices for anyone looking to live abroad, but other countries might require a second look. In these 15 counties, living as an expat might not be a risk you’re willing to take.
Expats might be drawn to the breathtaking countryside on Chile’s South American coast, but most residents report difficulty immersing themselves in the local culture as an expat. Many nearby countries in South America wrestle with crime, but Chile is regarded as one of the safest nations in Latin America. Still, its rankings for family life and personal finance are merely mediocre, and many foreign expatriates report a heightened struggle to make friends.
Next: Chile’s neighbor to the east
On the bright side, expatriates in Argentina are intensely satisfied with their romantic relationships and even report being in a loving union with a local. But the honeymoon phase could be destined for failure once the financial struggles arise. Much like its Chilean neighbor to the west, Argentina rank second to last in job security and fourth worst overall in Internations’ working abroad index.
Next: A serious problem in Indonesia
Living as an expat in Indonesia will require some serious adjusting. Internations puts Indonesia in the bottom 10 countries for working abroad. Other analyses echo this sentiment, claiming that expats are leaving in record numbers after trying and failing to find steady work in the country. “Foreign workers are leaving Indonesia at an increasing rate due to the slump in commodity prices that has forced resource companies to slash jobs at a time when the government has also introduced tighter regulations on expatriates in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy,” Reuters reports.
And because a steady income will heavily influence your expat experience, those considering a move to southeast Asia might want to do some serious planning before making such a major life decision.
Next: Brexit’s influence on U.K. expats
12. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is one of the survey’s biggest losers. The country sank most noticeably in categories pertaining to work and family life, falling 21 total spots lower than in 2016. Brexit surely had a play in these results, as nearly 77% of expats view the UK’s political stability unfavorably. The pound is getting weaker, and the cost of living is as a top issue for those relocating to this country. Combine that with an insecurity about the job market, and it’s easy to see why expats are feeling glum about their futures abroad.
Next: See why China is one of the worst countries to move to.
The Internations’ survey describes the issues facing China’s expatriates as, “China: Where your career soars, but your health suffers.” It should come as no surprise that expats are generally pleased with the strong economy and job growth associated with China’s economic boom. In fact, many are better off financially considering China offers the second highest expat salary packages in the region.
But you won’t hear anyone raving about health care. Respondents say pollution is unhealthy, and health care is too expensive. Other poor ratings include pricey international education and a struggle to feel at home amidst the Chinese culture.
Next: Safety in Turkey
Turkey ranks as the 10th worst country for expat relocation. In regard to quality of life, personal finance, cost of living, and safety, Turkey falls mid-pack with no real category emerging as a loser — or winner. Local crime is low, but according to Overseas Security Advisory Council, “The conflict in Syria and the renewed hostilities between Kurdish terrorists and Turkish security forces in Kurdish-majority provinces of the southeast continue to be of concern to the overall stability.” Therefore, expats concerned with safety might want to reconsider their plans to move to Turkey.
Next: The myriad problems in India
India is a paradox for expat metrics. It ranks ninth overall in personal finance but in the bottom five for quality of life. Cheap living expenses mean expats can live a life of luxury but only if they can find time in their 47.7-hour average work week. Culture shock is tough for women in India, and many report feeling unsettled and unsafe in their overseas journey. And last, it should come as no surprise that one of the most populated countries in the world struggles with daily travel and transport metrics.
Next: Why living as an expat in Qatar will be rough
Qatar is another country where women feel uneasy, as only 46% of respondents report actually feeling welcome in the country. Expats on a budget should be cautious before moving to Qatar. Ranking 61st out of 65 countries in the cost of living index, expats found housing accommodations particularly expensive as rent usually constitutes a third of their overall earnings. Although 77% of respondents view the Qatari economy positively, Internations notes the survey was conducted prior to the diplomatic crisis and the cutting of trade ties between Qatar and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
Next: A negative attitude in Ukraine
The global financial crisis coupled with Russia’s tense political relations in the country put Ukraine’s financial sector on thin ice in 2017. Although 76% said they were generally satisfied with their financial situation in 2016, this dropped by 13 percentage points in 2017. Ukraine dipped to 39th place in the personal finance index as a result. Even worse, expats struggle to feel at home in the eastern European country, as only half of residents report friendliness and a welcoming attitude toward foreigners.
Next: Why it’s so tough to live as a foreigner in Italy
A popular travel destination, Italy attracts a high number of expats craving authentic food and a rich history each year. But it ranks as the sixth worst country for expatriate living due to continued concerns about economic stability and personal finance struggles. Nearly 33% of respondents in Italy claim their income is not enough to cover daily living expenses, and even more are not satisfied with their financial situations. Burdened with debt, many expats note navigating the job market and understanding the taxes are tougher than expected, which might be because Italy has one of the most complex tax systems in the world.
Next: Struggles in Saudi Arabia
5. Saudi Arabia
Like many of its neighboring Gulf countries, women feel particularity uncomfortable in Saudi Arabia. The country places second to last in personal happiness and leisure, which could make creating a satisfying new life tougher than expected. Language barriers are a major inconvenience. And just 26% of expats in Saudi Arabia rate the friendliness toward families as very good, which is well below the global average of 48% reported in the survey.
Next: See why living in Brazil isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The tropical climate and friendly local population are a thin silver lining in an otherwise dim quality of life for Brazilians. One must only recall the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio to understand why expatriates experience such struggles in this country. Nearly 68% of those surveyed feel uneasy about their personal safety and anxious when they are out alone at night. Residents also report that the roads and infrastructure are “old and decrepit.” In addition, expats with families must take a hard look at the education system in this country before making the southward move, as a third of parents rank it as subpar and second to last in affordability.
Next: Bad news for Nigeria
The results of Internations’ expat survey leave no room for doubt that Nigeria is one of the worst countries to move to. The country falls to last place for travel and transport, health and well-being, and safety and security indexes. But it’s not all bad news. If you can withstand the heavy side effects of a poor quality of life, you might experience a stronger financial situation. Nigeria jumped from 32nd in 2016 to 12th place in 2017 for personal finance ratings.
Next: Women in Kuwait
A nonexisting tax rate makes Kuwait highly attractive to antsy expats, but the fact that nearly 1 in 5 residents fall into the lowest income bracket cancels any aforementioned benefits. Still Kuwait improved by one spot, no longer serving as the world’s worst country to move to. Overall quality of life remains a struggle as Kuwait comes in last for leisure options and personal happiness — qualities those immersed in unfamiliar territory will crave most.
Women, especially, should think long and hard about a move here. More than 1 in 5 are dissatisfied with their life, compared to a worldwide average of only 9%.
Next: The absolute worst country to live as an expat is …
Finances and family life are causing headaches for expats in Greece, and it hasn’t let up in years. It consistently falls to last place every year in personal finance metrics. Nearly half of the respondents say their household income is not enough to cover their daily expenses, with 27% even saying it’s not nearly enough to get by. Greece got last place for family life, as both the cost of child care and education have poor ratings. Add in a pretty terrible work-life balance, and it’s no wonder Greece is the worst country to move to as an expat.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.