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From Valencia to Johannesburg: The Cities Offering the Best (& Worst) Life Abroad

March 1, 2023

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NEWS & ARTICLES

The Expat City Ranking 2022 reveals that Valencia, Dubai, and Mexico City are the top three destinations that offer great ease of settling in. However, the bottom three destinations face significant financial and administrative challenges that make it difficult for expats to settle down and thrive.


The Top 10 Cities for Expats

• Valencia

• Dubai

• Mexico City

• Lisbon

• Madrid

• Bangkok

• Basel

• Melbourne

• Abu Dhabi

• Singapore



#1 Valencia: The Expat Ideal


Valencia has topped the Expat City Ranking 2022 and is also ranked 1st in the Quality of Life Index. Expats find public transportation to be affordable and appreciate the wide range of recreational sports opportunities. They feel safe in Valencia and have a good social life. The city also ranks highly in the Personal Finance Index and is rated positively for cost of living by expats. However, its weakest point is the Working Abroad Index, specifically Career Prospects, where it ranks last due to negative ratings from expats about the local job market and their own career opportunities. Overall, Valencia is considered livable, friendly, and affordable by expats.

#2 Dubai: Perfect for Work Life Balance


Dubai has once again proved to be a top destination for expats, securing the second spot in the Expat City Ranking 2022. The city also claims the top position in the Expat Essentials Index and its Admin Topics Subcategory. According to expats, dealing with local authorities in Dubai is hassle-free, with 66% expressing satisfaction compared to 40% globally. Additionally, 88% of expats are happy with the availability of government services online, compared to 61% globally, though 18% are unhappy with the access to such services, compared to only 7% globally.


Dubai ranks 8th on the Ease of Settling In Index, and expats express high levels of satisfaction with their social life, with 68% satisfied compared to 56% globally. Expats also feel welcomed in the city, with 81% expressing this sentiment compared to 66% globally. The Quality of Life Index positions Dubai at 6th place, with high satisfaction levels for infrastructure for cars, with 95% satisfaction compared to 75% globally. Dubai also ranks highly in culture and nightlife (5th), as well as culinary variety and dining options (3rd).

Dubai also performs well in the Working Abroad Index, ranking sixth overall. Expats are content with their jobs, with 70% expressing satisfaction compared to 64% globally. Expats also find that the local business culture in Dubai promotes creativity, with 78% expressing this sentiment compared to 51% globally.

#3 Mexico: Friendly and Affordable


Ranked at number 3, Mexico City is known for being friendly and affordable, but also unsafe. It ranks first worldwide in the Ease of Settling In Index, with expats feeling at home and welcome there, and 87% describing the local residents as generally friendly. In the Personal Finance Index, Mexico City takes the top spot with expats being the most satisfied with their financial situation there. Despite an average performance in the Working Abroad Index, expats are happy with their personal career opportunities and jobs overall.

However, in the Expat Essentials Index, Mexico City ranks 30th, with Admin Topics being an issue, while housing is both easy to find and afford. Unfortunately, Mexico City is in the bottom 10 of the Quality of Life Index, ranking 44th. Expats are particularly disappointed with the Environment & Climate and Safety & Security Subcategories. Over one-third of expats are unhappy with their personal safety in the city, compared to only 9% globally.

The Bottom 10 Cities for Expats


• Rome

• Tokyo

• Vancouver

• Milan

• Hamburg

• Hong Kong

• Istanbul

• Paris

• Frankfurt am Main

• Johannesburg


#50 Johannesburg: The Worst Place for an Expat to be

Johannesburg is considered the worst city for expats overall and especially in the Quality of Life Index, ranking 50th. Expats are dissatisfied with the affordability and availability of public transportation, with 25% and 39% expressing unhappiness respectively, compared to 15% and 17% globally. Additionally, expats feel unsafe in the city, with 62% expressing this sentiment compared to only 9% globally.


In the Working Abroad Index, Johannesburg ranks 49th, with expats rating the local job market and their personal career opportunities negatively. Expats are also dissatisfied with their personal finances, with 41% expressing unhappiness compared to 21% globally. Furthermore, 44% of expats in Johannesburg feel that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life, compared to 28% globally, putting the city in 47th place in the Personal Finance Index.


However, one bright spot is that housing is affordable, with 46% expressing happiness compared to 39% globally, which is one reason why Johannesburg still ranks 36th in the Expat Essentials Index. Unfortunately, expats rate the availability of government services online negatively, with 41% expressing unhappiness compared to 21% globally.


#49 Frankfurt: Difficulty with Administrative Services

Frankfurt is ranked last in the Expat Essentials Index, coming in at 50th place. The city also ranks amongst the bottom 10 in all its subcategories, including Digital Life, Language, Admin Topics, and Housing. Close to two in five expats are unhappy with the administrative services available online and the options to pay without cash, while housing is considered too expensive, with 70% expressing dissatisfaction compared to 43% globally. Additionally, expats are unhappy with the general cost of living, with 51% expressing this sentiment compared to 35% globally, ranking the city 41st in the Personal Finance Index.


In the Ease of Settling In Index, Frankfurt ranks 48th, with many expats having a hard time making local friends and finding it difficult to get used to the local culture. However, Frankfurt performs somewhat better, but still below average, in the Working Abroad and Quality of Life Indices. While the city ranks well for its infrastructure for cars, it is rated the worst worldwide for the affordability of public transportation, ranking 50th in this category.

#48 Paris: Welcoming with a Price


Paris is among the bottom 5 in the Expat Essentials Index, ranking 47th. Expats find it extremely challenging to find housing, with the city also ranking 47th in this subcategory. Additionally, 71% of expats in Paris say that housing costs are too high, compared to 43% globally. High expenses also impact the Personal Finance Index, with 62% of expats considering the general cost of living too high and 35% expressing dissatisfaction with their financial situation, compared to 21% globally.


Expats do not feel very welcome in Paris, with the city ranking 45th in this category, which is one of the reasons for its bottom 5 ranking in the Ease of Settling In Index at 46th place. Many expats consider the Parisians unfriendly towards foreign residents, with 35% expressing unhappiness compared to 18% globally, and they find it hard to make local friends, with 58% expressing this sentiment compared to 37% globally.

On the positive side, Paris ranks midfield for Quality of Life, taking the 30th spot. Expats appreciate the culinary variety and dining options, as well as the culture and nightlife. However, 23% of expats worry about their personal safety, compared to 9% globally.


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