Expat Insider survey by InterNations is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad. Each year it reveals the best cities for expats in the world. It ranks cities according to five areas of expat life: Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living.
In 2021, the Expat Insider Survey by InterNations had 12,420 respondents. Five areas of expat life are analysed, with four of them – Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing – contributing to the Expat City Ranking.
Two Spanish cities made the top 10 best cities for expats in the world: Málaga in 2nd and Madrid in 10th place.
Top 10 Best Cities for Expats 2021
The 10 best cities for expats are:
- Kuala Lumpar
- Ho Chi Minh
- Mexico City
Why Málaga is one of the best cities for expats in the world
Andalucía’s Málaga city came second out of 57 cities in the world rankings. It topped the local cost of living index with 86% of expats rating that factor positively. The average globally was 48%, demonstrating the city’s affordability in comparison to others.
Expats consider housing both affordable (67% vs 42% globally) and easy to find (70% vs 60% globally). Málaga also ranks 3rd in the Getting Settled Index and 1st in the Friends & Socialising Subcategory.
Málaga’s local people are described as friendly in general (86% vs 69% globally) and towards foreign residents in particular (82% vs. 67% globally).
Another top ranking came in the Leisure and Climate Subcategory of the Quality of Urban Living Index. There was not a single voice expressing dissatisfaction with the weather, and 86% rate local leisure options favourably. “Málaga has everything to offer for downtime,” says an Australian expat.
However, the city does not fare so well in the Urban Work Life Index, coming 51st out of 57. It ranks 32nd in the Work-Life Balance Subcategory, and performs poorly in the Job & Career (56th) and the Job Security (50th) Subcategories.
Madrid ranks #10 in the world
Madrid’s best score is in the Quality of Urban Living Index (7th overall). It does well in the Leisure & Climate (4th) and the Health & Environment (5th) Subcategories. Expats are happy with the climate (92% vs. 66% globally) and the leisure options (87% vs. 72% globally). “I like the good access to entertainment, cultural activities, and various food options,” says a UK expat.
While Madrid does well in the Local Cost of Living (14th) and Finance & Housing (25th) Indices, it comes 44th in the Urban Work Life Index. Expats are unhappy with the working hours (25% vs. 16% globally), local economy (24% vs. 19% globally), and career options (38% vs. 33% globally). However, affordability ranks well for Madrid (86% vs. 61% globally.
85% of expats in Madrid rated it highly in the Getting Settled Index (8th): 85% of expats find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally). Another 81% feel at home there (vs. 65% globally). When it comes to social life, 73% are happy (vs. 57% globally). Expats describe the local people as generally friendly (85% vs. 69% globally) and friendly towards foreign residents (79% vs. 67% globally).
Where were the worst cities for expats in the world?
In the lower section of the Expat Insider survey, are cities that may come as a shock to non-expats.
The 10 worst cities for expats in the world in 2021 are:
- Rome (57th)
- Milan (56th)
- Johannesburg (55th)
- Istanbul (54th)
- Tokyo (53rd)
- Cairo (52nd)
- Paris (51st)
- Maastricht (50th)
- Moscow (49th)
- New York City (48th)