The best and worst cities for ex-pats to live in for 2021, as ranked by Internations

  • Out of 57 cities in the Expat City Ranking 2021, Kuala Lumpur ranks 1st, followed by Singapore (5th), Ho  Chi Minh City (6th), Bangkok (11th), Shanghai (13th), Hong Kong (46th), and Tokyo (53rd). Kuala Lumpur (1st), Málaga, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Prague, Mexico City, Basel,  and Madrid (10th) are the top 10 cities for ex-pats to live in 2021.  

  • On the other hand, ex-pats consider Rome (57th), Milan, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Tokyo, Cairo, Paris,  Maastricht, Moscow, and New York (48th) the world’s worst cities to live in.  

Munich, 1 December 2021 — Seven Asian cities are featured in the Expat City Ranking 2021 by  InterNations, the world’s largest ex-pat community with over 4 million members: Kuala Lumpur ranks  1st out of 57, followed by Singapore (5th), Ho Chi Minh City (6th), Bangkok (11th), Shanghai (13th),  Hong Kong (46th), and Tokyo (53rd). Most of the Asian cities featured in the survey are among the best-rated cities worldwide in terms of getting settled, finance and housing, and the local cost of living.  However, Tokyo and Hong Kong land among the ten worst-rated cities worldwide: among other things,  ex-pats find it particularly hard to settle down in Tokyo and are unhappy with the cost of living in Hong  Kong.  

The Expat City Ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations, which is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, with 12,420 respondents in 2021. This year, 57 cities around the globe are analyzed in the survey, which offers in-depth information about five areas of ex-pat life: Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work-Life, Finance & Housing,  and Local Cost of Living. Together, the first four topics make up the Expat City Ranking, which reveals the best and worst cities for ex-pats to live in. 

1 | Kuala Lumpur Is the World’s Best City for Expats 

Kuala Lumpur makes it to the very top of the Expat City Ranking 2021. The city excels in the Getting  Settled Index (1st), with top 10 results in all subcategories. In fact, three-quarters or more feel at home there (75% vs. 65% globally) and find it easy to get used to the local culture (78% vs. 65% globally).  Most are also happy with the general friendliness of the local population (81% vs. 69% globally), as well as their friendliness towards foreign residents (77% vs. 67% globally). A US American ex-pat shares: “I love the culturally diverse environment of Kuala Lumpur. The overall friendliness of  Malaysians makes it the best place to retire.”  

Kuala Lumpur also ranks 1st out of 57 in the Finance & Housing Index: ex-pats find housing both affordable (74% vs. 42% globally) and easy to find (91% vs. 60% globally). Additionally, 80% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally), and 64% say that their household income is more than enough to cover expenses (vs. 52% globally). It might help that Kuala Lumpur also ranks 3rd in the  Local Cost of Living Index, with 78% of ex-pats rating this aspect positively (vs. 48% globally).  

However, the city gets average results in the Urban Work Life Index (30th): ex-pats are very happy with their working hours (6th) and their work-life balance (7th) but not so much with the state of the local economy (40th) and the career opportunities (44th). Lastly, Kuala Lumpur only ranks 41st in the  Quality of Urban Living Index. Expats’ satisfaction is below the global average when it comes to political stability (35% happy vs. 64% globally), personal safety (78% vs. 84% globally), the public transportation system (57% vs. 69% globally), and the urban environment (66% vs. 71% globally).  

11 | Bangkok: Finance and Housing Are Great — The Urban Environment Is Not 

Bangkok (11th out of 57) narrowly misses out on the top 10 of the Expat City Ranking 2021. It has excellent results in the Finance & Housing Index (3rd): 71% of ex-pats are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally). They also consider housing easy to find (87% vs. 60% globally) and affordable (64% vs. 42% globally). Bangkok excels in the Local Cost of Living Index (9th) too: 65% rate the cost of living positively (vs. 48% globally). A British ex-pat shares: “There is a great range of  supermarkets, with options that cover all budgets.” He adds that “whether you are renting or buying,  it is affordable”. 

Bangkok has an above-average performance in the Getting Settled Index (18th), particularly in the  Friends & Socializing Subcategory (10th): 74% of ex-pats are happy with their social life (vs. 57%  globally). Another 81% rate the general friendliness of the local residents positively (vs. 69% globally),  contributing to the city’s 11th place in the Local Friendliness Subcategory.  

However, Bangkok receives poor results in the Quality of Urban Living Index (43rd). Expats are happy with the availability of healthcare (88% vs. 76% globally) and its quality (89% vs. 71% globally), but the city ends up in the bottom 3 for its urban environment (55th): 39% rate this factor negatively (vs. 16%  globally); only in Ho Chi Minh City (56th) and Cairo (57th) are ex-pats less satisfied. A US American ex-pat shares that there are “pollution and environmental concerns and so much plastic waste” in Bangkok.  Bangkok also ranks below the global average in the Urban Work Life Index (40th). While ex-pats are very happy with their job in general (3rd), there seem to be few career opportunities (52nd): 41% are unhappy with the latter (vs. 33% globally).  

53 | Tokyo: One of the Worst Cities in the World for Settling In 

Ranking 53rd out of 57 in the Expat City Ranking 2021, Tokyo is voted the worst city worldwide in the  Getting Settled Index (57th). Here, it ranks in the bottom 10 across the board, apart from the general friendliness of the local residents (42nd). Communication seems to be a particular issue — ex-pats find it difficult to learn the language (75% vs. 42% globally) and to live in Tokyo without speaking Japanese  (54% vs. 29% globally). Another 38% find it hard to get used to the local culture (vs. 18% globally). The city even ranks last worldwide for the latter. “You can hardly feel like a local living in Japan, and it can be difficult to integrate,” says an ex-pat from the UK. It probably does not help that 40% of survey respondents describe the local population as generally unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18%  globally).  

Tokyo also ranks among the bottom 10 in the Urban Work Life Index (49th). About one-third, each rate their working hours negatively (35% vs. 16% globally) and are unhappy with their work-life balance  (32% vs. 17% globally). Only ex-pats in Istanbul are less satisfied with the latter. Tokyo performs just slightly better in the Finance & Housing Index (43rd): 50% say that it is hard to find housing (vs. 23%  globally), and 58% describe it as unaffordable (vs. 39% globally). Overall, 23% are unhappy with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally).  

However, Tokyo does really well in the Quality of Urban Living Index (14th), even ranking in the top 10  for personal safety (7th). Nearly all ex-pats (96%) feel safe there (vs. 84% globally). Expats are also happy with the public transportation system (87% vs. 69% globally) and 77% find healthcare affordable  (vs. 61% globally).  

About the Expat City Ranking 2021 

The Expat City Ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations. For the survey,  InterNations asked 12,420 ex-pats representing 174 nationalities and living in 186 countries or territories to provide information on various aspects of ex-pat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality. In addition to their satisfaction with life in their host country, respondents were also invited to share their opinions on the city they are currently living in.  

Participants were asked to rate more than 25 different aspects of urban life abroad on a scale of one to seven. The rating process emphasized the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects,  considering both emotional topics and more factual aspects with equal weight. The respondents’  ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 13  subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up four topical indices: Quality of Urban  Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work-Life, and Finance & Housing. These were further averaged in order to rank all cities worldwide that had the required number of participants for the minimum sample size. (The survey also includes a Local Cost of Living Index, which does, however, not factor into the  overall ranking to avoid overrepresenting financial aspects.) In 2021, the top 10 cities for ex-pats are  Kuala Lumpur (1st), Málaga, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Prague, Mexico City, Basel,  and Madrid (10th).  

For a city to be featured in the Expat City Ranking 2021, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per city was required. In total, 57 cities met this requirement. 

About InterNations  

With more than 4 million members in 420 cities around the world, InterNations is the largest global community and a source of information for people who live and work abroad. InterNations offers global and local networking and socializing, both online and face to face. At around 6,000 events and activities per month, expatriates have the opportunity to meet other global minds. Online services include discussion forums and helpful articles with personal ex-pat experiences, tips, and information about life abroad. Membership is by approval only to ensure we remain a community of trust. InterNations is part of the NEW WORK SE, a group of brands that offer products and services for better working life. 

Find more information about InterNations on our press page, in our company blog, or in our magazine.   

The preceding is a press release published with full permission and authorization by the organization(s) listed in the PR material and TPN media. The statements, thoughts, and opinions of the organization involved in the press release are entirely their own and may not necessarily represent those of TPN media and its staff.

For more information and to see charts and more details on rankings:

2021-12-01_Graphic_Expat City Ranking 2021_Best & Worst Cities

2021-12-01_Graphic_Expat City Ranking 2021_Asian Cities

2021-12-01_Press Release_Expat City Ranking 2021_Asian Cities

2021-12-01_Press Release_Expat City Ranking 2021_The Best and Worst Cities

The preceding is a press release published with full permission and authorization by the organization(s) listed in the PR material and TPN media. The statements, thoughts, and opinions of the organization involved in the press release are entirely their own and may not necessarily represent those of TPN media and its staff.

Adam Judd
Mr. Adam Judd is the Co-owner of TPN Media since December 2017. He is originally from Washington D.C., America, but has also lived in Dallas, Sarasota, and Portsmouth. His background is in retail sales, HR, and operations management, and has written about news and Thailand for many years. He has lived in Pattaya for over nine years as a full-time resident, is well known locally and been visiting the country as a regular visitor for over a decade. His full contact information, including office contact information, can be found on our Contact Us page below. Stories please e-mail Editor@ThePattayanews.com About Us: https://thepattayanews.com/about-us/ Contact Us: https://thepattayanews.com/contact-us/