Expat.com & APRIL International survey: Portugal and Germany stand out for quality of living

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Published on 2021-01-26 at 11:28 by Anne-Lise Mty
What defines quality of life in the world's top 10 expat destinations?

Health, cost of living, professional life, education and social life are the factors that Expat.com and its partner APRIL International took into account for their Quality of Life Survey 2021. This survey reflects expats views in ten popular expat destinations. Expat.com, a global mobility expert, and APRIL International focus on the data collected from expats in Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the United States, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.


More than 1,200 expatriates living Belgium, Canada, the UK, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the US, Thailand, the UAE, and Morocco took part in the survey. Participants had rate between 0 and 5 for each item.

The data was collected between September and October 2020 -- a timely approach so that expats could express their views about the authorities' initial response in their host countries to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the expats who took part in the survey are employees and retirees, but it includes a number of students and entrepreneurs.

Why Germany and Portugal top the ranking

Expats in Portugal and Germany were the happiest about the quality of life in their host countries. So it's obvious that these two countries top the ranking.

Most of the expats living in Portugal who responded (78%) are retired and were attracted by the vibrant social life. Not only they've been able to adapt easily, but they are also satisfied with the cultural and leisure opportunities available. In the open questions, respondents mentioned safety, the pleasant climate and the friendliness of the Portuguese.

Work-life and the quality of healthcare are the two criteria that stand out for expats in Germany. Their average score is higher than for the other destinations. Germany is popular not only for the career prospects that are on the offer but also for the working conditions. Regarding healthcare, expats are particularly impressed by the quality of the German medical infrastructure.

Top destinations for a career boost

Out of the ten destinations targeted by the survey, the United States stood out for the availability of career opportunities, and for working conditions. According to the respondents, career progression is one of the most attractive things about the US. However, employees and the self-employed point out the increasingly restrictive procedures for obtaining or extending visas.

Germany is next to the US, followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with an average score of 3.7 and Canada with a score of 3.6. Expat respondents in the UAE and in Canada highlight the attractive salaries. In Germany, working conditions and the work environment are important too.

Spain, Portugal and Thailand are the cheapest

More than half of respondents in Spain consider that their income, more or less, helps them address the cost of living. Spain is therefore deemed to be the most affordable expat destination. Most expats are happy with property prices, public transport and the cost of health care.

In Portugal also, more than half of respondents consider their income to be more or less at par with the cost of living. However, more than 70 per cent of expats in Portugal believe that healthcare costs are unreasonable.

Thailand comes third with above-average scores for property prices, public transport and food.

It's worth noting that Spain, Portugal and Thailand are popular retirement destinations, as evidenced by their participation rate in this survey.

Belgium has the best healthcare system

Belgium stands out for its health professionals and its medical infrastructure. For nearly 70% of expat respondents in Belgium, the local medical infrastructure is satisfactory or very satisfactory. In open questions, expats indicate that the quality of healthcare went beyond their expectations despite the high cost. Many of them highlight the skills and professionalism of health professionals.

The UAE and Germany are two other countries that received above-average ratings for the quality of healthcare.

The most child-friendly countries

Belgium tops this table with a score of 3.8. More than half (54%) of expat parents living in Belgium enrolled their child in local schools while only 12.5 per cent ​​opted for international schools.

Canada and the United Kingdom are two other child-friendly countries where most parents opted for local schools. On average, Canada received a score of 3.6 for its education system compared to the UK with a score of 3.5.

The best countries for leisure and integration

The UAE, Portugal, the United States and Canada top the leisure and integration rankings.

Respondents in the UAE point out the number of tourist sites and the cultural and leisure activities that are on the offer.

According to respondents, it's easy to integrate into Portugal thanks to the huge cultural and leisure offer. However, they believe that most of the activities are available around the major cities.

For expats in the United States, access to art, sports and cultural activities is more than satisfactory. Even though cultural diversity is also praised, leisure activities are expensive, according to respondents.

In Canada, most respondents enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities and Canadians' warmth in certain provinces.