Becoming an Expat: the Why, the How, & the Best Countries For Expats In 2022

Has the idea of moving abroad always been on your to-do list since you can remember? Or are you just starting to toy with the possibility of switching up your home base? Whichever the case, you’re sure to ask yourself: what are the best countries for expatriates?

The truth is, there’s no single answer to the question — the best place for you to live will always depend on several factors. However, you can research the experiences of fellow expats and use that info to decide where your new home base will be.

This article explores the best countries for expats in 2022, giving you a few ideas about where to look if you’ve got your heart set on moving abroad.

Why Move in the First Place?

To some, the idea of leaving their home country and moving someplace new seems crazy. Yet statistical data shows that it’s not that uncommon. 

In fact, according to information released by the State Department in 2016, almost 9 million Americans were living abroad that year. And because remote work has significantly increased in popularity since then, that number is likely to be even higher in 2022.

Further research into the profile and habits of expats shows that the most popular destinations for expats in 2021 included Taiwan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Portugal. The majority (18%) of them are 61 or older. 63% are in a relationship, most of them without dependent children. And 83% of expats surveyed in 2021 had a university degree.

And, perhaps most importantly, most of those who have decided to move abroad are planning to stay longer than five years or possibly forever.

As you can imagine, there are a million reasons why a person might consider relocating to a different country or continent.

For some, the move is job-related. Others decide to take this step to be close to their loved ones. Some people move abroad for school, and some are looking for a change or seeking an adventure.

But, whatever your motivation for considering becoming an expatriate, these are the things you can expect from the change.

  • Lower cost of living — One of the top benefits of moving abroad is that it allows you to increase your buying power (and might even give you the chance to purchase your first property). Because many countries popular with expats have a lower cost of living, relocating might allow you to enjoy life to the fullest without having to work more. If you’re interested in the financial aspects of becoming an expat then definitely consult a cost of living calculator.
  • New experiences & growth — The second thing you’re sure to get as you relocate is new experiences (along with a few cultural shocks). Inescapably, moving to a new country forces you to expand your horizons. It will require you to learn a new language, meet new people, and learn new things about yourself that you might never have figured out in your home country.
  • Improved work-life balance — Unfortunately, living in most western countries is pretty inconvenient for those trying to work and enjoy life to the fullest. And, sure, most of that is due to poor work culture and our need to please. Still, it’s worth noting that moving to a new country usually forces people to change their perspectives. It also pushes them to explore their new home country and, consequently, focus less on work and more on enjoying life.
  • The happiness factor — Lastly, it’s worth noting that there are certain countries where people simply live happier lives. According to the World Happiness Report from 2022, the top places to live (based on GDP, social support, life expectancy, and freedom to make choices) include Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Note that Germany and the US, the two countries with the highest number of expats, rank at positions 14 and 16 respectively, which could explain the high levels of emigration.

Best Countries for Expats

Now that you have a solid idea of why you should (at least) consider moving to a different country or continent, it’s time to talk about the where.

Sure, the choice of potential places to settle your roots for the foreseeable future is endless. However, if you’re already making such a huge change in your life, picking the right country to move to is essential in ensuring that you actually experience the benefits of becoming an expatriate.

Now, there are many factors based on which you might make your decision. If you’re a fan of classical art, theatre, or fine cuisine, your obvious choice will be to settle down somewhere in Europe. Nonetheless, if you prefer a tropical climate, chilling by the beach, or going on exciting new adventures, you’d do much better in Asia or Africa.

Of course, when deciding where to move, it’s also important to consider aspects like safety, infrastructure, healthcare, and cost of living, to ensure that your decision works for you in the long run.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best countries for expats, with each one bringing something unique to the table.

Taiwan

According to the latest survey from InterNations, Taiwan has ranked as the top destination for expats for three years in a row. It offers a high quality of life, excellent job security, and a great quality of medical care. On top of that, Taiwan is so popular because it’s a place where expats feel safe.

Plus, let’s not forget that the Taiwanese are friendly and welcoming. Taipei offers some of the best street food in the world. And Taiwan is the perfect destination for digital nomads who need fast WiFi connections.

Additionally, don’t forget that the outlook of moving to most Asian countries is excellent, with 71% of people feeling optimistic about the year ahead.

Mexico

Mexico is, statistically, the most popular destination for American expats. In fact, approximately 5% of all United States citizens have permanent residence in this country.

And, if you look at the data, this isn’t much of a surprise. For starters, Mexico offers a low cost of living (especially if you compare it to the US). According to digital nomadism expert George Mouratidis, also an excellent choice for those who want to kick back and relax, are looking for a destination that’s easy to settle into, and want to make friends. 

Moreover, don’t underestimate the fact that Mexico is one of the closest destinations for US expats, which means that moving there doesn’t have to represent a logistical nightmare. And, with the right tools and technique, finding cheap flights to Mexico is a walk in the park, making Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other engagement in your native country that much easier.

Canada

If you’re worried about the language barrier, you might do slightly better in Canada. 

Though it’s not as warm or kicked back as Mexico, this North American country is an excellent choice if you’re searching for exciting career opportunities. Moreover, it’s a place you can expect to settle into easily. And it’s also a country where the quality of life is really high, especially in terms of infrastructure, government services, and the accessibility of high-quality healthcare.

Plus, don’t forget that cities like Montreal are super-instagrammable, which is great — especially if you’re looking for a new hometown that’ll allow you to explore a new hobby.

Portugal

Would you prefer to be in Europe? In that case, Portugal should definitely make it to the top of your potential new home countries.

Portugal boasts a rich history with some of the world’s most stunning art and architecture. It is also an EU member, which means that the living conditions are excellent, despite the lowest cost of living in Western Europe.

Couple these benefits with opportunities to explore some of the world’s most beautiful nature, a delicious national cuisine (and wine), and meet friendly people, and you’ve got yourself one of the best countries for expats.

Couple these benefits with opportunities to explore some of the world’s most beautiful nature, a delicious national cuisine (and wine), and meet friendly people, and you’ve got yourself one of the best countries for expats.

Switzerland

Are you emigrating with kids (or thinking about starting a family)? In that case, you might want to relocate to a place that’ll offer safety and security, such as Switzerland.

In addition to great cheese and prime skiing conditions, this destination also offers some of the best living conditions for expats. Workers in Switzerland are some of the highest-paid in the world. All employees are entitled to at least four weeks of time off per year. Mothers receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. And dads can also ask for paternity leave. Couple this with the fact that the country is breathtakingly beautiful, clean, and ordered, and you’ll find that Switzerland is an excellent option for relocating.

However, note that the move might be tricky, as the country has a complicated visa system. Plus, if you’re applying for permanent residence, you’ll need to prove you speak German, French, or Italian, which may require a prolonged preparatory period.

New Zealand

Finally, if you can’t decide where to put down roots because you want both security and adventure, don’t worry. There’s a country that offers both: New Zealand.

A survey from 2019 discovered that two-thirds of Kiwis were satisfied with their work-life balance. Couple this with a high standard of living, the nonexistent language barrier, healthcare access for all, and some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes for exploring. The result is a super-attractive destination that can be a fantastic option for people of all ages and professional backgrounds.

Final Thoughts

If you’re thinking about an international move, the countries we’ve listed here are all excellent destinations for you to consider. However, before you make your final decision, make sure you’ve considered all your options. Don’t rule out places just because they’re not mentioned in this article or don’t rank high amongst other expats. After all, every single person is different. And what works for one won’t necessarily tick all the boxes for another.

Moreover, if you work remotely, try to give yourself the opportunity to test out a few destinations first. That way, you can ensure, with absolute certainty, that the country you’ve picked to make your new home is the best choice for you and your family and that you’re ready to spend the next few months or years living there.

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