Which Country Is Best For Me?

Choosing and researching the venue for your exile


What country is best for me? Well, that of course, depends. It depends on a lot of factors, including personal preferences, your motives for expatriation, your financial circumstances, and whether you plan to work or start or run a business while abroad, or simply retire on a pension or Social Security. Below you will find a summary to help guide you to a short-list.

One thing I have noticed is that smaller countries (both in terms of area as well as population) seem to have a tendency to be more liberal and less politically repressive than larger ones. It is a trend with a lot of exceptions, of course, but there seems to be a noticable, if somewhat weak correlation. The major exceptions are small countries where the United States has a long history of intervention (Central America and the Caribbean is an obvious case), but where Foggy Bottom leaves people alone, they seem to do better at governing themselves in smaller countries than in bigger ones, for reasons I won't go into here.

This apparent trend goes out the window, however, when Foggy Bottom intervenes - so if a country has a history of being the victim of outside intervention (which almost always comes from Washington these days), it is best to think carefully about the history of outside intervention as well as the current situation and the likelihood of change, before committing to going there. The more frequent (or harsh) the intervention, the more cautious you should be, particularly if you are a political activist.

Here are some rankings by both cost of living and quality of life in a two-column table below. The cost of living rankings of 144 cities worldwide, as quoted on CNN (7/7/05), was put together by Mercer Human Resources, a company that specializes in helping corporate clients settle their expatriate employees overseas. The most expensive city, Tokyo, has a cost of living 160% of that of New York (which co-ranked with Dublin as no. 13), and Asuncion, Paraguay, has a cost of living only 44% of New York. So this will help you pick the appropriate countries for shortlisting. These rankings are based on typical expatriate corporate employee spending habits, and so they should be taken as only a rough approximation if you are inclined to live either simply or extravagantly. Some cities are low in base cost of living, and high in the cost of luxury goods and entertainment, and others vice versa. Other factors don't play into the rankings - you'll spend a lot more money on security in Buenos Aires, for example, than you will in Tokyo. So consider this to be only a rough guide, and your experience, as they say, may vary. Also, be aware that as the U.S. dollar declines in value, these rankings will change - highly dollarized economies (such as Ecuador and Panama) will become cheaper relative to non-dollarized economies, which will rise on the Mercer list.

The ranking of the top 111 countries in quality of life, as measured by The Economist Intelligence Unit, is in the second column. For information on how the countries are scored for quality of life, check the document from which this information was obtained. Rankings were based on such factors as cost of living versus average wages, crime, availability of goods and services, health and sanitation, political stability, etc. If you are planning to live on a foreign income as a retiree, pay particular attention to the first column - it is most important to you. If you are planning to support yourself by working in your new home, the second column is the most important.

Cities by Cost Of Living:
Rank, City, Country

1. Tokyo, Japan
2. Osaka, Japan
3. London, United Kingdom
4. Moscow, Russia
5. Seoul, South Korea
6. Geneva, Switzerland
7. Zurich, Switzerland
8. Copenhaen, Denmark
9. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
10. Oslo, Norway
11. Milan, Italy
12. Paris, France
13. New York City, United States
13. Dublin, Ireland
15. St. Petersburg, Russia
16. Vienna, Austria
17. Rome, Italy
18. Stockholm, Sweden
19. Beijing, China
20. Sydney, Australia
20. Helsinki, Finland
22. Douala, Cameroon
22. Istanbul, Turkey
24. Amsterdam, Netherlands
24. Budapest, Hungary
26. Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
27. Warsaw, Poland
28. Prague, Czech Republic
29. Taipei, Taiwan
30. Shanghai, China
31. Bratislava, Slovak Republic
32. Düsseldorf, Germany
33. Luxembourg, Luxembourg
34. Singapore, Singapore
34. Frankfurt, Germany
36. Dakar, Senegal
37. Munich, Germany
38. Berlin, Germany
39. Tel Aviv, Israel
40. Glasgow, United Kingdom
41. Athens, Greece
41. Brussels, Belgium
43. Barcelona, Spain
44. Los Angeles, United States
45. White Plains, United States
46. Madrid, Spain
47. Birmingham, United Kingdom
48. Zagreb, Croatia
49. Hamburg, Germany
50. Hanoi, Vietnam
50. San Francisco, United States
52. Chicago, United States
52. Beirut, Lebanon
54. Riga, Latvia
54. Kiev, Ukraine
56. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
57. Miami, United States
58. Algiers, Algeria
59. Casablanca, Morocco
60. Tallin, Estonia
61. Lyon, France
61. Honolulu, United States
63. Shenzhen, China
64. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
65. Guangzhou, China
66. Lisbon, Portugal
67. Amman, Jordan
68. Melbourne, Australia
69. Auckland, New Zealand
70. Houston, United States
71. Jakarta, Indonesia
72. Kuwait City, Kuwait
73. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
74. San Juan, Puerto Rico
75. Almaty, Kazakhstan
76. Wellington, New Zealand
76. Ljubljana, Slovenia
78. Washington, D.C., United States
79. Boston, United States
80. Morristown, United States
81. Sofia, Bulgaria
82. Toronto, Canada
83. Atlanta, United States
84. Brisbane, Australia
85. Leipzig, Germany
86. Manama, Bahrain
87. Vancouver, Canada
88. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
89. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
89. Adelaide, Australia
91. Vilnius, Lithuania
91. Accra, Ghana
93. Perth, Australia
94. Denver, United States
95. Mexico City, Mexico
96. Lagos, Nigeria
97. Cairo, Egypt
98. Calgary, Canada
99. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
100. Limassol, Cyprus
101. Detroit, United States
102. St. Louis, United States
103. Seattle, United States
103. Bucharest, Romania
105. Kingston, Jamaica
105. Mumbai, India
107. Montreal, Canada
108. Guatemala City, Guatemala
109. Cleveland, United States
110. New Delhi, India
111. Pittsburgh, United States
112. Portland (Ore.), United States
113. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
114. Panama City, Panama
115. Monterrey, Mexico
116. Johannesburg, South Africa
117. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
118. Lima, Peru
119. Nairobi, Kenya
119. Winston-Salem, United States
119. Sao Paulo, Brazil
122. Ottawa, Canada
123. Lusaka, Zambia
124. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
125. Bangkok, Thailand
126. Tunis, Tunisia
127. Dacca (Dhaka), Bangladesh
128. Santiago, Chile
129. Tehran, Iran
130. Blantyre, Malawi
131. Tianjin, China
132. Colombo, Sri Lanka
133. Bogota, Colombia
134. Harare, Zimbabwe
135. San Jose, Costa Rica
136. Karachi, Pakistan
137. Quito, Ecuador
138. Chennai (Madras), India
138. Caracas, Venezuela
140. Montevideo, Uruguay
141. Bangalore, India
142. Buenos Aires, Argentina
143. Manila, Philippines
144. Asunción, Paraguay

Countries By Quality Of Life
Rank, Country, Score (1-10)

1. Ireland 8.333
2. Switzerland 8.068
3. Norway 8.051
4. Luxembourg 8.015
5. Sweden 7.937
6. Australia 7.925
7. Iceland 7.911
8. Italy 7.81
9. Denmark 7.796
10. Spain 7.727
11. Singapore 7.719
12. Finland 7.618
13. United States 7.615
14. Canada 7.599
15. New Zealand 7.436
16. Netherlands 7.433
17. Japan 7.392
18. Hong Kong 7.347
19. Portugal 7.307
20. Austria 7.268
21. Taiwan 7.259
22. Greece 7.163
23. Cyprus 7.097
24. Belgium 7.095
25. France 7.084
26. Germany 7.048
27. Slovenia 6.986
28. Malta 6.934
29. United Kingdom 6.917
30. Korea, South 6.877
31. Chile 6.789
32. Mexico 6.766
33. Barbados 6.702
34. Czech Republic 6.629
35. Costa Rica 6.624
36. Malaysia 6.608
37. Hungary 6.534
38. Israel 6.488
39. Brazil 6.47
40. Argentina 6.469
41. Qatar 6.462
42. Thailand 6.436
43. Sri Lanka 6.417
44. Philippines 6.403
45. Slovakia 6.381
46. Uruguay 6.368
47. Panama 6.361
48. Poland 6.309
49. Croatia 6.301
50. Turkey 6.286
51. Trinidad and Tobago 6.278
52. Ecuador 6.272
53. Peru 6.216
54. Colombia 6.176
55. Kuwait 6.171
56. El Salvador 6.164
57. Bulgaria 6.162
58. Romania 6.105
59. Venezuela 6.089
60. China 6.083
61. Vietnam 6.08
62. Bahrain 6.035
63. Lithuania 6.033
64. Jamaica 6.022
65. Morocco 6.018
66. Latvia 6.008
67. Oman 5.916
68. Estonia 5.905
69. United Arab Emirates 5.899
70. Libya 5.849
71. Indonesia 5.814
72. Saudi Arabia 5.767
73. India 5.759
74. Paraguay 5.756
75. Jordan 5.675
76. Nicaragua 5.663
77. Bangladesh 5.646
78. Albania 5.634
79. Dominican Republic 5.63
80. Egypt 5.605
81. Algeria 5.571
82. Bolivia 5.492
83. Tunisia 5.472
84. Serbia and Montenegro 5.428
85. Armenia 5.422
86. Azerbaijan 5.377
87. Georgia 5.365
88. Iran 5.343
89. Macedonia 5.337
90. Guatemala 5.321
91. Honduras 5.25
92. South Africa 5.245
93. Pakistan 5.229
94. Bosnia and Hercegovina 5.218
95. Ghana 5.174
96. Kazakhstan 5.082
97. Syria 5.052
98. Ukraine 5.032
99. Moldova 5.009
100. Belarus 4.978
101. Uganda 4.879
102. Turkmenistan 4.87
103. Kyrgyz Republic 4.846
104. Botswana 4.81
105. Russia 4.796
106. Uzbekistan 4.767
107. Tajikistan 4.754
108. Nigeria 4.505
109. Tanzania 4.495
110. Haiti 4.09
111. Zimbabwe 3.892

Do your research. From the information below, you can create a short list of countries which may be suitable for you, and you should research all of the countries on your short list extensively, before prioritizing them into your best and worst choices. I would strongly advise you to do a search of Amazon using the search box at the bottom of this page to find books about all the choices you are considering, and getting one or two books (preferably not tourist guide books) about each of those countries, if you can find suitable ones. Researching on the Internet is fine, it is cheap and easy to do, but it is fraught with uncertainties. Reliability of the information is the biggest problem; much of the information available is unreliable and biased because of the fact that much, if not most of it is provided by people with an agenda, often well-concealed. Be particularly cautious in using large sites that purport to be helping you expatriate, but which link extensively to real estate listings or which are sponsored by real estate companies or immigration services, or are tourist related. Nearly all of these offer very selective information carefully calculated to give a false impression while appearing to be honest and credible. The best sites are those created by governments which are there specifically to provide reliable information regarding immigration policies, etc. Below, I have put together a summary of the major pluses and minuses of the more significant destinations, based on what I know or have heard, but you will need to do a lot of investigation on your own. Don't rely on this information alone. It is intended only to help you draw up a short list of four or five countries, based on what you want to do once you get there, and then do your own investigation of them - a lot of investigation. And please share with me what you find out, so I can pass on what you have learned to others in this space.

back to the main page


Source URL: http://www.bidstrup.com/expat.htm
Scott's Home Page
Write to Scott

Copyright © 2004-2007 by Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved.