Where are the best places to live in the world? It will be good to know if you are thinking of moving to another country, or wondering where your current home ranks in the list of living destinations. But where to start? Here you will find the best countries to live in the world for foreign nationals, expats and digital nomads to live and work in 2023.
If you and your family are planning to up sticks and pursue a whole new life, this could be the year to do it. For the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been impacting the rankings: national lockdowns and social distancing were affecting culture, education, safety and healthcare. Now, with the pandemic receding in many countries, remote workers are finding new opportunities popping up around the world, although several other factors – particularly cost of living crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have caused some regions to fall in the rankings.
So what exactly are the best places to live in the world right now? Here we list the nine best countries in the world to live and work abroad in 2023. As with all things, make sure you do your research before agreeing to relocate, and read as much as you can about your intended destination.
What makes these countries the best countries to live in the world in 2023?
This list covers the most amazing destinations for expatriates and their families to move to in 2023. We’ve based it on factors and latest available data including essential ideas such as housing, quality education, healthcare and employment, and quality of life: earnings potential, job security, political stability, individual freedom and environmental quality.
This list doesn’t take COVID-19 restrictions into account, so bear in mind you’ll need to do your own research about local restrictions.
When it comes to choosing the best country to live in, it will depend on who you ask. The answer will differ, especially because it all depends on what you are using to define a country as being the best. Whether it’s happiness levels, overall financial stability, type of climate, or something completely unrelated to any of these suggestions, the definition of the number one country to live in is entirely subjective.
That said, there have been many surveys conducted regarding the overall consensus as to which countries are superior in terms of livability. Various news outlets and data collectors have unveiled their findings as to which countries people view as being the best to call home.
1/ Switzerland is one of the best countries to live in
Quality of life in Switzerland
With the 4th highest GDP of any country worldwide, many expatriates come to Switzerland for the high wages. It’s one of the best countries in the world to live in for expats. However, those that do end up staying do so for other reasons. Namely the fresh alpine air, high-end luxuries, the abundance of winter activities, first-class transport connections and much, much more.
Why is this? It could have much to do with Switzerland’s unusually relaxed political climate. Famously neutral in global affairs, Switzerland benefits from a high degree of political and social stability. It also has a Gini coefficient (used to measure income inequality) of 0.299, which is much lower than many other European countries. Are there any downsides to life in Switzerland? Well, of course – but you have to look pretty hard to find them.
Average expat salary: US$200,000
Despite its diminutive size, Switzerland is globally renowned as a business, finance and commerce powerhouse.
Healthcare in Switzerland
Switzerland has the second-highest healthcare spend per capita after the United States (although all healthcare in Switzerland must be paid for through private health insurance, making international health insurance and absolute must for expats). No wonder then that Switzerland ranks no. 2 in the world for average life expectancy. It is also one of the best countries to work abroad.
Education in Switzerland
Admittedly, Switzerland is not highly ranked for state education, faring well for mathematics but languishing in mid-table for science and reading. For this reason, you may want to consider one of the 44 schools which are part of the Swiss Group of International Schools.
Expatriates may also want to weigh up the hefty cost of living against their new salaries – Zurich ties with Paris as the most expensive city in the world right now, which can make life difficult for those who aren’t earning big bucks.
But if you fancy a long, healthy life with good employment – plus an abundance of cheese and chocolate – Switzerland could be perfect for you.
Average expat salary: US$111,000
For the first time this year, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) listed Canada as the no. 1 destination people said they would move to given the chance. Canada is one of the best countries to live in 2023.
It’s not hard to see why – Canada has a particularly strong appeal to younger, digitally-minded, white collar workers owing to its strong tech and digital services scene.
Quality of life in Canada
The perks of moving to Canada are plentiful and ought to appeal especially to young families. They include free universal healthcare to all permanent residents, free public secondary education, a high degree of public safety and low air pollution. These factors make Canada one of the best countries to live in the world in 2023.
Canada is also renowned as one of the most liberal and progressive societies in the world, making it a really exciting and energising place to live, no matter what background you’re from.
Canada boasts a Gini coefficient of 0.303, which is significantly lower than its neighbour to the south, the United States – although income inequality is an increasingly visible issue in Canada.
Healthcare in Canada
Canada just misses out on a top 10 spot in both healthcare spending per capita and life expectancy. As we mentioned, universal healthcare is available to all residents in Canada and, in some provinces, is the only option (certain Canadian provinces have actually banned private healthcare, although there is plenty of debate as to whether this is constitutional).
Education in Canada
Canada is one of the best countries worldwide to receive a state education, coming within the top 10 for reading, maths and science. Plus, children growing up in Quebec and Ontario can expect to receive an education in French as well as English. Read our full guide on becoming an expat when you already have children.
Ultimately, Canada ranks highly across almost all quality of life metrics, including safety, health, the environment and life satisfaction, making it a first-class destination for expat families. While the cost of living can be expensive in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver, many citizens agree living in these cosmopolitan areas is worth the price tag.
Average expat salary: US$73,800
Once ranked the happiest country in the world (and still appearing high up in Condé Nast’s top 10), the Scandinavian country famous for its fjords and fishing may not seem the obvious place for high-flying expats to make a name for themselves – but it has plenty to recommend it. No wonder Norway is one of the best countries to live in.
Quality of life in Norway
With one of the lowest population densities in the world and fewer people in its capital city, Oslo, than in Rhode Island, what does Norway have to offer the intrepid expat, and why is it one of the best places to live in the world in 2023?
One thing is its incredible track record when it comes to income inequality – it’s Gini coefficient of 27.7 is one of the lowest in the developed world . Living in Norway may not be cheap, but expats can expect a high quality of life, no matter how much they have in the bank. Speaking of which, you may not need to worry too much about your finances because, when it comes to GDP, Norway ranks 12th in the world.
On the downside, unemployment has been increasing even before the pandemic, due in some part to the downsizing of Norway’s oil industry. However, Norway is increasingly looking towards a future full of hydropower, digital services and tourism – which is why foreign expertise is in such high demand .
Healthcare in Norway
Norway’s healthcare system is arguably one of the best in the world – and might explain why Norway ranks third in the world for life expectancy. It’s free for everyone who has national insurance in Norway, which you’ll receive when you start paying taxes.
Education in Norway
Norway ranks mid-table as far as state education goes, although it has recently been boosting its education spending. Alternatively, there are an ever-growing number of international schools springing up in Oslo.
Those moving to Norway should expect a completely different way of life. For one thing, it’s likely to be much colder than you’re probably used to! But in return, expatriates will undoubtedly discover a comfortable and cosy lifestyle. Make sure to try the Pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) while you’re there.
Average expat salary: US$69,396
A real melting pot of cultures, Singapore incorporates the best of both the eastern and western worlds into a single metropolitan republic, making it one of the best places to live in the world in 2023.
Quality of life in Singapore
Singapore’s unique history as a crucial trading port in South East Asia means it boasts one of the most developed economies worldwide, with financial services, technology and trade topping of its list of heavy-hitting industries. Singapore is extremely well-connected, acting as a trading gateway for India, Indonesia, China, Japan and Australia, while also remaining well-connected to the UK and thus to the rest of Europe.
Add to that the fact Singapore has the world’s freest economy according to the World Economic Forum, and it’s easy to see why this city-state is so popular with expats.
Furthermore, Singapore is renowned for being one of the safest cities in the world, with violent crime very rare. This probably has a lot to do with its overall high level of political and social stability. All in all, expats tend to enjoy a very relaxed lifestyle in Singapore and call it one of the best countries to live in 2023.
On the downside, Singapore’s high cost of living and high pollution, not to mention its unpredictable and sometimes unbearable climate, are some of the reasons it achieves a disappointingly average ranking in terms of quality of life.
Healthcare in Singapore
Because Singapore has one of the world’s most advanced health systems, it has the fifth-highest life expectancy of any country worldwide and the enviable title of ‘healthiest country in Asia’.
Healthcare in Singapore is based on both a state-supported public healthcare system and a thriving private sector. Whichever one you choose, expect to be treated quickly: the Bloomberg Global Health Index ranked Singapore no. 1 for efficiency in healthcare.
Education in Singapore
Singapore ranks fourth in the world for overall quality of education, including one of the highest scores in quality of science teaching worldwide. Students in Singapore also benefit from a policy of bilingual teaching, which allows them to take classes in English as well as one other language.
If its downsides don’t worry you, and you’re excited to join an up-and-coming community of metropolitan expats living their best lives in this tropical paradise, Singapore could very well be the place for you.
Check out our full guide on moving to and living in Singapore as an expat in 2023.
Average expat salary: US$69,202
With its beautiful beaches, verdant landscapes and cosmopolitan cities, Australia is a world-class destination on any day. And, as any expat who’s made the move to Australia will tell you, it also makes a fantastic home for foreign workers and their families as one of the best places to live in the world in 2023.
Quality of life in Australia
Australia ranks highest on this list for GDP per capita.
When it comes to employment, it’s good news across the board. Australia is a relatively stable country with an ardent passion for liberal democracy. Because of this, employment is high and climbing. Australia even managed to brush off the worst effects of the COVID-19 crisis fairly quickly.
Some of the key industries in Australia include finance, investment, banking and technology, and there is also an enormous natural resources sector that focuses on mining and gas. There are plenty of jobs for young people too, with a rapidly emerging digital services industry. And of course, tourism is a top industry in Australia too. Check out our guide on how to find an international job and build a career abroad.
Another thing you may notice is the rapidly escalating cost of living. Sydney and Melbourne have been known for a long time as some of the most expensive cities to live in. Now even Perth is climbing the league tables, and other Australian cities could soon follow.
Healthcare in Australia
Australia ranks eighth in the world for life expectancy, thanks to a world-leading universal healthcare system that covers everything including medical clinic visits and dentistry.
Education in Australia
In terms of education, Australia is also not faring too well with student performances declining over the last decade.
But don’t let this scare you off. Australia is a global powerhouse for trade and commerce, a modern country with a strong and ambitious economy and – best of all – home to some of the world’s best food and wine.
Average expat salary: US$62,054
Denmark has been ranked as the best country to work in for expats, with an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) work and employment score of 7.54/10. Not only does Denmark offer the best workplace benefits, it also has the enviable combination of high average salaries and low working hours with protected workers’ rights and a minimum of 25 days annual leave. But it’s not all about work – let’s take a look at what else this small Scandi haven has to offer.
Quality of life in Denmark
Outperforming across the board, Denmark offers expatriates everything from comfortable jobs (the highest paid being in energy, chemical and environmental professions) and good education options, to great quality healthcare and stunning landscapes.
That said, the cost of living in Denmark is 1.92 times higher than the world average. So you’ll need to make sure your income can support the Nordic lifestyle you want. Of course, there are areas of Denmark that are less expensive than others – living in Copenhagen, for example, will cost you substantially more in rent, bills and food than living in Aarhus, the country’s second largest city.
Sense of community and belonging is another pull factor for Denmark, with 95% of people saying they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, 4 points above the OECD average of 91%.
Healthcare in Denmark
Denmark has a free, government funded public healthcare system, which you’ll be entitled to as soon as you start paying taxes. This covers pretty much everything you could need medical-wise in Denmark, except for medications and prescriptions, which you’ll have to pay for yourself.
Education in Denmark
Denmark is consistently ranked as having one of the best education systems in the world, with the University of Copenhagen appearing in the top 100 universities worldwide . Popular among international students, Denmark offers a good range of low cost, English-taught master’s degrees, attracting students from all over the world. Tuition fees at University of Copenhagen can cost as little as US$5,855 per academic year.
Average expat salary: US$50,698
If happiness is what you’ve been searching for, look no further. Finland is currently ranked the happiest country in the world according to the World Happiness Report, which ranks countries based on gross domestic product (GDP), social support, healthcare and freedom among other factors. So grab your Finnish phrase book – here’s what makes Finland the place to be.
Quality of life in Finland
Finland might not be the first place you think to relocate, considering its famous cold winters and limited hours of daylight. However the Finns are some of the happiest folk in the world for more reasons than sunshine.
Finland is a bilingual country, with both Finnish and Swedish as national languages. Many Finns also speak English as a third language. This has made the Finns huge literature fans with a thriving public library system – Finland has previously been named the world’s most literate nation.
Other Finnish pastimes include fishing, snowboarding and ice hockey, while the stunning natural landscapes also make hiking a popular weekend activity.
The cost of living in Finland averages around 10% higher than the UK, though rents are 26% lower – utilities and food are where Finns spend the highest portion of their income.
Healthcare in Finland
Finland has a great universal healthcare system, which is available to all permanent residents. Most hospitals are equipped for common accidents and illnesses, however the treatment of some rarer or specialist treatments are centralised to one hospital or healthcare unit, such as organ transplants and severe burns, which are both treated at Helsinki University Central Hospital.
Education in Finland
Finland prides itself on having a world-class higher education system with more than 500 English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degrees across a wide variety of subjects. Finnish universities welcome over 20,000 international students every year, so expats looking to study for a Nordic degree will be in good company and will even enjoy a relatively low cost for their education, with annual tuition starting as low as US$3,926 depending on the degree.
Average expat salary: US$58,139
Austria is regularly named as one of the best countries to live in the world, which is hardly surprising when you consider its stunning natural landscapes, high air quality and first-class healthcare system. Why wouldn’t you want to live in a country where swathes of people pay to holiday?
Quality of life in Austria
When it comes to quality of life, the data speaks for itself. Austria outperforms across the board in the OECD Better Life survey, ranking above average for jobs, health, environmental quality, social connections, safety and overall life satisfaction. It also boasts a higher-than-average disposable income – US$31,001 per year, vs the OECD average of US$30,490.
Major industries in Austria include: food and drink, mechanical and steel engineering, chemical and automotive, electrics and electronics, and tourism which brings in around 12.7 million foreign visitors a year. In the capital of Vienna, financial services is the leading industry. However, it should be mentioned that getting a job in Austria as an expat might not be as easy as it sounds. English-speaking careers can be hard to come by and are often highly sought after by foreign nationals. Having at least a basic business proficiency in German will stand you in good stead if you’re planning to live and work in Austria.
Cost of living in Austria is around 8% higher than in the UK, however rent is 23% lower on average.
Healthcare in Austria
The Austrian healthcare system has a great reputation, probably owing to the fact that the Austrian government prioritises over 10% of its GDP for healthcare – 11.5% in 2020.
Universal health insurance is free for residents of Austria and the European Union and as an expat in Austria, you can apply for Austrian healthcare as soon as you start paying taxes. Your employer is then responsible for enrolling you in public health insurance. If you work for a foreign employer, you will need to look into the option of international health insurance to avoid paying the full price for your medical care.
Education in Austria
Primary and secondary education is free for Austrian residents, with classes being taught in German. International English-taught schools can be found, however they come with a price tag.
Eight of Austria’s universities appear in the top 500 universities in the world, including Austria’s oldest university, The University of Vienna, and the Vienna University of Technology. Tuition fees can fall anywhere between US$3000-$22,500 per year at an Austrian university, depending on your programme of study.
Average expat salary: US$49,619
The home of rolling vineyards, flawless beaches and snowy mountain tops. It’s easy to see why France scores consistently high for quality of life – and that’s without mentioning the cheese and wine. Here’s why France makes our list of best countries to live and work in 2023.
Quality of life in France
Get ready for long lunch breaks and leisurely evenings with France’s legally mandated 35-hour working week – that’s 13 hours less than in the UK. And if you do work overtime, you’ll be eligible for up to 22 extra days holiday in compensation. It’s a win-win.
There are a few loopholes to get through though. To work in France you’ll first need to obtain both a work visa and a residence permit. Getting a work visa can take up to two months, so make sure you can live comfortably until you get that through. It’s also highly advised to have at least a basic business-level proficiency of the French language before you apply for a job in the country. Average household income for expats in France is US$68,440.
It’s not all work and no fun, France is also great for families, with 64% of expats saying their children’s health and wellbeing was better after moving to France. Cost of living for a four person family (minus rent) is estimated at around US$3,000 per month, with rent prices averaging just under 15% lower than in the UK.
Healthcare in France
The French healthcare system is free for all citizens, with the exception of medication and prescriptions. The French government spends about 11% of GDP on healthcare every year.
To register for healthcare in France you’ll need to have lived in the country for three months and be able to provide proof of long-term residence and income. International health insurance is a popular choice among British expats in France who would prefer to be treated by an English-speaking professional.
Education in France
France is one of the best countries in the world for education, with four universities placing in the global top 100, including: Université PSL, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, Sorbonne University and Université Paris-Saclay.
And the French higher education system is incredibly international, offering more than 1,200 English-taught courses across its 72 universities, 271 doctoral schools and 227 engineering colleges.
Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind
At William Russell, we have 30 years’ experience of helping expatriates finding best places in the world to move abroad and settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class international health insurance. Plus, we produce lots of expert material to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.
Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers global health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we can even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.*