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5 Best Places to Live in the World in 2021

Home Blog 5 Best Places to Live in the World in 2021

William Cooper

Head of Marketing

Thinking of moving to another country, or wondering where your current home ranks in the list of living destinations? Here you will find the best places to live in the world for foreign nationals to live and work in 2021.

If you and your family are planning to up sticks and pursue a whole new life, this could be the perfect year to do it. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes in many countries, workers are finding new opportunities popping up around the world. Furthermore, with the cost of living down slightly, cities in the Americas, Africa and Eastern European are more affordable than ever, according to the BBC. Here we list 5 best countries in the world to live and work abroad. 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.

Aerial view of old town, in Graubünden Canton in Switzerland / GETTY IMAGES

What makes these countries the best places to live in the world in 2021?

This list covers the moat amazing destinations for expatriates and their families to move to in 2021. We’ve based it on factors and latest available data including earnings potential, quality of life, education, healthcare and more. 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.

Our round-up of the best places to live in the world in 2021


1/ Switzerland

Quality of life in Switzerland:

With the 4th highest GDP of any country worldwide, many expatriates come to Switzerland for the high wages. 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.

In the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, three cities (Zurich, Geneva and Basel) in the miniature European nation ranked in 10 areas for quality of life. It’s one of the best places to live in the world.

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: $200,000 USD

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 global health insurance and absolute must for expats). No wonder then that Switzerland ranks no. 2 in the world for average life expectancy.

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.

Moraine Lake in the Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park, Canada / GETTY IMAGES

2/ Canada

Average expat salary: $111,000 USD

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.

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 places to live in the world in 2021.

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.

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3/ Norway

Average expat salary: $73,800 USD

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.

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 2021?

One thing is its incredible track record when it comes to income inequality – it’s Gini coefficient of 0.262 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 fifth 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.

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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.

Trolltunga (translates to ‘Troll Tongue’ in Norwegian), Norway's legendary cliff / GETTY IMAGES

4/ Singapore

Average expat salary: $69,396 USD

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 2021.

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.

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.

Old-meets-new glory in the Garden City, Singapore / GETTY IMAGES

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 2021.

What are top 10 reasons to become an expat?
Find out more here

5/ Australia

Average expat salary: $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 2021.

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.

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.

Check out our guide on how to find an international job and build a career abroad.

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.

Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind

At William Russell, we have nearly 30 years of helping expatriates finding best places in the world to move abroad and settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class global 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.*

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