Where are the best countries to live in the world? Whether you’re thinking of moving to another country, or looking to see if your current home ranks in the list of living destinations, we’ve gone around the world to find the best countries for expats to move to in 2023.
2023 is the perfect year for you and your family to up sticks and pursue a whole new life. With more companies switching to remote and flexible working, the allure of living abroad – whether as a long-term expat, or a short-term digital nomad – has never been bigger. And, as many countries experience a cost of living crisis, you may even find a less expensive lifestyle overseas, while also opening the door to a higher quality of life, better education and great healthcare.
So what exactly are the best places to live in the world right now? Here we list the ten 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.
As experts in international health insurance with over 30 years’ experience helping expats settle into their new lives overseas, we’ve kept a close eye on the countries our expat community tends to settle down. Our list of the top ten countries to move to in 2023 is based on findings from our expat and digital nomad members, drawn from the areas they tend to report the best quality of life, income to spending ratio, education, and quality of healthcare.
That’s not to say these are the only good countries to move to in 2023. When it comes to choosing the best country to live in, it will depend on who you ask, and every person has their own definition of what will be the best country to move to in 2023.
With that said, here’s our list of what we think are the best countries to move to – let us know what you think!
Average expat salary: US$209,000
Despite its diminutive size, Switzerland is globally renowned as a business, finance and commerce powerhouse. Expats moving to Switzerland regularly report a huge jump up in their yearly earnings, with some even reporting an instant 50% pay rise compared to their salaries in other European countries.
Quality of life in Switzerland
With the 6th 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.
What makes Switzerland a particularly great place for expats to settle is its 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. The main language of Switzerland is Swiss German (spoked by 62% of the country), but the Swiss people are also fluent in English (45%) French (22%) and Italian (8%). No matter what language you speak, you’re sure to settle in quickly.
The only downside to living in Switzerland is that the cost of living is very high. Switzerland has three of the four most expensive cities in Europe, in Geneva, Zurich and Bern. However, you can expect to be well-paid as an expat in Switzerland, which makes the cost of living more manageable.
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 an absolute must for expats)*. No wonder then that Switzerland ranks 4th in the world in 2023 for average life expectancy, at an average 84.25 years.
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$23,816
While expats in Mexico can expect to earn a modest wage, this is offset by the enormously low cost of living. Even the average expat will find that their income in Mexico stretches very far, and you’ll have no problem finding high-quality accommodation, paying household bills, running a personal vehicle and purchasing groceries with your income in Mexico. Better still, if you are a digital nomad earning a foreign salary, you could easily afford to live quite luxuriously in Mexico.
Quality of life in Mexico
Mexico is an up-and-coming world economy, and its fast-improving quality of life is reflected in many areas. Mexicans have among the shortest working weeks on earth, at just 37 hours per week. Mexico is already consistently ranked among the friendliest countries in the world, with many expats saying they had no trouble settling in.
The local culture in Mexico puts food, festivities and fun at the top of the list, meaning there is always something to do, especially in the vibrant capital of Mexico City. And, since Mexico’s economy is moving quickly towards finance and technology, the country is investing heavily in remote working infrastructure, meaning digital nomads will find it easy to live and work in Mexico too.
One thing you should be conscious of is that Mexico has a very high crime rate, which is especially concentrated in certain parts of the country.
Expats are advised to research safe areas to live before moving to Mexico.
Healthcare in Mexico
Healthcare in Mexico is subsidised for all Mexican citizens and expats legally residing in the country, with a state-run insurance scheme scaled by employment type. Mexico is a popular destination for medical tourists from the United States, owing to its low cost of healthcare.
However, Mexico ranks poorly overall, with the lowest government healthcare spending in the OECD. For this reason, expatriates may find themselves better off with international health insurance, which gives them access to higher-quality private medical facilities, guaranteeing the best quality treatment.
Education in Mexico
Despite having so much to recommend it, Mexico does fall down when it comes to education. Mexico is among the lowest performing countries in the OECD when it comes to education, and the Mexican government is the third-lowest spender on its educational infrastructure. Fortunately, expats will find Mexico’s major cities offer plenty of international schools, where the quality of education is much higher. Fees for international schools in Mexico City range from US$5,000–18,000 per year.
Average expat salary: US$29,000
Despite being a developed Western nation, Spain has been beset by various economic challenges over the years. Spain suffered heavily after the financial crash of 2008, but is finally close to making a full recovery. Today, the Spanish economy is thriving, especially in the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona, where technology and finance companies have positioned their headquarters.
Expats in Spain won’t expect to make as much as they would in other European countries, but the pay off is that the cost of living in Spain is far cheaper, meaning you can afford a fantastic lifestyle even on a basic salary.
Quality of life in Spain
If an active social life, great food and plenty of sunshine are top of your list of priorities, there is no other expat destination in the world like Spain. Spain has everything you could ask for, from beautiful sandy coastlines to intrepid mountains and forests in the interior, while major Spanish cities combine excitement with relaxation. Better still, Spain has been enjoying record-low crime rates in recent years.
There is still some room for improvement – the quality of housing in Spain may be lower than you’d find in other European countries, and a complex political landscape has created social unrest in recent years – but all in all, the quality of life in Spain is one of the best in the world. Thinking of becoming a digital nomad in Spain? Read our guide to obtaining a Spanish digital nomad visa.
Healthcare in Spain
Spain has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in Europe, which is available universally to citizens and expatriates. 73% of people in Spain say they find the quality of healthcare good or very good, according to a survey by Eurostat. The average life expectancy is one of the highest in Europe, and indeed the world, at 84 years. No wonder, then, that we’ve named Spain the healthiest country in the world, thanks to its high quality diet, great sporting infrastructure, and its relaxed culture (in fact, the capital city Madrid is the third least-stressed major city in the world).
Education in Spain
Education is free for all children in Spain, including expats, so long as they are on the municipal register for their district. Spain sits firmly mid-table in terms of academic performance compared to other OECD countries, falling slightly below average when it comes to mathematics and science. But, with 290 international schools across the country, there are plenty of options for expats seeking a higher quality of education.
Average expat salary: US$64,700
In 2021, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) listed Canada as the number 1 destination people said they would move to given the chance. And according to feedback from our members, in 2023 Canada remains one of the best countries to live as an expat.
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 – indeed, Canada ranks as low as 111th out of 131 countries for air pollution.
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 has a Gini coefficient of 33.3, which is lower than the global average of 38. It is also 16th in the world for human development, boasting high-quality infrastructure in its major cities with great public services. And that brings us onto healthcare…
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$18,000
While expats may find the salaries in Malaysia to be lower than in Western nations, there is still ample opportunity to find high-paid work, especially in the capital city Kuala Lumpur. Better still, if you come to Malaysia as a digital nomad, you can expect to benefit from a very high quality of life. Right now, Malaysia boasts a very low cost of living, so your foreign salary will allow you to live luxuriously while still giving you enough to put aside each month.
Quality of life in Malaysia
When it comes to quality of life, Malaysia is leaps and bounds ahead of its South East Asian neighbours. Malaysia ranks 42nd in the world for economic freedom, ahead of even Belgium, Spain and France, which is thanks to its liberal approach to business and strong infrastructure.
As an expat in Malaysia, you’ll find a whole new world to explore: from historic temples to beautiful beaches, and year-round fantastic weather, plus fantastic local cuisine, a bustling nightlife scene in the major cities, and plenty of opportunities to explore further afield. All of this is wrapped up in a tranquil lifestyle that makes living in Malaysia a brilliant destination for any expat.
Healthcare in Malaysia
Malaysia operates on a universal healthcare model, which is subsidised by small contributions from patients. Malaysia is lagging behind other countries when it comes to healthcare – healthcare spending in Malaysia currently represents just 2.58% of GDP, but the government is taking steps to increase spending.
As an expat in Malaysia, you may want to consider international health insurance. Not only will this allow you to access the highest quality healthcare services locally, it will also allow you to seek treatment in nearby Indonesia or Singapore if you require specialist services not available locally.
Education in Malaysia
Unfortunately, places in Malaysian schools are reserved exclusively for Malaysian citizens, so new expats will need to place their children in one of Malaysia’s 179 international schools (of which 112 are in Kuala Lumpur alone). Not that this is a bad thing – the quality of education in Malaysia can be rather hit-and-miss, especially outside Kuala Lumpur. The cost of international schools in Malaysia can range from anywhere between US$1,700 to US$25,000 per year.
Average expat salary: US$34,000
Thailand offers one of the best expat salaries in South East Asia, thanks mainly to the fantastic range of jobs available in the high-tech capital Bangkok. Indeed, Thailand ranks 27th in the world for GDP. Better still, with a low cost of living throughout the country, expats can expect to enjoy a high quality of life in Thailand, giving you the opportunity to fully embrace this incredible country.
Quality of life in Thailand
Thailand is a rapidly improving country, which is reflected in its positions across a number of metrics for quality of life. Overall, Thailand ranks 42nd in the world for quality of life, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Bloomberg has also ranked Thailand best in the world for economic prosperity. Elsewhere, crime has been declining in Thailand year-on-year, making it an increasingly safe place to settle down.
And, the Thai government is especially keen to attract digital nomads, so if you fancy visiting as a remote worker, you’ll find it very easy – in fact, you may not even need a visa. All of this says nothing about day-to-day life in Thailand, which is a fantastic blend of historic traditions and new-age intensity. Especially living in Bangkok, you’ll find no shortage of excitement amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Healthcare in Thailand
As an expat in Thailand, it’s essential you take out either private medical insurance, or register for public health insurance, which is available if you are employed by a Thai company and pay into the Universal Coverage Scheme. The cost of healthcare in Thailand can be very expensive without adequate medical insurance. But it’s all for the greater good – healthcare in Thailand is of an excellent quality, especially if your health insurance policy gives you access to the country’s world-class private medical facilities.
Education in Thailand
Public education in Thailand is available for expats, however expats will still need to pay to send their children to state schools, and the local curriculum is taught in Thai. For this reason, most expats in Thailand opt to send their children to one of the country’s 161 international schools, of which 90 are in Bangkok. The fees for international schools in Thailand range from US$2,600 to US$29,000 per year.
Average expat salary: US$54,159.79
For much of the last decade, Norway has consistently placed on Condé Nast Traveller’s list of the 10 happiest countries in the world – as an expat in this Scandinavian country, you’ll soon see why. Famous for its fjords and fishing. Norway 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, Norway has plenty to offer the intrepid expat. One thing is its incredible track record when it comes to income inequality – its 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 per capita, Norway ranks 7th in the world.
Right now, Norway is looking to move away from its traditional oil and gas industries towards a future full of hydropower, digital services and tourism – which is why foreign expertise is in such high demand. With unemployment currently at just 3%, you’re sure to find an expat job to suit your skills.
Healthcare in Norway
Norway’s healthcare system is arguably one of the best in the world – and might explain why Norway ranks 17th in the world for life expectancy, with an average of 82.94 years. Healthcare in Norway is free for everyone who pays national insurance, which you’ll pay as part of your 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$75,888
A real melting pot of cultures, Singapore incorporates the best of both the eastern and western worlds into a single metropolitan city state. With Malaysia to the north, and Indonesia to the south, it’s well-connected to the rest of South East Asia, which makes life as an expat exceptionally easy.
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
In the 2020 Global Citizens for Human Rights Students report, Singapore was ranked 9th best in the world for education. Students in Singapore benefit from a policy of bilingual teaching, which allows them to take classes in English as well as one other language.
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$51,388
If happiness is what you’ve been searching for, look no further. For six years running, Finland has been 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. Finns love to spend time together, whether outside in nature, or indoors taking a sauna.
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 6% higher than the UK, though rents are 28% 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.
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.*