The Best & Worst Destinations in the Quality of Environment Subcategory
The Quality of Environment subcategory of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking is based on three individual rating factors. Respondents were asked to share their satisfaction with the natural environment (e.g. nature, scenery, wildlife), the local air quality, as well as water and sanitation.
The Nordic Countries Come Out on Top
The top-ranking country of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking overall, Finland also comes first in the Quality of Environment subcategory. The Nordic country shows very positive ratings for its air quality (95% satisfied vs. 62% globally), the water and sanitation infrastructure (96% vs. 72% globally), and its natural environment (98% vs. 82% globally). A Peruvian expat shares: “I love the nature and the healthy environment in Finland.”
Norway follows right behind in second position, with equally high ratings for the natural environment (97% vs. 82% globally), as well as water and sanitation (97% vs. 72% globally). “In Norway, there is a major focus on the environment,” an expat from Ukraine explains. “The nature is beautiful, and the air and water are clean.”
Sweden comes in fourth place, and expats especially like the local air quality (92% happy vs. 62% globally). This might be the result of almost 70% of Sweden’s surface being covered by forests, according to The World Bank Data Indicators. What is more, nearly all expats in Sweden (97%) are happy with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 72% globally).
Finding these three Nordic countries among the global top 5 when it comes to the quality of the environment is not much of a surprise, as they are also the leading countries for environmental health in the Environment Performance Index 2020. Similarly, Sweden (2nd) and Finland (3rd) land in the top 5 out of 162 countries in the 2019 Sustainable Development Report, while Norway comes in at eighth place and Denmark even ranks first.
In the Environment & Sustainability Ranking by InterNations, Denmark only comes 10th out of 60 in the Quality of the Environment subcategory, though. Expats appreciate Denmark’s air quality (94% satisfied vs. 62% globally), as well as its water and sanitation infrastructure (93% vs. 72% globally). On the other hand, the country loses points for its natural environment. Even though 87% of expats are satisfied with this factor (vs. 82% globally), Denmark only comes in 38th place out of 60 countries worldwide.
Success for European Countries
Switzerland (3rd) is another European destination in the top 5 of the Quality of Environment subcategory. Its high-ranking position is mainly due to its diverse wildlife and beautiful scenery, with 98% of expats rating the natural environment positively (vs. 82% globally). Moreover, 83% even say that the country’s natural environment could not be any better (vs. 49% globally). In fact, the small European country is voted the best worldwide in this regard. A US American expat points out “the nature, especially the Alps” as her favorite thing about living in Switzerland. In the 2020 Environmental Performance Index, Switzerland also ranks third overall, coming in at fifth place for environmental health and eighth for ecosystem vitality.
Austria is the second Central European country in this ranking, coming fifth in the Quality of Environment subcategory. It does particularly well for the local water and sanitation infrastructure (95% vs. 72% globally) — only Finland (1st) and Norway (2nd) are rated better in this regard. “Austria is so far the most environmentally friendly and beautiful country I have ever visited,” says an expat from the Philippines. According to The World Bank Data Indicators, almost half of Austria’s surface (47%) is covered by forests which has a positive impact on its natural landscape and the quality of its environment in general. Forests serve as natural air-pollution filters, protect the soil from erosion, help to keep the water clean, and are used as local recreation areas.
Portugal (7th) and Estonia (9th) — two other European countries among the top 10 — both have especially good results for their air quality. In fact, about 90% of respondents are generally happy with the local air quality in both Portugal and Estonia, compared to 62% globally. According to The World Bank Data Indicators, in 2017 only 16% of the residents in Portugal were exposed to levels of air pollution which exceeded the World Health Organization guideline value. In Estonia, this percentage was even zero.
Natural Paradises in New Zealand and Canada
New Zealand (6th) and Canada (8th) are the only non-European countries in the top 10 of the Quality of Environment subcategory. Most expats in New Zealand (96%) rate the natural environment positively (vs. 82% globally), and 82% even say that it could not be any better. A German expat mentions “the nature and scenery” as some of their favorite things about New Zealand. Most expats (89%) also rate the air quality positively (vs. 62% globally).
Expats in Canada are also very happy with both the natural environment (96% vs. 82% globally) and the quality of its water and sanitation infrastructure (90% vs. 72% globally). “Nature in Canada is awesome,” a Belgian expat concludes.
At the Very Bottom: India
India is the worst-ranking country in the Quality of Environment subcategory, coming in at 60th place out of 60 countries. It ranks last worldwide for both its air quality (82% unsatisfied vs. 24% globally) and its water and sanitation infrastructure (69% unhappy vs. 15% globally). In fact, a Dutch expat mentions the “bad air quality” as one of the worst things about life in Delhi. According to the World Air Quality Index, the quality of air in many Indian cities is labeled “unhealthy”, with some cities even reaching “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” levels.
India ranks 59th for its natural environment, only ahead of Kuwait (60th). Two in five expats (40%) are unhappy with this factor, compared to 9% globally. And an expat from Singapore states: “The quality of life is poor due to a bad environment and limited access to green spaces.”
3 Middle Eastern Countries in the Bottom 10
Ranking only ahead of India, Kuwait comes 59th in the Quality of Environment subcategory. The country ranks worst worldwide for its natural environment (60th), with 67% of expats expressing their lack of satisfaction (vs. 9% globally). Respondents in Kuwait also complain about the quality of the air (62% unhappy vs. 24% globally), and a US American expat expresses her concern about the “bad air quality, and the lack of green spaces and nature.” This might be no surprise, considering that Kuwait also ranks 106th out of 162 countries in the Sustainable Development Report 2019.
With Egypt (58th) and Saudi Arabia (52nd), two other Middle Eastern countries land in the bottom 10 of the Quality of Environment subcategory. More than two in five expats in Egypt (41%) are unhappy with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 15% globally). ”The quality of tap water is very low,” a Russian expat in Alexandria observes. Saudi Arabia has especially poor results for its natural environment, with 29% of expats rating it negatively (vs. 9% globally).
Southeast and East Asia: Majority in the Bottom 10
Living in dream destinations with beautiful coastlines and islands does not seem to make up for environmental problems, as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines rank among the worst countries worldwide regarding the quality of the environment. Respondents in Vietnam (57th) mostly complain about poor air quality (69% unsatisfied vs. 24% globally), and a German expat explains: “I do not like the quality of the environment in Hanoi, especially the low air quality.” In fact, the air quality in Hanoi is labeled “unhealthy” according to the World Air Quality Index.
Similarly, two in three expats (67%) are unhappy with the air quality (vs. 24% globally) in Thailand (56th). During smog season, the city of Chiang Mai is even covered by an unhealthy fog which the World Air Quality Index classifies as “hazardous”. Additionally, more than one in three expats (37%) rate the local water and sanitation infrastructure negatively (vs. 15% globally).
Indonesia follows in 55th place, with especially low ratings for water and sanitation (59th). Only India (60th) performs worse for this factor. In fact, half the expats in Indonesia (50%) complain about the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 15% globally). The same applies to the Philippines (53th): 37% of respondents are dissatisfied with the factor water and sanitation (vs. 15% globally).
With China, yet another Asian country lands in the bottom 10 (54th). Nearly three in ten respondents (29%) complain about the natural environment (vs. 9% globally). A French expat points out that “there is a lack of green spaces in Shanghai.” Additionally, China ranks 96th out of 180 countries for health conditions in the 2020 Environmental Performance Index. In the Environmental & Sustainability Ranking report, more than half the expats (52%) rate the air in China negatively (vs. 24% globally), relegating it into the bottom 10 for this factor.
Malta: Bringing Up the Rear in Europe
Malta (51st) is the worst-rated European country in the Quality of Environment subcategory, ranking eight places below Poland (43rd), the European expat destination with the second-worst results in the same category. Expats in Malta are especially upset about the natural environment, with 28% negative ratings (vs. 9% globally). “There is a lack of greenery as well as environmentally friendly transportation options, which results in air pollution,” a Portuguese expat explains. In fact, 37% of respondents are unhappy about the air quality (vs. 24% globally). She also adds: “Malta is not a very green country, neither in terms of landscape nor policy.”
Germany and the Netherlands Hold a Few Surprises
In the Quality of Environment subcategory, the Netherlands lands in 22nd place, however, with a rather low 46th rank for its natural environment (75% positive ratings vs. 82% globally). This comes as a surprise, as the Netherlands generally has great results and ranks twelfth in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking overall. And even though it is a small country, it has a rich variety of natural landscapes. For example, the Wadden Sea is the largest coastal tidal wetland in Europe and is also featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Wadden Sea also extends to Germany (8th), another country that ranks in the top 10 of the Environment and Sustainability Ranking in general but has a poorer performance for its natural environment (28th). Still, 90% of expats are happy with the environment in Germany, compared to 82% globally. According to the 2019 Sustainable Development Report, Germany ranks sixth overall for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN. According to the World Air Quality Index, the air quality index for Germany’s biggest cities — Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich — is usually healthy for their inhabitants to breathe. Expats seem to agree, as 77% rate the air quality in Germany positively (vs. 62% globally).
The main reason for the Netherlands’ and Germany’s lower rankings here might simply be that other countries offer cleaner and more beautiful natural environments. A Namibian expat in Bochum, for example, points out: “I do not like the light and noise pollution. There is also a lot of litter and bubblegum on the ground.” And a British expat in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) explains that he finds the “overcrowded cities and highways” annoying.