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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Enjoying the Quality of Life Abroad

Switzerland and Austria earn more praise for their quality of life, and despite the Eurozone crisis, Spain’s sunny charms lack none of their luster.


The Quality of Life Ranking rates over 60 countries according to a variety of factors from four different areas: leisure, travel and transportation, health and safety, as well as personal happiness.

The latter mostly refers to individual contentment with the new life abroad; therefore it’s the one factor with the least direct connection to the participant’s country of residence. However, as it is indicative of respondents’ general well-being, it has been included here.

To be featured in the ranking, any country requires a sample size of 50 expatriates: They were asked to evaluate relevant factors on a scale of one to seven. More than 30 countries in that list even have a sample size of 100 respondents or more.

Quality of Life Index

Quality of Life Index
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Safe Switzerland

Switzerland is a clear winner in several subcategories. Respondents particularly appreciate what this quiet and stable country offers in terms of health and safety. 97% of resident expats rate their personal safety positively, and as many as 80% even describe Switzerland as a very safe country. Only Japan (82%) and Singapore (87%) beat this result.

The quality of medical care garners some equally enthusiastic responses. More than 90% of expatriates express a positive attitude towards the medical services available. Every other participant is indeed very satisfied with local healthcare, nearly twice as much as the global average (27%).

Travel and transport are a similar highlight of the local infrastructure. Our survey participants laud the Swiss transport network, as well as the travel opportunities that such a well-connected destination provides. Less than 5% of respondents have a less than favorable impression of these aspects.

However, the country doesn’t fare as well with regard to leisure and socializing. Nearly 50% of participants think the potential choice of leisure activities is very good. However, their personal satisfaction with their social life fails to quite measure up.

Last but not least, Switzerland doesn’t rank very well when we look at an admittedly somewhat nebulous factor. Once personal happiness comes under scrutiny, the local expat population rates their current life abroad in a more or less average fashion.

Of course, this ranking may depend on individual circumstances rather than living conditions. Nonetheless, Swiss chocolate doesn’t seem to offer the perfect recipe for happiness.

Sunny Spain

Once we dig a little deeper into the data from Spain, we soon spot some noticeable trends. "Hard" facts, such as personal safety, political stability and medical care, or the infrastructure for transport and travel, cannot explain Spain’s popularity on their own. The corresponding results are definitely good, but not excellent.

About half the respondents (52%) consider life in Spain very safe, with circa 94% being generally satisfied with personal safety. This clearly tops the worldwide average of 46% and 85%, respectively.

Similarly, despite the economic turmoil of recent years, expats in Spain mostly consider it a stable place to live. 79% of respondents rate its political stability on the positive end of the scale – from better than average to very good.

But what are the secrets of Spain’s overwhelming success in the Quality of Life Index? The answer could be fairly simple. Sun and fun!

Despite their visible discontent with the world of work, expats in Spain keep enjoying their leisure opportunities. Only 3% judge the available leisure activities negatively. What’s more important, 34% describe themselves as completely satisfied with their actual social life abroad – the highest number worldwide.

No wonder that our participants from Spain are a pretty mellow bunch! In the Personal Happiness Index, they rank 5th out of more than 60 countries.

Perhaps the Spanish sun accounts for that contentment. Less than 1% commented negatively on the local climate and weather. With 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, there’s just no grounds for complaining!

(In)felix Austria

Similar to Switzerland, Austria impresses with top-notch living conditions and a highly ranked infrastructure. In our Health and Safety sub-index, the Alpine republic follows right on the heels of the Swiss Confederation (as well as Australia).

95% of respondents give Austria a positive rating in terms of overall stability and peacefulness, and even more agree that it’s quite safe to very safe for individual expats. Though fewer participants than in Switzerland (70%, as opposed to 80%) are completely satisfied with their personal safety, 94% still move about freely without worrying about safety issues.

Infrastructural factors, such as healthcare and transportation, also find particular favor. 44% of respondents are very satisfied with medical care, and two thirds (67%) gave the transport infrastructure the highest possible rating.

Plenty of expatriates living in Austria also appreciate the leisure activities on offer (90%) and their current opportunities to travel (92%). After all, the country isn’t just a popular tourist destination in its own right: It also provides easy access to more highlights across Central and Southern Europe.

However, Austria’s Quality of Life Index doesn’t only resemble Switzerland as regards the positive aspects. Expat attitudes towards the two countries have some downsides in common:

While respondents are generally satisfied with the leisure activities on offer, they are less enthusiastic about their personal experience with socializing abroad.

In both countries, 18% of respondents describe themselves as completely satisfied with their current hobbies and social life. As mentioned above, the number in Spain (34%) is nearly twice as high!

And unlike happy Spain, Austria ranks but 55th out of 61 for that elusive factor: personal happiness.