‘Welcome and Affordable’ Kuala Lumpur named world’s best city for expats


Kuala Lumpur was named the best city in the world in which to live for expats, followed by Malaga and Dubai, with “unfriendly” Rome ranked the worst.

Sydney and Singapore round out the top five, while Milan joins Rome as the second worst city, according to a survey of more than 12,000 expats.

The January 2021 survey asked members of InterNations, a Munich-based expat network, to rate their satisfaction in four categories: quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finances and working abroad.

The Malaysian capital tops the list, with expats praising the local culture, affordability and immediate availability of accommodation.

A staggering 78 percent of those polled praised the local culture in Kuala Lumpur, and an additional 77 percent said they praised the people’s kindness to foreign residents.

Kuala Lumpur was named the best city in the world in which to live for expats, followed by Malaga and Dubai, with ‘unfriendly’ Rome being the worst

The top and last 10 cities for expats:

1st – Kuala Lumpur

2nd – Malaga

3rd – Dubai

4th – Sydney

5th – Singapore

6th – Ho Chi Minh City

7 – Prague

8th – Mexico

9th – Basel

10th – Madrid

48th – New York

49th – Moscow

50th – Maastricht

51st – Paris

52nd – Cairo

53rd – Tokyo

54th – Istanbul

55th – Johannesburg

56th – Milan

57th – Rome

An American expat said: “I love Kuala Lumpur’s culturally diverse environment. The general friendliness of the Malaysians makes it the best place to retire.

Meanwhile, 80% of expats in Kuala Lumpur say they are satisfied with their financial situation, compared to 64% globally.

Malaga and Dubai ranked second and third among the best cities for expats, with both countries praised for their ease of settling in.

Expats said local people were friendly to foreign residents and found it easy to make friends in the two countries – a feat that can be intimidating for those who move.

An Indian expatriate in Dubai described the locals as “warm, welcoming and friendly”.

Sydney and Singapore followed closely behind Dubai, with expats praising the cities for their urban quality of life.

The people of Sydney were particularly pleased with the local recreational opportunities, the climate and the quality of medical care.

Meanwhile, 92% of expats praised the urban environment.

“I love the clean environment, the beautiful scenery and the diverse community with its mix of cultures,” said a Pakistani expat.

Singapore scored high on social life, with 56% of respondents saying they found it easy to make new friends and 60% saying they were happy with their social life.

But the Asian city-state slipped down the rankings in the cost of living category, placing 43rd.

63% of respondents rated the cost of living in Singapore negatively, compared to 34% globally.

However, high prices had an advantage and 79% of expats said they could easily find accommodation, compared to 60% globally.

Malaga (pictured) and Dubai ranked second and third among best cities for expats, with both countries praised for their ease of settling in.

Malaga (pictured) and Dubai ranked second and third among best cities for expats, with both countries praised for their ease of settling in.

Expats said residents of Dubai are friendly towards expats and find it easy to make friends in both countries - a feat that can be intimidating for those moving.

Expats said residents of Dubai are friendly towards expats and find it easy to make friends in both countries – a feat that can be intimidating for those moving.

At the other end of the rankings were two Italian cities – Milan and Rome – and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rome was called “unfriendly” in a scathing criticism, with 31% of expats saying locals generally dislike foreign residents, compared to 18% globally.

Expats in Rome said they were generally unhappy with career opportunities, job security and working hours. And a British expat called the economy “terrible” and said wages were “low”.

The only highlight was the climate and weather, which pleased 82% of those polled, compared to 66% globally.

The Italian city of Milan is not doing much better, ranking 56th on the Expat Insider list.

Expats said they were unhappy with their work-life balance and working hours – even though average weekly hours in Milan are below the global average at 38.1 versus 39.9.

The city ranked first for the facility, ranking 44th in the category, but even so, 27% of expats said the local population was generally unfriendly, compared to 16% globally.

Meanwhile, 30% of expats said they did not feel at home in Milan.

Rome was called

Rome was called “unfriendly” in a scathing criticism, with 31% of expats saying locals generally dislike foreign residents, compared to 18% globally

The Italian city of Milan (pictured, Piazza del Duomo) did not fare much better, ranking 56th on Expat Insider's list

The Italian city of Milan (pictured, Piazza del Duomo) did not fare much better, ranking 56th on Expat Insider’s list

About two-thirds of expats in Johannesburg said they were unhappy with public transport systems, with a whopping 68% saying they were worried about their personal safety, compared to 8% globally.

An Irish expat said he believed he had to “always be on guard due to security concerns”.

The South African city also landed near the bottom for working life with 41% of those polled saying they were dissatisfied with local career opportunities, compared to 33% globally.

“The time it took to find a job was stressful, overwhelming and scary,” said a Kenyan expat.

European cities were over-represented at the bottom of the list, with four cities – Rome, Milan, Paris and Maastricht falling in the bottom ten.

More than 6,000 local residents were also asked to complete selected sections of the survey, including questions about how the Covid-19 pandemic affected their plans to move abroad.

The full list of the best and worst cities of Expat Insider 2021 for expats:

1st – Kuala Lumpur

2nd – Malaga

3rd – Dubai

4th – Sydney

5th – Singapore

6th – Ho Chi Minh City

7 – Prague

8th – Mexico

9th – Basel

10th – Madrid

11th – Bangkok

12 – Nairobi

13 – Shanghai

14th – Vienna

15 – Doha

16 – Abu Dhabi

17th – Muscat

18th – Lisbon

19th – The Hague

20 – Aachen

21 – Lausanne

22 – Tallinn

23 – Brussels

24 – Melbourne

25 – Vancouver

26 – Frankfurt am Main

27 – Toronto

28 – Rotterdam

29 – Barcelona

30 – Copenhagen

31 – Amsterdam

32nd – Budapest

33rd – Santiago

34th – Zurich

35th – Munich

36th – Luxembourg City

37th – Warsaw

38th – London

39th – Berlin

40th – Düsseldorf

41st – Cape Town

42nd – Hamburg

43rd – Stockholm

44th – Riyadh

45th – Dublin

46th – Hong-Kong

47th – Geneva

48th – New York

49th – Moscow

50th – Maastricht

51st – Paris

52nd – Cairo

53rd – Tokyo

54th – Istanbul

55th – Johannesburg

56th – Milan

57th – Rome

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