Dream of moving abroad? This Central American destination is the No. 1 country for expats

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Expats who live and work in Panama are among the happiest in the world, according to the latest Expat Insider report from InterNations, the global community for people who live abroad.

Panama was named the No. 1 country for expats out of 53 countries in this year's report, which surveyed more than 12,500 people in February about how satisfied they feel with their lives in a foreign country.

A majority, 82% of people who move to Panama say they're happy with their lives, compared with 68% of expats around the world. Most people said they moved to the Central American country for financial reasons, to retire or for a better quality of life.

Newcomers are most satisfied with the low cost of living, which they can more than comfortably cover, and 71% report they feel they're paid fairly (compared with 58% globally), according to survey data. They also noted that it's easy to move there as a foreigner and find ample and affordable housing.

In their free time, many expats said they enjoyed Panama's tropical climate and leisure options across its beaches, mountains and rainforests.

The InterNations report ranked 53 global countries across five indices: quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and an "expat essentials" index, which covers housing, administration, language and digital life.

These are the top 10 countries for expats to live and work abroad, according to InterNations data:

  1. Panama
  2. Mexico
  3. Indonesia
  4. Spain
  5. Colombia
  6. Thailand
  7. Brazil
  8. Vietnam
  9. Philippines
  10. United Arab Emirates

Mexico dropped from the top spot in last year's rankings but still ranks No. 2 for expats in 2024. It commands high marks among people who say it's incredibly easy to move there and feel settled in. Some 86% of people say the Mexican population is friendly and welcoming to newcomers.

Expats in Mexico also say it's easy to get used to the local culture and find local friends once there, making them feel "at home" all the faster.

Their biggest downsides, however, include dealing with local bureaucracy, banking, health-care access and transportation.

Indonesia surged in the rankings to be named the No. 3 best country for expats thanks to its low costs, friendly people and good work-life balance, residents reported in the survey.

Expats are especially satisfied with their decisions to work in Indonesia, saying they're happy with their jobs, personal career opportunities, and short working hours. Respondents said their full-time workweeks were just under 39 hours per week, compared with a global average of 42.5 hours per week.

Foreigners reported experiencing issues with the digital life in Indonesia, with poor results for satisfaction around its high-speed internet, cashless payment options, online administrative services, and access to general online services like social media.

Expats in Indonesia rated its health care and air quality poorly, though they favorably rated other quality of life factors like good weather, culinary variety and a fun nightlife.

On the other end of the spectrum, expats say they're least satisfied with their lives in Kuwait for its low quality of life, Turkey for its challenges in the jobs and careers landscape, and Finland for its high cost of living, according to the report.

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