Thanks to the surge of remote work, relocating overseas has become more accessible after the pandemic. Several European countries have launched digital nomad visas, which assist expats in meeting residency and tax obligations.
However, relocating to a different country still presents numerous obstacles. Among the crucial steps is discovering a location that complements both your lifestyle and requirements.
InterNations is a worldwide network of individuals residing and working abroad, which carries out surveys amongst expats. These surveys can aid prospective expats in gaining insights about various countries. Based on the findings from their Expat Insider survey of 2022, InterNations has compiled a list of the most favorable and unfavorable locations for expat beginners.
Which European countries are the most convenient for expats to settle down in?
The study evaluated 52 global locations and sorted them based on the standard of living of expats. As a component of the research, the Expat Essentials Index disclosed the nations that simplify or complicate life for foreign inhabitants. This index considered data pertaining to bureaucracy, digital amenities, and housing.
The highest-ranking locations – Bahrain, the United States, and Singapore – offer seamless communication with no language barriers, while presenting minimal bureaucratic hurdles. On the contrary, countries placed at the bottom of the list entail expats to cope with difficulties such as local language and inadequate digital infrastructure.
Estonia stands as the most favorable European nation to relocate to
Estonia secures the top position amongst the European countries on the InterNations ranking, placing fourth overall. Expats have reported that settling down in this Eastern European nation is uncomplicated due to the efficient administration and minimal bureaucracy.
80% of participants found it effortless to secure a visa, in contrast to the global mean of 56%. Expats encounter minimal complications when dealing with local officials, and Estonia secures the top rank amongst 52 locations in terms of access to digital government services.
According to a British expat:
“I find it delightful to reside here since most services are (although not always) uncomplicated, without bureaucratic hurdles, and necessitate lesser paperwork than the UK.”
Survey respondents also value Estonia’s cashless payment alternatives and the hassle-free process of setting up high-speed internet access at home.
Nonetheless, Estonia’s ranking descends in regards to language and housing, with 61% of expats perceiving the language as challenging to acquire.
Expats experience inconvenience in Malta due to inadequate digital infrastructure and administration
Regrettably, with the exception of Estonia, no European nation features among the top ten destinations. Conversely, several European countries are placed in the bottom ten. Expats residing in Malta face challenges with bureaucratic procedures, with the country being ranked last globally in terms of administration. Nearly 60% of expats struggle when dealing with Maltese officials.
A British expat states:
“I’m not fond of bureaucracy, such as the challenges encountered in obtaining a driver’s license, and the excessive paperwork involved in opening a bank account.”
Malta places last in terms of the ease of opening a local bank account, and narrowly misses another top ten position for setting up high-speed internet access at home. However, on a positive note, nearly two-thirds of expats find it comfortable to reside in Malta despite not knowing the local language, as English is widely spoken.
Expatriates from France encounter issues with language and administration
According to the InterNations survey, language constitutes one of the most significant challenges for expats residing in France. Nearly double the number of people struggle to reside in France without knowing the local language in comparison to the global average.
“French is REALLY difficult, even after so many years, and without it you are lost,” states a Greek expat.
Expats in France also encounter notable administrative challenges, with over half indicating that dealing with local authorities is not easy, and 32% finding it challenging to open a local bank account. Nevertheless, around 90% of expats have a favorable opinion of France’s cashless payment options, and they believe that they have unrestricted access to online services, including social media.
Expats in Italy dislike the excessive bureaucracy, often referred to as “red tape”
Although Italy is a popular destination for expats, according to the InterNations survey, it ranks as one of the worst countries to begin working abroad. The country performs poorly in the category of administration, with over two-thirds of expats finding it challenging to navigate local bureaucracy.
Italy, despite being a popular destination for expats, is one of the worst countries to start working abroad, according to the InterNations survey. The country ranks poorly in the administration category, with over two-thirds of expats finding the local bureaucracy difficult to deal with.
Additionally, Italy is in the bottom 10 for ease of opening a local bank account and obtaining a visa. An American expat notes:
“The bureaucracy here is extremely burdensome to the point of being ridiculous, in almost every aspect of life, from getting a visa to getting a driver’s license and beyond.”
Approximately 40% of respondents express dissatisfaction with the availability of online administrative services, and an additional 16% have difficulty obtaining high-speed internet access at home.
Germany is ranked as the worst country for expats to start working abroad
Starting out as an expat in Germany can be challenging, as the country ranks poorly in three of the four subcategories analyzed in the survey: housing, digital life, and language. According to expats, finding and affording housing in Germany is difficult, even for temporary accommodation, with some stating it can take up to three months. A Polish expat shared this sentiment.
Starting as an expat in Germany can be challenging due to various obstacles. Germany ranks in the bottom 10 in three of the four subcategories, including housing, digital life, and language, according to the InterNations survey. Expats report that finding affordable and suitable housing in Germany can be time-consuming and difficult.
A Polish expat says:
“It can take up to three months to find even temporary accommodation.”
Language is another hurdle, with 46% of respondents finding it challenging to live in Germany without speaking the local language. Germany’s lack of digitization is also a major issue, with 24% of expats struggling to access high-speed internet at home, and 27% frustrated by the lack of cashless payment options. Despite some improvement in the administration category, more than half of the respondents (52%) still find it difficult to deal with local authorities.
A British expat expresses frustration with the German bureaucracy, saying:
“I detest it, particularly the lack of digitization. It takes ages to get a response from local government offices regarding residency permits and other matters.”