Expats vote – Israel ranked one of the top 10 countries for making friends.
The best & worst countries for making friends abroad.
Image credit: Unsplash
Expats often struggle to make friends abroad, and their social relationships seem to affect their personal happiness.
• Mexico, Bahrain, Serbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uganda, Colombia, Taiwan, Israel, and Portugal are the top countries for making friends for expats.
• Expats in Mexico not only find it the easiest place in the world to make friends, they are also happiest with their life in general!
• Kuwait, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Estonia are the countries where it is the hardest to make friends as an expat.
Finding friends is often a major challenge for people moving abroad: only 57% of expats worldwide find it easy to make new friends abroad, and an even lower share of 45% say that making friends with the locals in their new country of residence is easy. These findings are part of the latest Expat Insider survey, one of the most extensive studies about living and working abroad, annually conducted by InterNations, the world’s largest expat community. Based on the data of more than 18,000 respondents, InterNations compiled a ranking of the destinations where it is easiest and hardest to make friends as an expat. The survey reveals that Mexico is the best country for making friends abroad. The results highlight the positive impact that a good social network can have on people moving abroad: expats living in nine out of the top 10 countries not only find it easy to make friends, they are also substantially happier with their life than the global average. With 92% of expats saying that they are happy with their life, expats living in Mexico are the happiest in the world. At the other end of the scale, expats in Kuwait (68th out of 68 countries), Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Estonia (59th) find it hardest to make friends in their host countries. Similarly, those living in nine out of these countries are also below-average happy with their life in general.
Top 10 countries for making friends
• 82% find it easy to make new friends
• 77% find it easy to make local friends
• 92% are happy with their life in general
After consistently ranking in the top 3 since 2014, Mexico comes first again for making friends abroad in 2018. Over four in five expats in the country (82%) find it easy to make new friends (vs. 57% globally), while 77% express that making local friends is easy, too (vs. 45% globally). The ease of forming friendships could be due to the friendly attitude towards expats: 90% rate this factor positively (vs. 66% globally). “I love the local people, their culture, and their openness,” states an expat from the USA. Maybe this is also what makes expats in Mexico happiest in the world: 92% of respondents are happy with their life in general (vs. 76% globally), and 40% state that they could not be any happier (vs. 21% globally).
• 77% find it easy to make new friends
• 68% find it easy to make local friends
• 88% are happy with their life in general
Bahrain rose from 6th to 2nd place out of 68 countries in relation to finding friends abroad within one year. Now, 77% of expats find it easy to make new friends (vs. 57% globally), and 68% say that making local friends is no problem either (vs. 45% globally). This might be due to the general friendliness of the local population, as 92% of expats rate this factor positively. Exactly three in five (60%) even find the Bahrainis extremely friendly, which is double the global average (30%). The lack of a language barrier might also help with making friends: while more than one-third (34%) find it hard to learn the local language (vs. 45% globally), an impressive 94% agree that it is easy to live in Bahrain without speaking it (vs. 46% globally). “There is no need for the local language,” says an expat from India.
• 73% find it easy to make new friends
• 79% find it easy to make local friends
• 71% are happy with their life in general
Featuring in the Expat Insider survey for the first time, Serbia comes in 3rd out of 68 countries for finding friends abroad. The majority of expats (86%) finds the local attitude towards foreign residents friendly (vs. 66% globally), with one respondent from Romania describing the local population as “open, friendly, and helpful”. In fact, 79% of expats find making local friends easy (vs. 45% globally), and almost three-quarters (73%) are also happy with the ease of making new friends in general (vs. 57% globally). It might be no surprise then that close to half the expats in Serbia (47%) state they are mainly friends with local residents, which is the highest share in the world together with Brazil.
4. Costa Rica
• 73% find it easy to make new friends
• 66% find it easy to make local friends
• 83% are happy with their life in general
Making friends in Israel: Israel has gained an impressive 17 ranks within one year, coming in just 26th out of 65 countries in 2017 but ranking among the top 10 countries for making friends now. An above-average share of expats in Israel find it easy to make both new friends (73% vs. 57% globally) and local friends (66% vs. 45% globally). “They are easygoing and friendly people,” says an expat from the Netherlands. In fact, 75% of expats find the attitude of the Israelis towards foreign residents friendly (vs. 66% globally), and more than two in five (41%) think that they could not be any friendlier (vs. 28% globally). Maybe it helps that there is barely any language barrier: while close to half the expats (46%) find it hard to learn the local language, 64% agree that it is easy to live there without speaking it. This is 18 percentage points more than the global average (46%).
- An A-Z expat guide for relocating and living in Israel
- Israeli customs, etiquette and behavior
- Israel relocation tips
- Friends share their unique and individual relocation stories
Following Israel, Portugal comes in at 10th place.
Sweden Is the Worst Nordic Country for Making New Friends
The Nordic countries perform badly when it comes to finding friends, with all four ranking in the bottom 10 since 2015. Expats in Sweden seem to have it particularly hard: more than half of them (51%) find it difficult to make new friends, which is 14 percentage points more than the second-worst Nordic country, Finland (37%), followed by Denmark (36%) and Norway (34%). What is more, almost one in five expats in Sweden (19%) think that it could not be any harder to make new friends, which is the highest share in the world, followed by Denmark (18%). One Chilean expat living in Sweden shares how she finds it “difficult to meet and make local friends even at work”. Considering this struggle, it might be understandable that an above-average share of expats in Norway (15%), Finland (16%), Denmark (18%), and Sweden (26%) are not happy with their life in general (vs. 11% globally).
Expats in German-Speaking Countries Find the Local Residents Generally Unfriendly
It is Switzerland’s fifth consecutive year in the bottom 10 countries for making friends, and Austria and Germany have not performed much better in past years. Close to one-third of expats in Germany (30%), Switzerland (30%), and Austria (31%) find the respective local population generally unfriendly, compared to 17% globally. One American expat even shares that the “general unfriendliness of the people” is one of the worst things about living in Germany. Large shares of expats in Austria (48%), Germany (56%), and Switzerland (62%) find it hard to make friends with local residents (vs. 36% globally). In fact, 26% of the respondents in Switzerland even say it could not be any harder, which is twice the global average (13%). It might be the lack of social relationships that leaves expats in the German-speaking countries unhappy: 13% in Austria and 14% in both Switzerland and Germany say they are generally unhappy with their life (vs. 11% globally).
About the InterNations Expat Insider 2018 Survey
More than 18,000 expats representing 178 nationalities and living in 187 countries or territories provided information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality. Participants were asked to rate up to 48 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. The rating process emphasized the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects and considered both emotional topics as well as more factual aspects with equal weight. The respondents’ ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 17 subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up six topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life,
Personal Finance, and Cost of Living Index.
Except for the latter, all indices were further averaged in order to rank 68 expatriate destinations around the world. In 2018, the top 10 are Bahrain, Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico, Singapore, Portugal, Costa Rica, Spain, Colombia, and Czechia. For a country to be featured in the indices and consequently in the overall ranking, a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per country was necessary. The only exception to this is the Family Life Index, where a sample size of at least 40 respondents raising children abroad was required. In 2018, 68 and 50 countries respectively met these requirements. However, in most countries the sample size exceeded 100 participants.
With 3.4 million members in 420 cities around the world, InterNations (www.internations.org) is the largest global community and information site for people who live and work abroad.