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Expat Insider 2016 Survey: Focus on Latin America

September 1, 2016

Expat Insider is among the biggest surveys worldwide to inquire into the happiness of expatriates. In 2016, they asked more than 14,000 participants in 191 countries about their experiences living abroad.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - recently released the results of its third annual Expat Insider Survey, which ranks the best countries for expat living.

With more than 14,000 respondents, the 2016 InterNations Expat Insider survey is one of the most extensive studies ever conducted to explore the general living situation of expatriates around the world. It ranks countries by a variety of factors such as the quality of life, personal finance, working abroad, and settling in.

In this article, we are focusing on Latin America.

Expats' opinions about Latin America differ widely. While Ecuador, Mexico and Costa Rica are among the most popular places for expats, Brazil, Argentina and Peru come in at the bottom of the list on the third annual InterNations Expat Insider survey.

Rather unsurprisingly, most of the Latin American countries do well in terms of friendliness, but Ecuador and Mexico also rank in the global top ten for personal finances and the cost of living.

On the flip side, Brazil performs particularly badly, coming in 64th out of 67 countries, and Argentina (54th) and Peru (53th) are similarly unpopular among expats, according to the 2016 survey.

Ecuador a Top Expat Choice

Coming in second overall in the Expat Insider 2016 survey, Ecuador is rated particularly positively in the Personal Finance Index, where it ranks third. An impressive 81 percent of respondents are generally happy with their financial situation, while just 10 percent disagree.

Indeed, 64 percent say that their disposable income is enough to cover everything in their daily life and just 27 percent are worried about their future finances, as opposed to a global average of 48 percent and 44 percent, respectively.

The country is a good place to go for all those who are longing for a more affordable life: Ecuador comes seventh in the Cost of Living Index, with not one person saying the cost of living is very bad, and 77 percent stating it is generally good.

While Ecuador is not even near the top of the rankings in the Working Abroad Index, coming in 30th, it does well in the Job & Career subcategory, coming in at a respectable 10th place. When asked about their job satisfaction, 67 percent of respondents in Ecuador say they are generally satisfied with their job and 59 percent are also happy with their career prospects. However, job security is rated positively by just half of the expats.

Mexico Offers Bright Prospects for Expats

Coming in at fourth overall, and holding on to the top spot in the Ease of Settling In Index for the third year in a row, Mexico remains very popular among expats.

Mexico is also a good destination for those looking to live a bit more economically - 82% of respondents consider the cost of living to be good. In fact, more than three-quarters of expats considered the cost of living to be a potential benefit of moving to Mexico. Meanwhile, 30%, twice the global average of 15%, say they are completely satisfied with their financial situation.

Working life in Mexico would appear to be a mixed bag: The country is second in the Job & Career subcategory, with 75 percent agreeing that they are overall satisfied with their job and six out of ten expats also stating that they are happy with their career prospects.

The country does not perform nearly as well in terms of job security or work-life balance though - in both subcategories, it does not make it to the top 20, ranking in 29th and 23rd place, respectively. Just 53 percent consider the state of the Mexican economy to be good, while 23 percent find it to be bad. Moreover, while 64 percent of expats in Mexico are happy with their working hours, those in a full-time position do work rather hard, with an average 45.6 hours per week - an hour longer than the global average of 44.6 weekly working hours.

Costa Rica Could Be a Costly Place to Live

Costa Rica comes in at sixth overall, but that is certainly not due to the economic situation of expats living in the country. The country comes 43rd in the Personal Finance Index and 48th out of 67 countries in the Cost of Living Index. Just 39 percent say that their disposable income is more than enough to cover their daily expenses, compared to 48 percent globally. In fact, 46 percent even say the cost of living is too high.

The country is not all bad news, though. Family life in the country is rated generally positively - none of the respondents rates the attitude towards families with children negatively, nor do any expats say they are unsatisfied with family life in general. Healthcare in the country is also considered positively by those who moved to Costa Rica: 79 percent say the quality of medical care is good, compared to a significantly lower 62 percent around the world.

Not So Sunny Outlook in Other Latin American Countries

At the other end of the scale are Brazil, Argentina, and Peru, rank 64th, 54th, and 53rd respectively in the international survey by InterNations.

Expats in Brazil have hardly anything positive to say about life abroad. Given the current political climate, it is not surprising that just 16 percent rate the political stability as good, whereas globally, 61 percent say the same.

Furthermore, Brazil comes in last in the Safety subcategory, with a shockingly low 20 percent rating their personal safety favorably compared to the global average of 77 percent. In fact, more than half of expat parents in Brazil (55 percent) would also rate their children's safety badly. The nation even comes last in the Family Life Index, with quality of education being rated positively by just 28 percent of parents.

Argentina is a bit higher up the rankings than Brazil, but does not fare well in economic terms. The country comes 63rd in the Personal Finance Index, with 14% saying their disposable income is not nearly enough to cover their daily expenses, twice the global average of 7%. The country does, however, perform slightly better in the Cost of Living Index, coming 47th out of 67 countries.

There is a similar divide in terms of cost of living and personal finances in Peru: The country positions 21st for its cost of living, but slides to 50th place in the Personal Finance Index. On the bright side, 72 percent of expats find it is easy to settle down in Peru and 26 percent feel completely at home in the local culture.

To learn more about InterNations' Expat Insider survey, and see more 2016 rankings, reports and infographics, please visit