As spring unfurls across Europe, those who can work abroad may be wanting to spread their wings.
If your job is flexible and you’re happy to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle, then the world is your oyster. The pandemic has brought major changes to the way we work, seeing thousands of people relocating to the countryside in a quest for more space.
But for those able to take it a step further, how do you choose between countries?
Knowing what the quality of life is like, whether it’ll be easy to make friends, or if a place is affordable are all key factors to consider before making the leap.
Luckily InterNations have created an Expat Insider 2021 guide. They’ve talked to expats all over the world to find out what life is like in their new, adopted homes. Featuring 59 countries, the report reveals the most (and least) friendly places to live, as well as the best countries for quality of life.
So which are the friendliest countries in Europe?
What is Europe’s most friendly country?
The results are in and, according to the 12,000 people who took the survey, Portugal ranks top of all European countries when it comes to friendliness. The Iberian Peninsula also ranked highly in the ‘feeling at home’ category, coming in second.
Three other countries featured in the top 20, with Greece in eighth place, Ireland in sixteenth and Spain just scraping in at number 20.
Meanwhile, on a global scale, Taiwan was ranked the most friendly country of all, with Mexico coming first in the ‘finding friends’ and ‘feeling at home’ categories.
But will I actually be able to make friends?
We all know that friendliness and friendship can be two very different things. Sure, the waiter in the local cafe smiles at you every day, but that doesn’t mean he wants to go out dancing until 4am.
So while making friends in a new country can seem intimidating, according to the Expat Insider 2021 survey, in some countries, it’s much easier than others.
While central and south American countries topped the leaderboard, with Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia taking up the top spots, four European countries made it into the top 20 for finding friends.
It's poignant to note that before the war, Ukraine - with its recently thriving capital of Kyiv - made it into tenth place. While Greece was in twelfth, Spain in nineteenth and Portugal just made it in at number 20.
Spain did well overall, ranking 16th out of 59 countries, with expats loving the local leisure options and the local culture. It performed badly when it came to career prospects though, coming 51st, with only half of the expats surveyed here working full or part time.
Which are Europe’s least friendly countries?
At the other end of the scale, which European countries should you avoid if you’re looking for somewhere to make new friends? Sadly for the continent, European countries dominated the bottom of the league tables, with 14 countries in the bottom 20 when it comes to friendliness.
The worst performing country was Austria in 58th place, while Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Switzerland followed closely behind.
When it comes to finding friends, the Nordic countries performed badly too. With Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland the worst of all European countries, and Austria and Germany close behind.
Which is the best European country for quality of life?
Despite its supposed lack of friendliness, Europe performed very strongly in the quality of life index, with seven of the top 10 countries from the continent.
Although Taiwan dominated across the board, Austria came in a strong second, though it only came 28th in the personal happiness category (maybe because of the problems people have making friends here).
The country came top in the travel and transportation category though, and fifth in the quality of the environment section.
95 per cent of respondents from Austria were satisfied with their travel opportunities (compared to 84 per cent globally), while 82 per cent consider healthcare affordable (compared to 61 per cent globally).
Portugal also did very well in the rankings, coming in third place, just behind Austria. It also came in third (behind Mexico and Costa Rica) in the personal happiness index. With 84 per cent of expats in Portugal declaring themselves happy with their lives in general, compared with a global average of 75 per cent.
A whopping 96 per cent also describe Portugal as ‘peaceful’.
Italy though, didn’t fare so well, ranking the second worst country for expats overall, beaten only by Kuwait. 56 per cent of expats in Italy rate local career opportunities negatively and nearly twice the global average rate political stability in the country negatively too.