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Spain Dominates Expat City Ranking

Expat City Ranking


The Expat City Ranking 2020 Top 10 is dominated by Spanish destinations with Valencia top, Alicante runner-up and Malaga and Madrid also in the top ten. 

With Lisbon coming in third in the ranking the Iberian Peninsula shows its clear attractions.




All five cities see some of their best results in the Quality of Urban Living Index (Alicante’s 19th place is the worst result here), as well as the Getting Settled Index. In the latter, only Madrid does not make it into the top 10, ranking 13th. While Alicante (2nd), Valencia (3rd), and Málaga  (9th) all rank in the top 10 of the Finance & Housing Index, though, Madrid (34th) and Lisbon (27th) stand out with fairly average results. In both capitals, expats face more of a struggle when it comes to finding housing: around a third think that this isn’t easy in Lisbon (37%) and Madrid (32% vs. 27% globally).

When it comes to the Urban Work Life Index, which includes three subcategories (Job & Career, Job Security, and Work-Life Balance) the Spanish cities do not rank so highly (Alicante 39th, Madrid 41st, Barcelona 42nd, Valencia 46th and Malaga 54th.  In Málaga nearly two in three respondents say the local career opportunities are bad, not quite double the global average of 34%.

The 2020 Expat City Ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations.  This year more than 15,000 expatriates representing 173 nationalities and living in 181 countries or territories provided information on various aspects of expat life. In addition to their satisfaction with life in their host country, respondents were also invited to share their opinions on the city they are currently living in, for example, on local career opportunities, the urban environment, and the ease of making friends.


Valencia Delights Expats — But Not for Work

Valencia was the clear winner in the Expat City Ranking 2020 and also ranks first in the Quality of Urban Living Index. The affordable and readily available healthcare were particularly appreciated by expats as well as plentiful leisure options and great weather, with Valencia ranking top for the two corresponding subcategories of the index.  Respondents are also very much satisfied with their finances (10th) and Valencia ranked second in the availability and affordability of housing.  82% rate the affordability of accommodation positively, twice the worldwide average!

Valencia narrowly misses out on a spot in the top 3 of the Getting Settled Index, too, ranking 4th out of 66 cities.  67% of expats say that it is easy to find new friends there, 20% above the global average of 47%.  91% rate the general friendliness of the local population positively (vs. 68%), too, and 84% agree that it is easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 61% globally).

With over 300 annual days of sunshine, it is hardly surprising that the weather is regarded as a big benefit of life in Valencia: every single respondent rates the local climate positively and 73% say it is very good.  92% are also happy with their local leisure options, over twenty percentage points more than the global average of 71%.

Respondents are just as satisfied with the public transportation system in Valencia: 89% rate it positively (vs. 66% globally), and 54% say it is very good (vs. 33% globally).      Not everything regarding the quality of life in Valencia is great, though:  while 97% of expats are happy with their personal safety (vs. 82% globally), only a slightly-below average 60% rate the political stability favorably.

The top ranking probably reflects the high number of retirees in the area with more than three times the global average of respondents in Valencia are already retired (36% vs. 11% globally), with an average age that is nearly ten years higher than that of the average survey participant (54.5 years vs. 45.7).

Reflecting this high number of retirees the assessment with regards to employment is less positive with the city only ranking in the lower half of the Urban Work Life Index (46th out of 66).  Valencia even lands in the bottom 10 of the Job & Career subcategory (62nd).  46% of expats regard their local career opportunities negatively (vs. 34% globally), and only 54% give the state of the economy in Valencia a favourable rating (vs. 63% globally).


Alicante – A Retiree’s Paradise?

Runner-up Alicante’s results are similar and, like in Valencia, a large share of expats in Alicante (40%) are already retired (vs. 11% globally).  The city ranks second in the Finance & Housing Index and first worldwide in the Getting Settled Index.  81% of expats are satisfied with their financial situation, 20% points more than the global average of 61%.  Another 83% feel at home in Alicante compared to 64% of all respondents.

Over two-thirds of the expats in Alicante (68%) agree that it is easy to find new friends and an even higher share of 77% are happy with their social life in Alicante.  Respondents in Alicante are just as likely to agree that it is easy to get used to the local culture (77% positive ratings vs. 61% globally). Together with excellent results for feeling at home in this city — 83% agree that this is the case for them — this allows Alicante to also rank second in the Feeling Welcome subcategory, only beaten by Málaga.

In Alicante the local people are rated highly with 86% rating the general friendliness of local residents positively (vs. 68% globally), and a similar share (85%) considering the people of Alicante friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 66% worldwide).

Together with few language difficulties — three in five expats in Alicante (60% each) agree that the local language is easy to learn and that it easy to live there even without local language skills these results catapult Alicante to first place in the Getting Settled Index 2020. Good news for the 55% of respondents who are planning to possibly stay there forever (vs. 33% globally).

Alicante’s results in the Quality of Urban Living Index are not quite as good where it ranks 19th. Expats in Alicante consider the affordability (10th), availability (3rd), and quality of healthcare (3rd)  to be very good, and they love the local weather (3rd).  However, results regarding the public transportation system are rather average, with 66% of respondents voicing their satisfaction. What’s more, Alicante just about ranks in the top half for personal safety (29th out of 66), compared to Valencia’s twelfth place for this factor. Alicante receives its worst results in the Urban Work Life Index, though, where it places 39th. While expats’ overall job satisfaction is only slightly below average (63% positive ratings vs.  65% globally), respondents are particularly dissatisfied with their local career opportunities: 44% rate them negatively (vs. 34% globally).


Málaga, Spain

Ranking 6th in the Expat City Ranking, the Spanish coastal city performs best in the Getting Settled Index (2nd) behind Alicante in top spot.    Málaga comes first in both the Friends & Socializing and the Feeling Welcome subcategories, with 87% of expats feeling at home there (vs. 64% globally). Additionally, 77% of survey respondents are happy with their social life in Málaga (vs. 59% globally).

The vast majority of respondents rate the friendliness of the local population positively (88% vs. 68% globally). The city also performs very well in the Local Cost of Living (3rd) and the Finance & Housing Indices (9th).  88% of expats are happy with the local cost of living (vs. 46% globally), and 79% are happy with their own financial situation as well (vs. 61% globally). Moreover, more than half the expats (54%) describe housing in Málaga as affordable (vs. 41% globally).

Málaga is in the top 15 in the Quality of Urban Life Index (14th), performing best in the Leisure & Climate subcategory (2nd).  Not surprisingly, all expats are happy with the climate and weather in Málaga (vs. 64% globally), and 92% are satisfied with the availability of healthcare (vs. 74% globally).  In common with the results for Valencia and Alicante, Málaga receives rather weak results in the Urban Work Life Index (54th). It even ranks 65th for local career opportunities with only Rome ranked lower.  Just one in ten expats (10%) is happy with the local career options (vs. 43% globally).


Madrid, Spain

The last Spanish city, Madrid, ranks 9th out of 66 destinations in the Expat City Ranking 2020.  The Spanish capital does especially well in the Quality of Urban Living Index (6th), coming eighth in the Leisure & Climate subcategory:  92% are happy with its leisure options (vs. 71% globally), which puts Madrid in first place worldwide for this factor.  Additionally, 89% are satisfied with the local climate and weather (vs. 64% globally).

Madrid’s results in the Local Cost of Living Index (9th) are also very good, with 64% of expats rating this aspect positively (vs. 46% globally).  Despite the apparently low cost of living, finances are not great in Madrid. Madrid ranks 34th in the Finance & Housing Index and just 47th in the Finance subcategory.  In fact, 30% say that their disposable household income is not enough to cover all expenses (vs. 21% globally). The Urban Work Life Index (41st) looks similarly grim: Madrid only ranks 46th in the Job Security subcategory, and 17% of expats are dissatisfied with the state of the local economy (vs. 18% globally).  One in three expats are dissatisfied with local career opportunities (vs. 34% globally).