The decision to move abroad as an expat is an exciting journey, but it can also be overwhelming. With so many different cultures and lifestyles to explore, how do you know which countries are best to add to your shortlist?
A methodology of how to measure the best countries in the world to live in, based on quality-of-life attributes, was developed by the BAV Group – a division of the global marketing communications company WPP, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It measured indicators such as:
Quality of Life: Affordability, good job market, economic stability, family-friendly, income equality, and progression of a well-developed public education system
Entrepreneurship: Connections to the rest of the world, educated population, innovation, transparent business practices, and legal framework development
Agility: Dynamism, adaptability, cultural modernity, and progressivism
Social Purpose: Environmental care, human rights focus, gender equality, racial equality, religious freedom, respect of property rights, and climate goals
Open for Business: Cheap costs of manufacturing, bureaucracy, favorable tax environment, corruption, government transparency
Adventure: Good for tourism, pleasant climate, scenery, fun
Heritage: Cultural accessibility and attractions, rich history, geographical attractions, and great quality food
Whether you’re looking for a career opportunity, better schooling, political stability or just a change of scenery, these factors give a better understanding of the best countries to live in 2023.
So, if you’re an expat or juggling with the idea of becoming one, read on to learn more about what the best nation to live in might be for you.
Quality of life
Denmark should be at the top of the list for expats searching for the best quality of life available. This small Nordic country consistently ranks highly in international surveys on factors like happiness, income equality, safety, and access to education. It’s also a global leader in social welfare.
The Danish lifestyle is relaxed and stress-free, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. The country is renowned for its bike-friendliness, from large cities like Copenhagen to small island towns like the South Funen Archipelago, and it’s easy to get around the country without a car.
The Danes are known to have one of the best quality healthcare systems, which is evident from its citizens’ high life expectancy and low mortality rate. The universal healthcare system runs under a well-developed public health insurance scheme that requires registration with the Danish Civil Registration System. Once enrolled, all Danish nationals are entitled to free healthcare.
Denmark upholds the principle of free education at all levels. Regardless of what you choose to study or which public university you attend, there are no charges incurred or student loans to pay back.
By obtaining citizenship by investment in Europe, you will have access to free higher education in Denmark as an EU citizen.
Denmark: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 82
Social purpose: 98.9
Quality of life: 99.9
US News score: 89.8
Quality of life
Although most countries in northern Europe enjoy many quality-of-life benefits, Norway, the largest country on the Scandinavian Peninsula, ranks as one of the highest in the Human Development Index. Simple factors such as good governance, income equality, civil rights, low unemployment, and a high net worth per capita allow Norwegians to enjoy a high standard of living. It was also the first country in Scandinavia to legalize same-sex marriage.
The average salary in Norway at $55,000 is higher than in the US at $51,480. Although Norway imposes high-income taxes, the money generated is used well. It’s also a great country for expats who love the outdoors, with Jotunheimen National Park rated as one of the best national parks in Europe.
Like most Nordic countries, the Norwegian universal healthcare system has been praised for its efficiency and simplicity. There is no requirement for private medical insurance as all residents have access to free health care paid for by government taxes.
Prescriptions are subsidized by the government and have a low universal cost, making them very affordable regardless of what kind of treatment you require.
As an expat in Norway, you’ll have access to high-quality care in addition to low wait times for appointments and health services.
Not only is the well-developed public education system in Norway free, but EU and EEA students are also eligible to receive a free bursary to support their education that does not need to be paid back.
Although international students no longer have access to free university education in Norway, the tuition fees are significantly lower than what students pay in the US, averaging 130,000 NOK ($12,600) per semester.
Norway: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 84.2
Social purpose: 99.7
Quality of life: 96.3
US News score: 86.9
Quality of life
The most populous nation on the Scandinavian peninsula, Sweden is often hailed as one of the best countries in the world to live in year after year, and it’s no wonder why. It consistently ranks high on lists of the happiest nations in the world and on the Human Development Index.
The quality of life is fantastic. Swedes enjoy a high level of freedom, low crime, income equality, and a beautiful country with loads to see and do.
Although it can be an expensive place to live, it’s still considered one of the best countries to live in 2023 as it’s one of the safest countries in the world, the economy is booming, and there are plenty of opportunities for expats to find well-paid jobs.
Swedish is widely spoken throughout the country. But don’t let that put you off, as it’s one of the best countries to move to from the US, with 89 percent of the population under 60 years old speaking fluent English.
Unlike most Scandinavian nations, the Swedish healthcare system is decentralized and mainly government-funded, but local authorities decide how it’s run and how much the total healthcare budget will be through local taxes.
The level of care you receive in one municipality could be slightly better or worse than in another, although the country generally provides a great healthcare system.
Private healthcare insurance is available for those who want access to more healthcare options and faster treatment, costing as little as 4,000 kr ($380) per annum.
Sweden has a tax-funded well-developed public education system which is also decentralized. The government grants local authorities autonomy in designing course curricula as long as national standardized goals are met.
There is a growing number of independent educational institutions in the country, also funded through taxes. Children can choose whether to attend a public municipal school or an independent one.
Sweden is one of the best nations in the world to live with a family and raise children. From the age of three, there is already a heavy incorporation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum in schools.
Sweden: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 81.9
Social purpose: 100
Quality of life: 100
US News score: 95.7
Quality of life
An historically wealthy nation, Switzerland ranks and has long been ranked as a haven for the wealthy, and it’s also a haven for expats seeking a high quality of life abroad.
Home of the World Economic Forum and as one of the world’s wealthiest countries per capita, it has the world’s most stable political systems, with long-standing neutrality concerning politics. Its stability makes it one of the best countries to live in the future, and it’s an attractive destination for expats who want to avoid places with volatile politics.
Swiss residents benefit from outstanding governance. Everything runs like clockwork in Switzerland, from public transportation to healthcare.
Although Switzerland ranks as having one of the highest costs of living of EU nations, the average salary is one of the highest in Europe.
The economy is run exceptionally well, and high earners benefit from much lower income tax rates, while businesses also benefit from low corporate tax rates compared to Scandinavian countries like Finland and Denmark.
You can expect a great balance of everything that contributes to a high quality of life, such as efficiency, freedom, good infrastructure, and low crime.
Switzerland has a universal compulsory private health insurance system that the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance regulates. It ensures that Swiss residents have access to affordable medical insurance policies, ranging from CHF 300 ($326 ) to a maximum of CHF 2,500 ( $2,720) per annum.
Each canton in Switzerland sets its administrative policies, but regardless of where you live in Switzerland, you can expect to receive world-class healthcare.
Switzerland ranks as having one of the best education systems in the world, placing in ninth position out of 65 nations and economies in a recent OECD survey of educational standards among 15-year-olds. Switzerland’s modern and well-developed public education system focuses heavily on real-world training as part of its curriculum.
By the end of high school, VET programs (Vocational and Professional Education System) are introduced, combining vocational education with onsite training at a company.
Additionally, children and young adolescents with special educational needs have a right to free schooling and support from specialists from birth to their 20th birthday.
Switzerland: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 100
Social purpose: 86.6
Quality of life: 96.7
US News score: 100
Quality of life
There are countless reasons why Australia is considered one of the best nations in the world to live in for expats. The most populous nation in Oceania, although slightly further afield, a number of the best quality-of-life factors make it the perfect home away from home.
For a start, the country has a stable and strong economy and maintains political neutrality.
Additionally, Australia ranks highly in standard of living concerning healthcare and has a wide range of educational opportunities.
Australia ranked seventh on the OECD Better Life Index, based on living conditions and quality of life factors in several aspects such as the environment, work-life balance, community, and safety.
The climate and scenery in Australia are also very pleasant, with a lot of variation due to being one of the largest countries in the world with vast areas of land. All major cities and towns run along its coastline. Cities like Sydney enjoy a more temperate climate throughout the year, whereas isolated cities like Perth have hotter summers and colder winters.
The Australian healthcare system provides services at a substantially reduced cost through its Medicare program.
Australian residents have free access to essential healthcare in public hospitals. Most Australians take out insurance to access private healthcare should they need it. The average monthly premium is very cheap at 245 AUD ($170) per month on average.
A comparison by Compare the Market found that 73.4 percent of Australians felt satisfied with the quality of healthcare in Australia, as opposed to 54.2 percent of Americans with the quality of healthcare in the US.
The nation’s world-class public education system runs stringently to ensure quality schooling at all levels. Public education until university is free for Australian permanent residents, and the government heavily subsidizes tuition fees through taxes.
Many Australian universities, such as the University of Melbourne, have high overall rankings in higher education comparison studies and are very strong in various fields of study, such as biological sciences and engineering.
Australia: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Social purpose: 84
Quality of life: 85.7
US News score: 94.3
Quality of life
The Netherlands is a liberal paradise with numerous quality-of-life benefits to match. Dutch people are known for being welcoming and highly tolerant of people of different cultures and beliefs.
It should come as no surprise that the Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Its cultural influence has resonated throughout the world in all aspects.
Cycling is engaged within Dutch culture and is the main form of transport for many people who live there. Despite having the highest population density of all the large economies in the European Union, a profound cycling culture consistently places the Netherlands in high positions on low pollution indexes. It maintains clean air quality even in compact cities.
The cost of living in the Netherlands is relatively affordable, especially compared to the largest countries in western Europe. And although the Dutch language can be challenging to learn, English is widely spoken throughout the nation, with 95 percent of the population speaking English.
The think tank, Health Consumer Powerhouse, ranked the Netherlands at number two in a pool of the 35 best healthcare systems in the world due to its heavy focus on patient-centered health services and the satisfaction of Dutch residents with the quality of their healthcare service.
The healthcare system is divided between well-developed public health services and private healthcare. The government automatically insures Dutch residents, but basic medical insurance is compulsory.
Health insurance prices are very affordable in the Netherlands, with premiums starting at around €125 ($135) per month. Furthermore, the good news for expat families is that children are automatically covered under their parent’s medical insurance policies.
The Netherlands employs a progressive and well-developed public education system. By the time a child reaches the high school age of twelve, they enter one of three different streams of education based on the student’s academic level and interests.
The three streams are:
VMBO (preparatory secondary vocational education): Similar to high school in other developed nations. VMBO provides education based on vocationally-orientated education over four years.
HAVO (senior general secondary education): A five-year educational plan that prepares children to study at universities of applied sciences.
VWO (university preparatory education): An education stream over six years focused on theoretical knowledge that prepares students to follow bachelor’s degrees at research universities.
Although different streams prepare children for various fields of study, any of them can be accessed regardless of which stream is entered. Some just allow public education phases to be completed in a much shorter time-span.
The Netherlands: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 76.1
Social purpose: 90.9
Quality of life: 88.9
US News score: 88.2
Quality of life
There’s no place I’d rather be is probably a fitting line for Finns. Rated as the world’s happiest country for five years in a row proves that Finnish citizens must be happy with the quality of life in Finland.
There are many reasons why Finns live such happy lives. And a big reason goes back to Finnish culture.
Finnish philosopher Frank Martela describes Finns as generally happy people because Finnish culture is more accepting of negative emotions and tough times. “Nobody goes through life without tragedies, so being able to accept the situation is helpful,” he says.
But this isn’t the only reason why Finns are happy. Although this relatively isolated country in northern Europe can be a bit pricey to live in due to high-income taxes, the trickle-down benefits of this are enormous.
Crime rates are criminally low – no pun intended – and it’s one of the safest nations in the world. According to Numbeo, it has the lowest pollution and the best air quality in the world. Tap water purity is also amongst the highest in any nation.
The high taxation system has also created the most comprehensive welfare system available. Welfare support matches the cost of living for things like maternity, job loss, and child care.
Daycare is heavily subsidized by the government and is calculated based on income, costing a maximum of €342 ($368) per month for full-time daycare, as opposed to a market-based economy like the US, with an average cost of $840.
The healthcare system
Healthcare in Finland is publicly funded through taxes and social security. However, while the initiatives focus on health promotion and social welfare policies at the federal level, the healthcare system is mainly decentralized, with local authorities organizing healthcare delivery to residents.
Nonetheless, global perceptions see Finland as having the best healthcare system due to its focus on general health and well-being and disease prevention rather than treatment.
Besides coming in first place for the best welfare system, the well-developed public education system in Finland is also unparalleled. It’s an excellent place for expats to raise a family as there’s not only great importance placed on access to education but the quality of it too.
Huge accountability is placed on teachers, and rightly so. They’re on the frontline of education, delivering curricula to children. But many countries have low standards for teachers and don’t adequately prepare them to carry out their jobs effectively.
The Finnish education system places the bar so high for its educators that there is almost no requirement for a rigorous grading system to assess the quality of their work.
Educators in Finland are required to have master’s degrees, in addition to completing studies in pedagogy, before they can seek employment.
Conditions for teaching in Finland also create a much better environment for teachers and students, such as tight oversight over schools and adequate professional support for teachers.
Finland: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 85.9
Social purpose: 95.4
Quality of life: 90
US News score: 81.5
Quality of life
Germany receives frequent praise for its high quality of life. It’s the nation that is home to the most expats in Europe, and justifiably so.
Expats frequently cite Germany’s efficient infrastructure, the abundance of available activities, public services, income equality, and the wide range of work opportunities as some of the main reasons why it’s such a great place to live.
The country boasts a rich cultural heritage and is home to some of the world’s most famous tourist destinations, like its capital city, Munich, as well as Berlin and Hamburg.
Germans also have the second highest-ranking passport in the world on the Global Passport Index, which measures the strength of a nation’s passport. Furthermore, Germany is one of the biggest contributors to the United Nations, which demonstrates its dedication to peace.
The German healthcare system is a statutory health insurance system (SHI) financed with equal payments divided between an employee and an employer.
SHI enacts comprehensive insurance that covers major surgeries, prescriptions, and sick-pay, without excess payments or additional fees.
The German healthcare system is one of the most technologically-advanced in the world. Residents seldom need to venture abroad should they require any specialist treatment.
Hygiene is also a crucial focus of the German healthcare system, and access to the most up-to-date technologies and innovative treatments is also widely available.
Germany has a free public school system and a wide range of high-quality fee-based private and international schools. The general quality of education is high, whether public or private. In each world report for education, German students consistently rank high in cornerstone subjects such as maths and science.
How special needs children are integrated into the mainstream school system is also exemplary, offering adequate additional support and specialist help.
German universities are ideal for international students interested in fields in which Germany is a global leader, such as the automotive industry.
Mercedes-Benz offers a dual-study program at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Stuttgart. It provides theoretical studies in conjunction with dynamic, practical training at its state-of-the-art research and development, and manufacturing facilities.
Germany: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 62
Social purpose: 70.3
Quality of life: 90
US News score: 98
Quality of life
If you’re someone looking for the best places to live for American retirees, you’ve probably already found that Portugal is consistently featured at the top in many lists across the internet.
What Portugal offers in quality of life is hard for any nation in the European Union and around the world to beat. It’s the ideal country to live in to live for all demographics of expats for numerous reasons:
Whether you’re a high-net-worth individual based in a tax haven like Monaco or you enjoy a low cost of living in a country like Thailand, you’ve likely felt the pinch of the rising cost of living.
Compared to other major countries in Western Europe, Portugal’s cost of living is undeniably low. Just one example of this is you can expect to pay less than €800 ($860) per month for a one-bedroom apartment outside the center of Lisbon, whereas the same apartment in a similar location in London will cost more than €1,600) ($1,700).
Portugal also has one of the lowest crime rates in western Europe and was ranked amongst the top nations in the Global Peace Index for 2022, which measures everything, from violent crime and incarceration rates to terrorism threats and political instability.
Beyond the cost of living and safety, Portugal has abundant high-quality-of-life factors, such as numerous cultural things to do, amazing cuisine, great infrastructure, and excellent weather year-round.
For expats looking to settle down in Europe, the Portugal Golden Visa program is one of the most accessible routes. Among the many benefits it provides for foreigners, it also creates a path to citizenship and one of the best passports to have, according to the Global Passport Index.
Interested in Portugal’s Golden Visa? Get in touch with our specialists at Global Citizen Solutions for more information on how we can help you secure Portuguese residency in no time.
Portugal is one of the several European nations where financial concerns about your health are unnecessary. The extensive tax-funded and well-developed public healthcare system (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) provides free emergency care to all residents. Non-essential treatment is also available at nominal fees. You can also expect very low average wait times in conjunction with high-quality care.
Portugal has a reputation for consistently good schooling at all levels, from preschool to higher education. Whether you’re looking for local or international schools, there are many excellent options for young children in a capital city like Lisbon or others like Porto, which makes Portugal the best country in the world to live with a family.
Portugal: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 64
Quality of life: 53.6
US News score: 56.2
Quality of life
New Zealand is the land of natural beauty, friendly people, and enviable political stability. Whether you’re looking for a a high standard of living in urban environment or a more rural setting, the country has something for everyone.
For anyone looking for the perfect place for an outdoor lifestyle and to explore nature the quality of life in New Zealand is unmatched. It’s home to some of the most spectacular landscapes and natural wonders on earth.
You’re always close to a national park where you are. And coupled with the unique wilderness, the country has excellent infrastructure in rural areas that allows you to experience it all easily.
The government places great emphasis on maintaining the rich and distinguished culture of the Māori people. And this is profoundly evident throughout the education system and in politics.
Although a very isolated and relatively small nation, far from countries in southeast Asia like Thailand and Singapore and even further from the US, it’s a stable and prosperous nation. A top spot with plenty of work opportunities, and residents enjoy unbounded safety and security.
The healthcare system
There is a universal healthcare system funded by taxes that is free to all residents. There are also district-funded private healthcare initiatives that provide additional financial support for medical care.
New Zealand ranks among the top countries in all index studies related to healthcare.
Private medical insurance is also very affordable. You can expect to pay as little as 150 NZD ($96) monthly for a comprehensive medical insurance policy with no excess.
New Zealand’s school system is publicly funded, and every person has access to it. Furthermore, there are many Kura Kaupapa Māori schools available, where children are taught some or even all curriculum subjects in the Māori language at least 51 percent of the time to maintain Māori cultural influence.
According to UNESCO IN 2017, New Zealand has one of the lowest pupil-to-teacher ratios compared to other countries of its size, giving children more opportunities to learn and receive educational support.
New Zealand: Top five quality-of-life attributes
Open for business: 78.1
Social purpose: 88.7
Quality of life: 83.6
US News score: 89.2
There are many great countries in the world and finding the right one to live in really depends on your individual preferences, needs, and values. From vibrant cities in central Europe to small seaside villages by the Baltic sea with stunning scenery, each country offers something unique that could make it a great place to call home. Human rights, political neutrality, a strong economy and good job market, and even United Nations membership are also important.
If you’re an investor or entrepreneur, hiring a highly skilled workforce at a low cost or having access to the best quality financial services could be a consideration.
You may want to consider reading a thoroughly conducted world report, such as the United Nations World Happiness Report, which provides a good idea of national and global perceptions concerning the happiness of a country’s citizens. The Human Freedom Index, co-published by the Fraser Institute and the Cato Institute, is another world report to consider, determining the best countries for human rights.
Our Global Passport Index
How do you measure a passport? While most passport indexes focus solely on visa-free access to countries, Global Citizen Solutions has developed its own innovative method to measure a passport’s worth. Based not only on visa-free access but also on investment opportunities and quality of life factors, we believe that expats are looking beyond simple mobility benefits when considering moving country or securing a second passport.
Split into three indices, Enhanced Mobility Index, Investment Index, and Quality of Life Index, to give a complete Global Passport Index ranking – we hope to provide a complete guide to a passport’s worth.
You can see where the above countries rank in our Quality of Life Index, a great indicator to help you determine which country may be the perfect match for you.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Countries in the World to Live in
Which is the best country in the world to live in?
The best nation in the world to live in is Sweden due to its high ranking on the world report Human Development Index, Social Progress Index, and Quality of Life Index.
Which is the best country in the world to live in and why?
The world’s best country to live in is Sweden, as it ranked highest on the world report Quality of Life Index that measured attributes ranging from economic stability and progressivism to innovation and geographical attractions.
Which country is Number one in the world?
The world’s number one country is Sweden which ranked as the best in a 2022 quality of life study by the Brand Asset Valuator Group – a division of the global marketing communications company WPP, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Which country is best to start a life?
The best place to live in is Sweden, as it ranked the highest on the world report Human Development Index, Social Progress Index, and Quality-of-Life Index.
What is the nicest country in the world?
The nicest country in the world depends on what features of a country appeal to you the most. If you’re drawn to the outdoors and unique natural landscapes that don’t exist anywhere else on earth, then New Zealand or Iceland may be the nicest country for you.
If you’re passionate about social care and high public expenditure, a global leader like Finland or Norway could be the world’s nicest country. Other countries in the European Union, like Switzerland, Portugal, and the Emerald Isle – Ireland- are the nicest for those involved with global entrepreneurship.