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The top 10 cities for expats living and working abroad in 2021

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Kuala Lumpur is the top city for expats to live and work abroad in 2021, according to a survey of more than 12,000 respondents from InterNations, an online expat community with more than 4 million global members.

The Malaysian capital city leads the list of 57 cities around the world. Málaga, a port city in southern Spain, and Dubai, a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates, rank as the second and third, respectively.

The survey, conducted in January 2021, asked expats to rate their satisfaction across four main categories, including quality of life (like a healthy environment and robust WiFi infrastructure), ease of settling in (such as language barriers and friendliness of local residents), personal finance (such as access to affordable health care) and working abroad (such as job security and a stable local economy). 

Expats in all three top cities say it's easy to get settled and make friends in each location. Foreign residents in Kuala Lumpur and Málaga are satisfied with the affordable cost of living and the ability to manage their personal finances, while expats in both Málaga and Dubai appreciate the high quality of life there.

Here are the top 10 cities for expats living and working abroad, and how residents feel about their home away from home.

1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Alexander Spatari | Moment | Getty Images
  • 85% are happy with life in general
  • 78% are happy with the cost of living
  • 65% say making new friends is easy
  • 71% are happy with their job
  • 72% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 78% are happy with the quality of medical care

2. Málaga, Spain

Moelyn Photos | Moment | Getty Images
  • 86% are happy with life in general
  • 86% are happy with the cost of living
  • 69% say making new friends is easy
  • 48% are happy with their job
  • 62% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 81% are happy with the quality of medical care

3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

spreephoto.de | The Image Bank | Getty Images
  • 72% are happy with life in general
  • 31% are happy with the cost of living
  • 59% say making new friends is easy
  • 65% are happy with their job
  • 56% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 81% are happy with the quality of medical care

4. Sydney, Australia

@Barefoot_Traveller | Twenty20
  • 82% are happy with life in general
  • 28% are happy with the cost of living
  • 53% say making new friends is easy
  • 77% are happy with their job
  • 78% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 89% are happy with the quality of medical care

5. Singapore

Gardens by the Bay and Singapore skyline reflection on blue water at blue hour in Singapore.
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  • 79% are happy with life in general
  • 21% are happy with the cost of living
  • 56% say making new friends is easy
  • 71% are happy with their job
  • 78% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 89% are happy with the quality of medical care

6. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • 89% are happy with life in general
  • 84% are happy with the cost of living
  • 77% say making new friends is easy
  • 88% are happy with their job
  • 79% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 60% are happy with the quality of medical care

7. Prague, Czech Republic

Viktoryia Vinnikava | Twenty20
  • 80% are happy with life in general
  • 61% are happy with the cost of living
  • 52% say making new friends is easy
  • 74% are happy with their job
  • 79% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 84% are happy with the quality of medical care

8. Mexico City, Mexico

Tais Policanti | Moment | Getty Images
  • 83% are happy with life in general
  • 75% are happy with the cost of living
  • 73% say making new friends is easy
  • 71% are happy with their job
  • 58% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 62% are happy with the quality of medical care

9. Basel, Switzerland

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  • 71% are happy with life in general
  • 23% are happy with the cost of living
  • 42% say making new friends is easy
  • 79% are happy with their job
  • 76% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 92% are happy with the quality of medical care

10. Madrid, Spain

Julian Elliott Photography | Stone | Getty Images
  • 80% are happy with life in general
  • 67% are happy with the cost of living
  • 68% say making new friends is easy
  • 60% are happy with their job
  • 66% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 89% are happy with the quality of medical care

Global expats on average

  • 75% are happy with life in general
  • 48% are happy with the cost of living
  • 48% say making new friends is easy
  • 68% are happy with their job
  • 66% are happy with their work-life balance
  • 71% are happy with the quality of medical care

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates.

Check out:

The top 10 countries where expats are happiest with work, life and cost of living

Here’s how expats living in the U.S. rate work-life balance, cost of living and overall happiness

American expats find better work-life balance but limited career growth abroad

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