Thailand has moved into the top 10 among the best countries for expatriates, rising to 8th place from 14th last year in the Expat Insider 2022 survey by InterNations.
The world's largest expat community with more than 4 million members, Berlin-based InterNations surveyed expat life in 52 destinations, obtaining online responses from nearly 12,000 members worldwide.
The survey gauges expats' satisfaction with the Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, and Personal Finance in their respective country of residence. A new Expat Essentials Index covers digital life, administrative issues, housing and language.
Thailand excels in the Personal Finance index (4th) and Ease of Settling In (11th). It ranked 18th for Expat Essentials but a mediocre 35th for Quality of Life. The country's poor Working Abroad ranking (45th) dragged down its overall score. Overall, however, 77% of expats say they are happy with their life in Thailand, compared with 71% globally.
The country's ranking improved from 14th in 2021 and 25th out of 64 destinations in 2019. In 2020, when InterNations ranked cities, Bangkok was ranked 20th out of 82 locations.
Mexico (1st), Indonesia (2nd) and Taiwan (3rd) were the top three destinations worldwide, with high scores for Ease of Settling In and Personal Finance. The remainder of the top 10, in order, were Portugal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and Singapore.
The bottom three destinations -- Kuwait (52nd), New Zealand and Hong Kong -- all perform poorly in terms of personal finances for expats.
Money goes further: Most expats (85%) in Thailand feel their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to lead a comfortable life (versus 72% globally). Expats vote Thailand third for general cost of living -- 71% compared with the global average of 45%. Thailand ranked first in the housing subcategory, with respondents describing accommodation as both affordable (74% vs 39% globally) and easy to find (85% vs 54% globally).
Paper chase: The Expat Essentials index is a different story, however, with respondents particularly unhappy with the low availability of administrative/government services online (43% unhappy vs 21% globally). "It is all paperwork for everything," comments one expat from Chile. Overall, more than half (51%) find it hard to deal with the local bureaucracy and authorities, compared to 39% globally.
While 70% find it easy to live in Thailand without speaking the local language (vs 51% globally), 68% struggle to learn it (vs 38% globally). In fact, 78% speak the language just a little (54% vs 25% globally) or not at all (24% vs 10% globally).
Easy connections: Ease of Settling In is a highlight, though, and expats rate Thailand particularly well in the Local Friendliness subcategory. The majority (86%) find the residents to be generally friendly (vs 66% globally), and another 81% describe them as friendly towards foreign residents (vs 65% globally). They enjoy their social life (69% satisfied vs 56% globally), and more than half (52%) say that making local friends is easy, compared to 42% globally.
Leisure and healthcare: The Quality of Life index (35th) is a mixed bag, according to InterNations. When it comes to Leisure Options (5th), expats are especially happy. They vote the country second worldwide for its culinary variety and dining options, only beaten by Mexico. Some 77% are satisfied with the culture and nightlife, compared to 67% globally.
Expats also are impressed by healthcare in Thailand, ranking the country 11th in the Health and Wellbeing subcategory. More than three-quarters (77%) say they have access to all the kinds of healthcare services they need (vs 67% globally), and with good quality (85% vs 72% globally).
Not so green: On the other hand, the Environment and Climate subcategory (44th) is a major concern for expats in Thailand. Two in five believe the government does not support policies to protect the environment, more than double the global average (18%). "People are not aware enough about pollution, and it is sad to see nature spoiled by rubbish," a French expat complains. Furthermore, 45% rate the air quality negatively (vs 19% globally) and 32% are unhappy with the urban environment (elements such as green spaces, noise levels and eco-friendly architecture), compared to 17% globally.
Unhappy workers: Thailand's main weakness is in the Working Abroad index (45th), with a ranking of 48th in the Work Culture and Satisfaction subcategory (48th). The local business culture, they say, does not encourage creativity (41% vs 26% globally), nor does it promote independent work (45% vs 28% globally).
Expats also rank Thailand among the bottom 10 for Salary and Job Security (46th). However, 35% of the respondents to this year's survey do not have to worry about this, as they are already retired, compared to the global average of 10% retirees. In fact, 19% of expats in Thailand moved there specifically to retire, compared to only 3% globally.
To download the full report, visit https://www.internations.org/expat-insider