Expats in Barcelona Are the Happiest

When it comes to personal happiness, Spanish cities make it to the top of this year’s city ranking. Madrid gives expats the warmest welcome of all.

Photo By Moyan Brenn (CC by 2.0)

Munich, 15 November 2016 — Madrid is the third-best city to live abroad according to previously unreleased data from the third annual InterNations Expat Insider 2016 survey. With more than 14,000 respondents, it is one of the most extensive studies ever conducted to explore the general living situation of expatriates. Spanish cities are popular among expats. The latest InterNations survey finds that despite the poor rating in the Personal Finance Index, people consider the quality of life in Madrid or Barcelona to be exceptionally high. It turns out that Barcelona is even home to the happiest expats worldwide out of all the cities featured in the survey. In the overall ranking, Madrid has made it to the global top 3, at third place, while Barcelona comes in on a rather more mediocre 11th place.

Melbourne, Houston, Madrid: Top Scorers for Expats

As part of the Expat Insider 2016 survey, InterNations takes a closer look at cities around the world and ranks them according to such factors as the quality of life, personal finance, working abroad, and settling in. Melbourne takes the top spot for expat life out of the 35 cities analyzed. Expats in Australia’s second-most populous city are particularly pleased with their work-life balance: 79 percent of respondents rate this positively, which is notably higher than the global average of 60 percent. Overall job satisfaction in Melbourne is also above average, with 71 percent rating this factor positively. This city down under also excels when it comes to the availability of leisure activities: an astounding 91 percent rate this aspect positively, 19 percentage points higher than the global average of 72 percent.

Houston, Texas, finds itself in second place overall and for general satisfaction among expats. The United States of America’s fourth-biggest city also excels when it comes to the cost of living and personal finance, ranking fifth and seventh, respectively, in both of these categories. Houston comes in first place in the Ease of Settling In Index, too. However, the data was collected before the US presidential elections: it is yet to be seen if the election results will have an impact on such ranking categories as “Friendliness” or “Feeling Welcome”, which the Ease of Settling In Index is based on.

Madrid ranks third overall, mainly due to expats feeling welcome there and finding it easy to make friends: the Spanish capital takes the top spot in both of these categories. Madrid is also appreciated for its comparatively low cost of living: 72 percent of expats rate this factor positively, in comparison to the 49 percent global average. Duesseldorf, Germany, and Singapore round out the top five best cities for living abroad.

Spanish Cities Are the Most Welcoming

Spain proves itself to be a welcoming place for expats, with Madrid ranking first and Barcelona coming in fourth place in the Feeling Welcome subcategory of the Ease of Settling In Index. Over three-fourths of respondents in Madrid (77 percent) say they feel at home in the local culture, and 71 percent agree that it is relatively easy to make new friends in this city: thus, Madrid also ranks first in the Finding Friends subcategory. Moreover, the Expat Insider 2016 survey finds that expats in Barcelona are the happiest: the city comes first in the Personal Happiness subcategory. In fact, 70 percent of the respondents are in a happy relationship, and 64 percent are overall satisfied with their work-life balance. Another reason that contributes to people’s happiness in Barcelona might be the warm and sunny climate, which is rated positively by 95 percent of the respondents. Indeed, 69 percent couldn’t be any happier with the weather on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Barcelona Top in Leisure Activities

While the Spanish capital ranks first when it comes to general satisfaction with life abroad, with 93 percent of respondents saying that they are overall happy with expat life in Madrid, Barcelona finds itself in fourth place. Madrid also outperforms Barcelona when it comes to the friendliness of the local population, the cities ranking second and sixth, respectively, for friendliness. Both cities, however, are well above the global average 67 percent of expats rating the general friendliness of the population positively: 88 percent in Madrid and 80 percent in Barcelona give this factor a favorable rating. Barcelona is the number one city for enjoying a rich variety of leisure options. An overwhelming 60 percent rate this factor as very good’, double the global average, and 95 percent overall feel positive about the leisure options available in Barcelona. However, Madrid follows right behind and ranks second for leisure options, with 92 percent rating this factor positively.

When it comes to the Working Abroad Index, both Barcelona and Madrid could do a lot better, ranking 32nd and 29th. Especially in the Job Security subcategory both cities occupy the lower ranks: Madrid ranks 32nd and Barcelona even 33rd. Only 44 percent and 49 percent, respectively, rate their individual job security in Barcelona and Madrid positively, and the results are even worse when it comes to the general state of the economy: merely one-third of the expats living in either city gives this factor a positive rating. At least, both Madrid and Barcelona appear to be fairly affordable, placing third and eighth, respectively, in the Cost of Living Index. In fact, not a single respondent in Madrid rates this factor as very bad.

Find more InterNations Expat Insider 2016 rankings, reports and infographics on www.internations.org/expat-insider.

About the InterNations Expat Insider 2016 City Ranking

For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked about 14,300 expatriates representing 174 nationalities and living in 191 countries or territories to rate and provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality. For the first time in three years running, survey respondents were also invited to share, which city of residence they are currently living in.

Based on this information, a list of cities qualifying for this ranking emerged. For a city to be featured in the league table, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per city was required. In total, the responses used for the city ranking represent 4,096 expats living in 35 destinations and 22 countries or territories in the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East.

Participants were asked to rate more than 30 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. The rating process emphasized the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects and considered both emotional topics as well as more factual aspects with equal weight. The respondents’ ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 12 subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up several topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living. These were further averaged in order to rank 35 cities worldwide. In 2016, the top five were Melbourne, Houston, Madrid, Duesseldorf, and Singapore.