Moving Overseas: The Easiest and Most Challenging Countries for Foreign Workers

Bahrain World Trade Center skyscraper in Manama City.

Bahrain is at the top of the 2022 Expat Essentials Index for offering foreign workers the smoothest transition when moving overseas. (Image: Typhoonski via Dreamstime)

Moving overseas often presents a multitude of unexpected complexities for foreign workers. Adjusting to a new culture, learning a new language, and understanding the local regulations can sometimes be overwhelming.

According to a comprehensive 2022 survey conducted by the renowned expatriate community organization InterNations, certain countries stand out as being more welcoming to newcomers than others. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Singapore emerged as the top three countries where it’s relatively easier for foreign workers to settle in, while Germany, Japan, and China posed the most significant challenges.

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The ‘Expat Essentials Index’

To provide actionable insights for potential expatriates, InterNations, a vast network boasting 4.5 million members spread across 420 global cities, has devised a unique tool — the “Expat Essentials Index.” This index objectively evaluates the key aspects of an immigrant’s life in different countries and regions.

It assesses digital life, which includes things such as the ease of accessing administrative services online. It also looks at living conditions, primarily focusing on the affordability and availability of housing for foreigners, and administrative requirements like the complexity of opening a local bank account or obtaining a visa. Language skills are also taken into consideration, including the possibility of getting by without learning a new language or the ease of learning the local language.

Countries that rank highest provide a straightforward process for foreign workers to open a bank account.
Countries that rank highest provide a straightforward process for opening a bank account. (Image: Alvin Cha via Dreamstime)

The top 10 countries for foreign workers

According to the Expat Essentials Index ranking, the top 10 countries out of 52 locations surveyed are Bahrain, UAE, Singapore, Estonia, Oman, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kenya, and Canada. Each country has unique attributes that make it appealing to the expatriate community.

Bahrain leads the pack due to several factors that make it an attractive destination for expatriates. The visa process in Bahrain is straightforward and uncomplicated. Renting accommodation is simple, and government online services are easily accessible. Though Arabic is the official language, it is compulsory to learn English as a second language in schools, so it is spoken widely, which makes everyday interactions smoother for newcomers.

The common thread among the top three countries is the widespread use of English and fewer administrative hurdles. This simplifies the process of settlement for immigrants, making these countries attractive to those looking to move abroad.

Many foreign workers, especially those moving to Bahrain, the UAE, and Singapore, originate from India and typically work in the finance or banking industry, attracted by job opportunities, assignments, or entrepreneurial prospects.

North America’s contender: Canada

Canada, ranking tenth, stands out as the only North American country making it to the top 10. New residents commend the ease of dealing with the local government, the straightforward process of opening a bank account, and the ready accessibility of Internet services. Canada is known for its welcoming attitude toward immigrants, its diverse culture, and its high standard of living. However, like many developed nations, finding affordable housing remains a challenge, especially in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

Downtown Vancouver at sunset, viewed from waterfront park.
Canada made the top 10, but finding affordable housing is a challenge in major cities like Vancouver. (Image: Lijuan Guo via Dreamstime)

The most challenging countries for foreign workers

InterNations also shared a reverse index highlighting the countries where expatriates find it hardest to adapt: Germany, Japan, and China. The common stumbling blocks in these countries are language barriers and complex digital services.

For expatriates in Germany, Japan, and China, language barriers complicate communication with locals and the understanding of local culture. Further, complex digital services often necessitate extensive paperwork, making government service access and bank account opening cumbersome for expatriates.

Navigating the expat experience

In conclusion, foreign workers seeking a new life overseas should consider Bahrain, UAE, and Singapore, as these countries offer the most straightforward settlement experience. On the other hand, Germany, Japan, and China present notable challenges due to language barriers and complex digital services. Canada also remains a popular destination, although the quest for affordable housing can be daunting.

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