If you've been considering taking advantage of the digital nomad life and working remotely outside of your home and native land, you may want to consult this ranking of the best cities in the world for expats to work and live.

Kuala Lumpur has been named this year's best city abroad in which to live, according to an annual survey from InterNations that reveals how expats rate life in cities around the world. More than 12,000 expats living in 186 countries or territories, and representing 174 nationalities, participated in the Expat City Ranking 2021.

Participating expats were asked to rate 57 global cities based on four aspects of life abroad: quality of urban living; getting settled; urban work life; and finance and housing.

Each of these aspects was divided into subcategories such as public transportation, leisure and climate, safety, friendliness of locals, work-life balance, and housing. InterNations then looked at the cities with the highest scores in the first four categories to determine its Expat City Ranking 2021. 

READ: Toronto Recognized as One of the Top Cities in the World for Remote Work

The survey marks Kuala Lumpur as the top-ranking city worldwide for getting settled, with 75% of surveyed expats saying they feel at home there, compared to 65% globally, while 78% say they find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally).

Málaga and Dubai rounded out the top three spots, while Rome (57th), Milan (56th), and Johannesburg (55th) were ranked as the worst cities for expats this year.


This year's ranking included two Canadian cities, Vancouver and Toronto, which claimed the 25th and 27th spots, respectively. Unsurprisingly, both Canadian cities rank among the bottom 10 worldwide in the 'Finance & Housing' Index, but the local cost of living is perceived worse in Vancouver than in Toronto.

"While both destinations seem to offer expats a fairly average working life, Vancouver stands out for its 9th rank in the Getting Settled Index, where Toronto only comes 17th. Vancouver also beats Toronto when it comes to the local quality of life," reads the survey.

Expats say they find it easy to get used to the local culture in Vancouver (81% vs. 65% globally) and feel at home there (73% vs. 65% globally). Interestingly, expats in Vancouver also find it easier to make friends (21st) and are happier with their social life (22nd) than those in Toronto (38th and 41st, respectively).


Toronto also performed well in the Getting Settled Index (17th), with more than four in five expats (82%) describing the locals as generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 67% globally), while 75% say they find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally). Nevertheless, 44% say they find it hard to make new friends in Toronto (vs. 32% globally), and 32% are unhappy with their social life (vs. 25% globally).

Toronto also performs well in the Urban Work Life Index (27th), even slightly better than Vancouver (29th). This is mainly due to expats’ high satisfaction with their work-life balance (76% vs. 66% globally) and working hours (75% vs. 66% globally). In fact, the average working week (full-time and part-time jobs combined) is shorter in Toronto (36.1 hours) than in Vancouver (37.9 hours) — and both cities are well below the global average (39.9 hours).

While Toronto does well enough in the Quality of Urban Living Index (28th), this is not the case in the Finance & Housing Index (48th). The Finance Subcategory (52nd) is the bigger issue: 30% of surveyed expats say are unhappy with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally), and 35% say their disposable household income is insufficient to cover expenses (vs. 23% globally).

The Housing Subcategory (36th) looks better at first glance, but housing is still unaffordable (67% vs. 39% globally) and hard to find (28% vs.23% globally). Lastly, Toronto ranks 39th in the Local Cost of Living Index, which is a lot better than Vancouver (53rd), but 54% say they are still unhappy with this factor (vs. 34% globally).

All this to say, if you've been thinking about relocating, consider giving this energetic city known for its multi-culturalism, towering buildings, bustling streets, and international cuisines a try once the pandemic is behind us.