Which Are the Best Cities for Expats to Live & Work?

Blond woman looking at passing tram in Vienna, Austria

While employee reluctance for relocating has reached an all-time high, for many there is a lot of possibility, excitement, and opportunity in the idea and reality of an expatriate assignment. As mobility programs head into the new year, many are sharing what they have been doing, what their biggest challenges are, and where they plan to focus in the upcoming 12 months. Some are even participating in surveys to be able to not only share this information but to get back some insights into how other mobility programs are faring and where they will concentrate in 2024.

For example, there is no better time than now to take Plus Relocation’s 2024 Global Mobility Trends Survey which will be open until January 12th. The 2024 Global Mobility Trends Survey is now live!

But while reluctance may have peaked in the U.S. due to unaffordability of housing, cost of living issues, and remote/hybrid work, we may see a bigger rebound in 2024 where some of these impactors become less severe. We are seeing signs of inflation easing, and if the housing market can adjust. As we see greater numbers of employees back in the office, relocation enthusiasm may increase as we step through the next year. For many potential expats, the host city defines the excitement of relocation. If someone were to take an assignment, what would be their quality of life and work?

Enter the Mercer Quality of Living (QOL) survey, which reveals the cities in the world providing the highest quality of living for international employees. The Quality of Living ranking considers various factors such as political stability, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and socio-cultural environment. This year’s ranking includes 241 cities from across 5 continents. The top 10 cities on the list include 7 locations in Western Europe, 2 from the Pacific and 1 from North America. Each city has its unique charm and advantages, continuing to make Europe a diverse and appealing region for residents, international assignees, and visitors alike.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Vienna, Austria
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Auckland, New Zealand
  4. Copenhagen, Denmark
  5. Geneva, Switzerland
  6. Frankfurt, Germany
  7. Munich, Germany
  8. Vancouver, Canada
  9. Sydney, Australia
  10.  Dusseldorf, Germany

The first city from the U.S. to make the list is San Francisco…at #37 (oof). There is also an emerging consideration of the eco-friendliness of a city. The Mercer Eco-City ranking provides valuable insights into the sustainability and environmental performance of cities around the world. When we cross-reference these lists, it is clear there is a correlation between those locations that are highest eco-city ranked and that are rated the highest for quality of living.

Per Mercer, the data was analyzed between September and November 2023, and it will be updated regularly to account for changing circumstances. In particular, the assessments will be revised to reflect significant political, economic, and environmental developments.

In looking back at another recent country ranking, (What’s the best country in the world?), there is plenty of overlap with the U.S. News & World Report and WPP where Switzerland came out on top. Germany, New Zealand, and Australia also ranked very high! One might assume that there will be less resistance to moving to many of the locations that are high on any of these lists.

Here’s a look at the best and the worst foreign cities for expatriates to live and work in. The Mercer Quality of Living data assesses the practicalities of daily life for expatriate employees and their families in locations worldwide. The survey studies the factors that influence the world’s economy which have a direct impact on quality of living, particularly in times of unpredictability and volatility. With many employees reconsidering their priorities and assessing their work-life balances, the findings of the survey provide a clearer picture for expats at places where they can live and work and the quality of life they can have there with their families. This year the top 10 cities providing a high quality of living include 7 locations in Western Europe, 2 in the Pacific and 1 in North America.