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The World’s Best City for Expats Is All About Street Food, High-Speed Trains, and Friendly Locals

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The Expat City Ranking 2019 identifies Taipei as the best city for expats to live and work abroad.

Photo by Charlesimag / Shutterstock

The Expat City Ranking 2019 identifies Taipei as the best city for expats to live and work abroad.

Taipei claimed the number one spot in the annual Expat City Ranking by InterNations, which rates the best cities for expats to live and work in around the world.

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For the second year in a row, Taiwan’s capital was named the best city in which to live and work abroad, according to an annual InterNations survey that reveals how expats rate life in cities around the world.

More than 20,000 expats living in 187 countries or territories participated in the Expat City Ranking 2019, which was published by the global expat network on December 3. To determine the rankings, participants were asked to rate 82 cities around the world based on quality of life; ease of getting settled; work-life satisfaction; financial security and housing; and local cost of living. Each of these elements of living and working abroad was divided into subcategories, which included transportation, safety, friendliness of locals, and job security. 

The survey ranks Taipei as the best city for expats in 2020 due to its high marks for overall quality of life in particular. The city ranked third worldwide for this category, preceded by Tokyo, which placed first for quality of life but didn’t land a spot in the final top 10. Zug, Switzerland, came in second for quality of life and also ranked eighth on the overall list of best expat cities. Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, took second place to Taipei and was identified as the world’s easiest city for expats to get settled in: 92 percent of the expats surveyed reported that it was easy to live in Kuala Lumpur without speaking the local language because English is commonly used.

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Other cities that topped this year’s list also lead the front in specific subcategories of the survey. In the number four spot, Singapore stood out in particular for safety, with an impressive 100 percent of participants giving the city a positive rating, and Barcelona, which placed seventh overall, saw 98 percent of its expats report happiness with the local climate (versus 59 percent of expats worldwide).

InterNations’s Expat City Ranking 2019 

  1. Taipei 
  2. Kuala Lumpur
  3. Ho Chi Minh City
  4. Singapore
  5. Montréal
  6. Lisbon
  7. Barcelona
  8. Zug
  9. The Hague
  10. Basel 

Almost all of the Taipei expats who were surveyed reported satisfaction with the city’s local transportation.

So what exactly qualifies Taipei as the best city to move to in 2020? Beyond its high rankings for quality of life, in which a large majority of Taipei expats (94 percent) cited happiness with the availability of health care as a perk of living in the city, almost all of the expats who were surveyed (98 percent) also reported satisfaction with Taipei’s local transportation. The city features a state-of-the art rail system and taxis are plentiful and cheap, making it easy to transfer between historic temples in Old Taipei and bustling night markets across the city, maybe even fitting a visit to Taipei’s Beitou Hot Spring in between. What’s more, high-speed trains connect all of the major cities in Taiwan, making quick weekend trips to the island’s mountainous northern regions or its lava rock southern coastlines fairly simple to accomplish.

A large majority of Taipei expats (96 percent) cited overall feelings of safety in the survey, which visitors can expect to generally extend toward members of the LGBTQ community. In May 2019, Taiwan became Asia’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage, and Taipei has also hosted an annual Pride event—the largest in East Asia—since 2003. In addition, the Taiwanese capital landed within top 10 spots for subcategories including housing, cost of living, and local friendliness. However, expats did note that getting settled in the city—where residents primarily speak Mandarin, Chinese, and Taiwanese Hokkien—was difficult at times due to the language barrier, putting the city in 50th place in terms of struggles with the local tongue.

Even if you’re reluctant to consider a full-blown move to the Taiwanese capital, the city should still be a strong contender on your “where to go” list. You don’t have to be an expat in Taipei to enjoy its abundant street food delicacies, easy-to-navigate train system, rising underground arts scene, and friendly population—not to mention the nearby tropical jungles and beaches across Taiwan that can be reached in just a quick trip.

>>Next: See Taipei Through a Photographer’s Lens

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