Raise your hand if the thought about moving to another country has ever crossed your mind.
Perhaps it was during a bad bout of dreary weather, or maybe you were stuck in (yet another) terrible traffic jam on your way to and from work. Maybe it has been being stuck inside during a global pandemic (*cough cough* 2020) that has made you realize you want to get out and experience the world more. Whatever your reason, these are the best countries to move to according to the 2020 quality of life index and should be at the top of your list when considering the ex-pat life.
The Top 10 Best Countries in the World To Move To
Though the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought countries around the world, including these ones, into health and economic emergencies, there’s no denying that under more reasonable circumstances they out-perform the rest across the board.
The 2020 Best Countries Rankings were determined in partnership with the BAV Group and are based on a study in which more than 20,000 global citizens regions were surveyed. In those surveys, they assessed perceptions of 73 countries based on 75 metrics. The Quality of Life sub ranking is then based on nine attributes that relate to the quality of life (1):
- Job market
- Economic stability
- Income equality
- Political stability
- Public education system development
- Public health system development
These rankings were published mid-way through January of 2020, and of course, much has happened globally since then that may or may not affect these ratings. That being said, the countries on this list have been highly consistent over the last few years, so let’s dive in.
Ah, the Great White North. Land of politeness, poutine, and “sorry, eh?”. It is the second-largest country by landmass in the world with a population of just 37.1 million, though much of that landmass is taken up by wildlife, green wilderness, and the frigid arctic. It ranked over 90 in every category except for two: Income equality and affordability. In terms of safety, health care, education, and the rest, however, it’s a stand-out.
The country is also known as “a cultural mosaic” that welcomes people from all over the world to come and make it their home. So much so, in fact, that its largest city Toronto was named the most multicultural city in the world by BBC Radio with over 230 nationalities represented there. (3)
These attributes are also what contributed to it being the only North American country Time listed in its article on best global responses to COVID-19. A combination of a robust health care system, public messaging coordination, and experience from the SARS outbreak twenty years ago certainly helped them fare far better than their neighbors south of the border. (2)
Of course, every country has their problems and Canada is certainly not immune, particularly surrounding the genocide of the land’s indigenous peoples in the 1800s and the continued racism towards and tensions with those groups today.
Denmark is one of the countries that make up Scandinavia, an area of Europe that consistently performs well in terms of delivering happy people. The Kingdom of Denmark includes the gorgeous Faroe Islands as well as Greenland, an important place for glaciers and the study of climate change. (1)
The country uses a progressive taxation system, though taxes can be quite high for some, it means mostly free health care and free higher education for all. Their economic model also allows entrepreneurs to establish businesses quickly and much more affordable than in many other places. (1)
The Danish government is seen as transparent and stable, allowing people to have more trust in them. The only ranking that they seem to fall short on is affordability. (1)
Denmark was another example of how to handle a global health crisis well. When the COVID-19 outbreak landed in Denmark, borders were closed quickly, institutions like schools and daycares closed, as well as restaurants, bars, sports venues, etc. The Danish government also provided incredible financial support to companies and those self-employed so that employees wouldn’t have to lose their jobs. (4)
Again, Denmark is another country that is not free of racism and inequality. It is also important to be aware that as an ex-pat or non-citizen living in Denmark, you may not receive the same benefits that Danish citizens do.
Known as one of the places in the world where you can have an incredible number of hours of sunlight, Sweden is a place that quite often looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. It is known for its commitment to human rights, public service, and sustainability, and is often looked upon as a leader in international affairs. (1)
Sweden is often praised for its healthy lifestyle and diet, with one of the longest life expectancies in the world. Health care and education are free, a robust infrastructure and transportation network allow for equal wealth distribution, not to mention nearly all of the country’s trash gets recycled. (1)
Though the country does have high taxes, they have come down in recent years. That being said, affordability is the only low rank they received, along with a job market that scored below 70. (1)
Unfortunately, Sweden’s COVID-19 response leaves little to be praised. They now have one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world, because they simply didn’t implement proper safety measures for its residents. There were no broad stay-at-home orders, no mask-wearing enforcement, or any real physical distancing measurements put into place. The only part about their response that was mandated was the closure of universities and high schools – everything else was voluntary. More than half of their coronavirus-related deaths occurred in long-term care facilities and retirement homes, where little was done to protect that vulnerable part of their population. (5)
This gorgeous country consists of mostly mountainous landscapes, meaning that almost its entire population lives in and around Oslo, the capital city, in the south. It has a beautiful coastline and is one of the few places in the world where you can go to see the Northern Lights.
It is a wealthy country thanks to the discovery of oil just off of its coast and those who live there can enjoy a mostly free post-secondary education. Affordability is its lowest score, and like much of the rest of Europe, Norway is struggling with how to integrate ethnic minorities and refugees into their culture.
Norway is another country that did a good job of limiting the death toll of the coronavirus by implementing strict physical distancing measures, closing schools and businesses, and issuing stay-at-home orders. They did try to implement a coronavirus app for contract tracing, however, it had several issues and it was eventually removed. (6, 7)
Despite being known for having some pretty dangerous wildlife, it’s hard to beat the beautiful weather and beaches of Australia. In the country also known as The Land Down Under, Aussies enjoy marriage equality and a long life expectancy due to their highly active lifestyle.
If environmentalism is your thing, then this is also a great place for you. Australia’s biodiversity and ecosystems are some of the most important in the world, therefore combating climate change is a big priority for this country. (1)
Despite their Prime Minister’s typical combative approach to scientists, the country actually did quite well in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. That being said, after reopening some parts of the country experienced large enough surges in cases that meant they had to take several steps backward. (2)
It is also important to note that Australia, similarly to Canada, is also one that was occupied by indigenous peoples for some 40,000 years before the British settlers arrived. Colonialism lead the theft of land and the murdering of Aboriginal peoples. Reconciliation continues, however racism and tension continue to exist today. (1)
- The Netherland
Home to windmills, tulips, and people who bike basically everywhere, The Netherlands has long been said to be a “tolerant” society. They were the first to legalize same-sex marriage and have pretty liberal views on controversial topics such as abortion, drugs, prostitution, and euthanasia. These stances help to keep its citizens, and the tourists who visit the tiny nation, safe. (1)
The country followed-suit of many other nations in terms of implementing a lockdown strategy to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This meant that they have fared reasonably well so far during the COVID-19 pandemic. (8)
Despite their historic tolerance for various ways of life and having one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the world, there are some concerns beginning to brew about immigration patterns. (1)
Known for its cheese and its famous mountain range, there’s more to Switzerland than just skiing and, well, cheese. The Swiss people have won more Nobel Prizes and registered for more patents than any other country. (1)
The country is celebrated for its low unemployment and high GDP (one of the highest per capita in the world) and has four official languages. Its affordability score is quite low, however, and is also known for having a highly secretive banking sector. (1)
Back in March, however, Switzerland had the second-highest rate of COVID-19 infection rate in the world. This is largely attributed to the fact that Switzerland was at the height of its skiing tourism season. It is also a trucking crossroads in one of Europe’s busiest business centers, and borders Lombardy, Italy. At the time, Lombardy was the epicenter of the outbreaks in Italy, yet 68,000 Italians were crossing the border every day for work. The Swiss did close borders and go into lockdown, but not before the number of cases skyrocketed. (9)
- New Zealand
This small Island nation way off in its own corner of the world is known to be one of the most stunningly beautiful countries in the world. So much so that many movies, including the celebrated Lord of the Rings trilogy, were filmed there. New Zealand is also known as a leader in peacekeeping and global security, and most Kiwis, a name given to the country’s citizens after their native wingless bird, enjoy a laid-back lifestyle. (1)
Tourism is a huge part of their economy, especially after its dramatic scenery began appearing in movies. The current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is the youngest-ever female leader in the world. (1)
Recently, Prime Minister Ardern and the New Zealand government have been praised as having one of the best responses to the global pandemic. Less than three weeks after the first case was detected, the borders were closed. A week later, they put a “level four” lockdown in place in an attempt to eliminate the virus altogether. Communication was clear, swift, and above all, human. They are now COVID-free. (2)
If civil rights are your passion, then Finland is a country worth checking out. Finland was one of the first countries to allow women to vote and the first to legalize universal suffrage, meaning that women had the right to vote and run for office. It is one of the highest-ranking countries for press freedom and civil rights, as well as is an international leader in providing education. (1)
A huge portion of Finland’s spending goes towards public services and social safety nets. Their biggest issue is their aging population.
Known as the “prepper” nation of the Nordics, Finland had been stockpiling masks and personal protective equipment since the Second World War. When the pandemic hit, they were ready. Their vast amount of PPE helped them to tackle the virus much more effectively than other nations. (10)
In spite of Germany’s darker past, they have become one of the world’s largest economies, and that’s not just because of the beer and their famous festival. They have tough laws in place against hate speech and denial of the Holocaust. Germany is a popular place for ex-pats, though it is important to learn German if you want to work for most German companies. (1)
Germany also was one of the European countries that managed the coronavirus outbreak the best, and with a population of over 83-million, that’s no small feat. Citizens followed physical distancing guidelines well and they contained the virus well with transparency, extensive testing, and clear, effective communication. They also have a large number of hospitals and intensive care beds to provide proper care for those who did have the virus. (2)
The Bottom Line
Moving to a new country is not easy. There are cultural differences, language barriers, different immigration laws, and visa requirements depending on the country and where you are from, and more. No country is perfect, however, you can build a wonderful life in a new one.
That being said, being dissatisfied with how your country is being run or the policies they are putting forward (or taking away) doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave. There are plenty of ways you can participate in shaping your country, most importantly in election time. That’s right, voting. So educate yourself on your politicians and political parties and go out and help to make your country a better place.
- ‘Quality of Life’ US News
- ‘The Best Global Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic, 1 Year Later’ Time Ian Bremmer. Published February 23, 2021
- ‘Toronto Named The Most Diverse City In The World By BBC Radio’ The Culture Trip Published February 9, 2017.
- ‘How Denmark got ahead of the COVID-19 economic crisis’ Macleans Brenda Bouw. Published March 26, 2020
- ‘A Warning From Sweden’s Coronavirus Response’ Forbes William A. Haseltine
- ‘Coronavirus disease – advice and information’ FHI
- ‘Smittestopp: How Norway’s New Coronavirus App Works’ Life In Norway David Nikel. Published April 16, 2020
- ‘Dutch measures against COVID-19’ Government of Netherlands
- ‘How Switzerland ended up with the second-highest coronavirus infection rate in the world’ Global News Matthew Fisher. Published March 22, 2020
- ‘Finland, ‘Prepper Nation of the Nordics,’ Isn’t Worried About Masks’ New York Times