According to the Expat City Ranking 2021 by InterNations, two of the worst cities for expats worldwide are in Italy. Rome props up the table with Milan only one place ahead of it. So why did they score so poorly?
The Expat City Ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations, which is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad. There were 12,420 respondents in 2021.
This year, 57 cities around the globe are analysed in the survey. It looks at five areas of expat life: Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living. Together, the first four topics make up the Expat City Ranking, which reveals the best and worst cities for expats to live in.
The worst cities for expats in the world
Rome (57th), Milan, and Johannesburg are the worst cities worldwide according to expats. They rank poorly in the Urban Work Life Index, but expats are also unhappy with the low quality of life. Johannesburg outperforms the two Italian cities in the Finance & Housing and the Getting Settled Indices.
The ten worst cities for expats are:
- Rome (57th)
- Milan (56th)
- Johannesburg (55th)
- Istanbul (54th)
- Tokyo (53rd)
- Cairo (52nd)
- Paris (51st)
- Maastricht (50th)
- Moscow (49th)
- New York City (48th)
Rome – The Worst City for Expats Worldwide
Rome is rated the worst city (57th out of 57) in both the overall Expat City Ranking 2021 and the Urban Work Life Index (57th). In all the subcategories, it came in the last 3 places: Job & Career (57th), Job Security (55th), and Work-Life Balance (55th).
Expats are unhappy with the career opportunities (60% vs. 33% globally), job security (45% vs. 20% globally), and working hours (27% vs. 16% globally). A UK expat sums it up: “The economy is terrible, and salaries are low.”
Rome didn’t fare much better in the Quality of Urban Living Index, ranking 55th. Whilst the weather was a positive – 86% happy with it (vs. 66% globally) – the rest of the index scored poorly. Expats are unhappy with public transportation (47% vs. 20% globally) and political stability (34% vs. 16% globally), as well as the availability (16% vs. 11% globally) and quality (20% vs. 14% globally) of medical care.
Finance & Housing Index (45th shows slightly better scores for Rome. However, 32% of expats are unhappy with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally). 41% say their disposable household income is not enough (vs. 23% globally). Furthermore, they survey shows housing is neither affordable (47% vs. 39% globally) nor easy to find (33% vs. 23% globally). At least, 43% rate the cost of living positively (vs. 48% globally), with Rome ranking 20th in the Local Cost of Living Index.
Milan – Poor results across the board
Managing only a single place better than Rome is Milan. The city in Lombardy scores poorly in every index. In the Urban Work Life Index it comes in at a lowly 55th place, and is among the bottom 10 for all its rating factors. 47% of expats rate career opportunities negatively (vs. 33% globally), and 38% are unhappy with the local economy (vs. 19% globally). They are also dissatisfied with their work-life balance (22% vs. 17% globally) and working hours (25% vs. 16% globally).
The Finance & Housing Index is not better, with another 55th placement for Milan. It came last worldwide in the Finance Subcategory (57th) with 32% of expats unhappy with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally). Furthermore, 39% say their disposable household income is not enough (vs. 23% globally). Expats also consider Housing unaffordable: (68% vs. 39% globally).
Milan does slightly better in the Local Cost of Living (46th) and Quality of Urban Living (47th) Indices. However, areas in which expats are particularly unhappy are the urban environment (23% vs. 16% globally), while 14% worry about their personal safety (vs. 8% globally). There are some rays of positivity for Milan. The local leisure options are rated positively by 76% (vs. 72% globally). And, despite 30% not feeling at home there (vs. 19% globally), Milan has its best ranking in the Getting Settled Index (44th).
The best cities for expats worldwide in 2021
At the other end of the scale, there are four European cities in the top 10 best cities for expats. The Spanish cities of Málaga and Madrid come in at 2nd and 10th, respectively. Meanwhile, Prague in the Czech Republic claims 7th spot and Basel, Switzerland ranks 9th.
The full top ten is:
- Kuala Lumpar
- Málaga, Spain
- Ho Chi Minh
- Mexico City