19.05.2021, 09:05

What is the impact of coronavirus pandemic on expat life?

  • Overall, 45% of survey respondents say that COVID-19 had an impact on their current stay abroad or their relocation plans.
  • Survey respondents are currently seeing the biggest effects on personal travel (25%), social life (23%), and their work or business (16%).
  • Expats are most satisfied with the official communication on COVID-19 in New Zealand, Taiwan, and Qatar, and least satisfied in Indonesia (57th), Egypt (58th), and Brazil (59th).
  • Visit Vietnam Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For the seventh time, InterNations, the world’s largest expat community with around 4 million members, has published its Expat Insider survey. With more than 12,000 respondents, it is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, providing insights into expat life in 59 destinations.

On a global scale, 45% of survey respondents say that COVID-19 had an impact on their current stay abroad or their relocation plans: the share of expats who say so (37%) either decided to not move back home in the near future (18%), planned to move to another country but had to change these plans (8%), will move to another country due to the pandemic (6%), or will move back home sooner than originally planned (5%).

The share of local respondents whose relocation plans were affected by COVID-19 (61%) is a lot higher: some of them were living abroad but moved home sooner than planned (18%), others were planning to move abroad but had to change their plans (35%), and about one in ten have now decided to move abroad because of the pandemic (9%).


The Pandemic’s Impact on Everyday Life

Of course, COVID-19 has not only disrupted the relocation plans of expats worldwide. When asked where they see the biggest impact of the pandemic on their personal life right now, the survey respondents point out its effects on personal travel (25%), social life (23%), and their work or business (16%) in particular. In the long run, respondents are still concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their social life (17% of all respondents), and there are also considerable worries regarding personal travel (22%).

How Expats Stay Informed on COVID-19

Expats across the world mostly rely on official government channels (48%), local news (47%), and social media (40%) for news on the COVID-19 situation and the related regulations in their country of residence. Considering the importance of government channels, just how satisfied are expats with the official communication regarding COVID-19 and related regulations? Worldwide, not quite two-thirds (66%) rate this factor positively, with close to a quarter (24%) saying they are completely satisfied. The main complaint among expats who are not satisfied with the official communication on the pandemic is that the information is unclear, confusing, and/or contradictory (67%).

For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked 12,420 expats representing 174 nationalities and living in 59 countries or territories to provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality. Participants were asked to rate up to 37 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven.

The rating process emphasized the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects, considering both emotional topics and more factual aspects with equal weight. The respondents’ ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 13 subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up five topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living.

The first four of these indices were further averaged together with expats’ general satisfaction with their life in order to rank 59 expat destinations around the world. In 2021, the top 10 are Taiwan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, Canada, and Vietnam. Moreover, expats were asked about how COVID-19 has impacted their life abroad; however, these responses did not influence the overall ranking.

For a country to be featured in the indices and consequently in the overall ranking, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per destination was necessary.

About InterNations

With around 4 million members in 420 cities around the world, InterNations is the largest global community and a source of information for people who live and work abroad. InterNations offers global and local networking and socializing, both online and face to face. At around 6,000 events and activities per month, expatriates have the opportunity to meet other global minds. Online services include discussion forums and helpful articles with personal expat experiences, tips, and information about life abroad. Membership is by approval only to ensure we remain a community of trust. InterNations is part of the New Work SE, a group of brands that offer products and services for a better working life.


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