Globally, it was revealed that only 57 percent of expats worldwide find it easy to make new friends abroad, and an even lower share of 45 percent say that making friends with the locals in their new country of residence is easy.
The survey reveals that Mexico is the best country for making friends abroad, followed by Bahrain, Serbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uganda, Colombia, Taiwan, Israel, and Portugal.
The results highlight the positive impact that a good social network can have on people moving abroad: expats living in nine out of the top 10 countries not only find it easy to make friends, they are also substantially happier with their life than the global average.
At the other end of the scale, expats in Kuwait (68th out of 68 countries), Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Estonia (59th) find it hardest to make friends in their respective host countries. Similarly, those living in nine out of these countries are also below-average happy with their life in general — only expats in Estonia exceed the global average.
Portugal ranks 10th in terms of finding friends in the latest Expat Insider survey.
Close to two-thirds of expats (64 percent) find it easy to make local friends in the country (vs. 45 percent globally), and 75 percent say that making new friends in general is easy too (vs. 57 percent globally). In fact, 82 percent of expats feel at home in the Portuguese culture, which is 22 percentage points more than the global average (60 percent).
It might help that the Portuguese seem to be extremely welcoming towards expats: close to nine in ten respondents (87 percent) find the attitude towards foreign residents friendly (vs. 66 percent globally), with over half (52 percent) even saying that the local attitude could not be any friendlier (vs. 28 percent globally).
At the opposite end of the scale are Nordic and some nations in the Middle East.
Over the last five years of the Expat Insider survey, Norway (62nd in 2018), Saudi Arabia (64th), Switzerland (65th), Denmark (66th), Sweden (67th), and Kuwait (68th) have always ranked among the ten worst countries for finding friends as an expat. In addition to these countries, Estonia (59th), Austria (60th), Finland (61st), and Germany (63rd) land at the bottom of the list in the latest survey.
The Nordic countries perform badly when it comes to finding friends, with all four ranking in the bottom 10 since 2015. Expats in Sweden seem to have it particularly hard: more than half of them (51 percent) find it difficult to make new friends, which is 14 percentage points more than the second-worst Nordic country, Finland (37 percent), followed by Denmark (36 percent) and Norway (34 percent).
What is more, almost one in five expats in Sweden (19 percent) think that it could not be any harder to make new friends, which is the highest share in the world, followed by Denmark (18 percent).
It is Switzerland’s fifth consecutive year in the bottom 10 countries for making friends, and Austria and Germany have not performed much better in past years. Close to one-third of expats in Germany (30 percent), Switzerland (30 percent), and Austria (31 percent) find the respective local population generally unfriendly, compared to 17 percent globally.