What are the friendliest countries in the world? Whether one is an expat permanently relocating or a tourist just passing through, it is much easier to feel comfortable when the people of a country are welcoming and friendly, with a positive attitude toward out-of-towners and other cultures--and some countries are much friendlier than others. To be clear, "friendliness" is entirely dependent upon each individual's personal experiences—it is entirely possible to feel unwelcome in a friendly country or welcome in an unfriendly country, depending upon the specific people you meet. However, when enough personal experiences are combined, trends can and do emerge.
Expat-focused website InterNations conducts an annual survey of expats to find out which countries are most welcoming to expats and foreign travelers. The survey measures several metrics, including the ease of learning the language, the quality of the environment and health care systems, and how friendly each country’s people are toward expats. The 2021 survey garnered more than 12,000 resondents, who represented 174 nationalities and lived in 186 different countries.
Some popular travel destinations such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States fell into the ranks of the unfriendly or rude countries in the survey, placing 34th, 42nd, and 29th (out of 59) respectively. The ranks in this survey change dramatically within a few years as many factors can greatly affect a country’s attitude towards foreign travelers or expats. The United Kingdom, for example, has placed as high as the 19th friendliest country as low as 56th place. One Portuguese expat explained that he believes Brexit had something to do with the decreased friendliness in the country. Some of the least friendly countries for expats are Switzerland, Austria, and Kuwait.
In 2021, Taiwan ranked as the friendliest and most welcoming country for expats in the world. Not only are its people friendly and welcoming, but the language is said to be easy to learn—although a huge percentage of locals also speak English. What's more, Taiwan has placed first in the Quality of Life category for four years running. 94% of survey respondents rate the health care system as affordable and 96% rate its quality favorably, which explains why Taiwan also ranked first in Health & Well-Being. Taiwan's weakest area appears to be its air quality, a category in which it placed 29th, smack in the middle of the pack. Taiwan also ranked first in the Working Abroad category, with most expats expressing satisfaction with both their jobs and the economy as a whole.
At the bottom end of the scale, Kuwait snags 59th out of 59 countries in terms of friendliness and ease of settling in. 46% of expats say they do not feel at home in the local culture in Kuwait (globally, only 20% of respondents hold this view) and a full 44% feel the Kuwaiti people are unwelcoming to foreigners (compared to 18% globally). Joining Kuwait near the bottom are Japan, which earns poor scores from expats who say the language is difficult to learn and the people are nice, but do not welcome foreigners into their culture; and Denmark, which has the same reputation of being kind to foreigners but keeping them at arm's length.
It should be noted, however, that these are only the lowest ranking countries out of the 59 included in this year's survey results. More than 130 additional countries did not make the list—African countries seem especially underrepresented—and could easily be more or less friendly than those that were included.
As of 2023, the country of Portugal is considered to be the friendliest to visit.