Expatriates think that Bahrain, Costa Rica and Mexico are the best countries to live in.

But the reputations of the United Kingdom and the United States as good places to live have plummeted, according to a new survey.

Bahrain has rocketed to the top of the list (it was in 19th place last year) because expats have reported that settling into life in the Middle Eastern island nation is easy. It’s also popular because they can get by without learning the local language.

The sun rises from behind a mosque in Manama Bahrain
Image: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

As an expat in Costa Rica it’s easy to make new friends, according to the survey. Almost one in five (19%) respondents say that their social circle is mostly made up of Costa Ricans, and almost two thirds (63%) say they’re friends with locals as well as expats.

Expats also find it easy to settle in Mexico, and think that they get good value for money there.

For the US and the UK, however, the picture isn’t so rosy. In 2014 the US was in fifth place, now it’s in 43rd.

In 2014 the UK was ranked 21st, and three years later it’s in 54th place.

Image: Bloomberg

The annual Expat Insider survey asked 12,500 expats of 166 nationalities to rank their host countries on a number of topics, including family life and finances.

The results of the survey suggest that the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US election have had a negative impact on the way that expats perceive the two countries.

Before the referendum, 77% of expats thought the UK was politically stable. In the latest survey, that figure was down to only 47%.

Just half of expats say the UK has a good attitude toward foreign residents, compared with 67% worldwide.

The US has also fallen in the estimation of expats when it comes to political stability.

They also say that childcare and healthcare in the US, and housing in the UK, are expensive.

Languishing at the bottom of the list for the fourth year in a row, are Kuwait and Greece. Half of respondents said that their household income living in Greece wasn’t enough to cover their expenses. In Kuwait, a lack of leisure options and low personal happiness were behind the country’s low ranking. Nigeria also features in the bottom three for the third year running, with expats saying that quality of life was an issue.

Finland came top in the most politically stable category, while Switzerland ranks first for safety and security.

Expats are known for sticking together, but that’s not always the case. Expats in Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine say their friends are mostly locals. The opposite was true, however, in Qatar, Luxembourg and Kuwait.

The list can change rapidly, though.

Malaysia has jumped from 38th place in 2016 to 15th this year, thanks to the ease with which expats settle in and get used to the culture.

Australia, despite having sunshine, beaches and some of the world’s most liveable cities, has plunged from 7th on the list to 34th.

Last year the top spots were held by Taiwan, Malta and Ecuador.

There are an estimated 56 million expatriates worldwide. In the study, respondents were asked the reasons behind their move; and career, love and adventure were among the top answers.

This piece previously included a map that was incorrect. It has been replaced.