Mobility is the watchword of the 21st-century workforce – and hopefully being able to choose where to work has the potential to improve most people’s lives.

InterNations’s Expat Insider 2017 survey asked nearly 8,000 respondents in 51 cities to rate their adopted home by 25 criteria. These were then grouped into four overarching categories - Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, and Finance & Housing – averaged to create a consistent ranking. The results didn’t exactly flatter a certain metropolis that is supposedly the capital of seduction.

Top three

1. Manama, Bahrain

Perhaps a surprise winner given all the better known hubs in the Gulf, the Bahraini capital rated strongly in the Getting Settled category – second only to Kuala Lumpur. It’s easy to get by without speaking Arabic, according to 59%, something that doesn’t prevent locals from displaying a friendly attitude to outsiders (84%, vs global average of 67%). Coupled with a strong showing in Finance & Housing (11%, vs global average of 5%, of households earn more than $200,000) and a solid Quality of Urban Living, it made Manama an impressive all-rounder.

2. Prague, Czech Republic

The lively eastern European city proved it can work as well as party hard – placing in the top 10 for every subcategory of Urban Work Life, with 68% giving an especial thumbs up to local career opportunities. Even though it struggled on the Getting Settled front, coming 35th out of 51, with the tricky Czech language a sticking point for newcomers, it is an exceedingly livable city in several other ways. The transport system is first-rate, with not one respondent giving it a negative rating, and accommodation is both affordable (59%, vs 38% global average) and easy to find (68%, vs 53% global average).

3. Madrid, Spain

Unsurprisingly given southern Europe’s economic woes in recent years, employment is the clear stumbling block if you decide to pitch up in the Spanish heartland: 14% of expats here are looking for work, against a global average of 8%. Lucky then, and the reason for its high ranking, that the Spanish capital seems set up for a life outside of work. The sunny climate was noted as a plus by 85%, and over half (53%) considered local leisure options excellent. In Quality of Urban Living, Madrid ranked first for healthcare; and in Finance & Housing, the latter was its strong point – both affordable (57%) and abundant (62%). A measured verdict on the quality of the urban environment was the only doubt cast on this relaxed European capital.

Bottom three

1. Lagos, Nigeria

The sprawling West African megacity is regarded as friendly (73%) to expats and, perhaps buoyed up by oil money, above average (17th on the rankings) in Finance & Housing. Not enough to overcome scathing assessments of the local economy (73% rated it negatively), slapdash infrastructure (34% deemed healthcare very bad) and personal safety in a country notorious for kidnappings (52% were unhappy on this front, vs 11% global average).

2. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The cultural and political reforms promised by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman can’t come fast enough to make the Kingdom’s second city a more attractive expat prospect. Thirty-nine percent said they didn’t feel welcome here – a feeling only exacerbated by terrible Urban Work Life (51/51) and Quality of Urban Living (47/51) rankings.

3. Paris, France

The great surprise of the survey was the poor placing for the vaunted City of Light. Perhaps the legendary Parisian sass so traumatising to Japanese tourists should have provided early warning. The locals made 43% of respondents feel unwelcome, with twice (31%) the global average deeming speaking French a necessity to get them on-side. The tricky housing situation, with 62% finding it hard to find and 71% expensive when they did, sealed its fate.