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Abu Dhabi ranked in the top 15 out of 82 expatriate cities in the world for the third year in a row, a survey from global network InterNations on the best destinations to live and work abroad found.

The list was dominated by Asian cities, with Taipei in Taiwan leading the ranking for the second year in a row followed by Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Singapore, according to the Expat Insider 2019 study published on Tuesday. Abu Dhabi came in 15th position on the list.

The main indices measured in the survey of 20,000 people included: quality of urban living, getting settled, urban work life and finance and housing. Cost of living was also measured, but did not factor into the overall ranking “to avoid over representing financial aspects”, the report said.

“The top 10 cities worldwide all offer different benefits, from cities that are easy to get settled in and places with a great quality of life to destinations that can be particularly beneficial for one’s career,” said Malte Zeeck, founder and chief executive of InterNations, a global network and information site for expatriates with 2 million members in over 400 cities.

Among the GCC cities surveyed, Abu Dhabi held relatively steady from 14th last year. Manama came in 21st, Muscat 28th and Dubai 34th, a decline since last year from 3rd, 10th and 28th, respectively. Although they did well in terms of ease of getting settled and safety, as well as the availability and affordability of housing, work-life balance was a weakness.

“When it comes to the underlying indices, the main change can be seen in the urban work life index: all three lost ground in this regard,” Mr Zeeck said. For work-life, Dubai dropped to 71st place from 58th place in 2018, Manama to 58th from 13th and Muscat to 73rd from 55th.

“Out of the six GCC cities featured in the Expat City ranking, only Abu Dhabi’s ranking has remained steady with a place in the top 15 for the third year running,” Mr Zeeck said. “Kuwait City, on the other hand did not rank in previous years due to an insufficient number of respondents and now enters the Expat City ranking in last place in 2019.”

Participants in the online survey were asked to rate more than 25 different aspects of urban life abroad on a scale of one to seven, making up 13 subcategories. For example, local transportation and local leisure options fall under urban living, while job security falls under urban work life.

Kuwait City’s worst performing area was in the getting settled index, but it also rated poorly in leisure activities, local climate, local transportation and work-life balance. However, 71 per cent of expatriates in the country are satisfied with their financial situation, compared to 57 per cent globally.

Barring Kuwait City, the GCC cities were among the top 25 worldwide for getting settled. Manama, the world’s best expat city for getting settled last year, came in 2nd. Muscat followed in 4th place, Abu Dhabi in 11th and Dubai in 17th.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai came in second worldwide for the ease of living there without speaking the local language. Nearly nine in 10 expatriates (87 per cent) find this easy, compared to 47 per cent globally. Almost three quarters (73 per cent in Abu Dhabi and 71 per cent in Dubai) said local residents are friendly towards foreign residents (versus 64 per cent globally).

The UAE cities also ranked highly in safety at 97 per cent in Abu Dhabi and 95 per cent in Dubai, compared to the 81 per cent global average. However, only 35 per cent of Abu Dhabi expats and less than a quarter of Dubai expats (23 per cent) are happy with the local cost of living, compared to 43 per cent globally.

The only North American city in the ranking’s top 10 was Montreal in Canada, which came in fifth. The other five cities making up the top 10 all came from Europe, including Lisbon in Portugal, Barcelona in Spain and The Hague in Netherlands.

Besides Kuwait City, the bottom 10 cities included Rome, Milan and Paris in Europe; San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in North America; Lima, Peru; Yangon, Myanmar; and Lagos, Nigeria.

Among the factors making Taipei number one include 98 per cent satisfaction with local transportation, 96 per cent with safety and 94 per cent with healthcare availability.

Originally published on The National on 03.12.19

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