Japan moves down the list from 3rd place to 6th.
Expat Insider has released the results of its 2017 Expat Quality of Life survey. The survey quizzes those living abroad on five categories with the results being used to compile an overall list. This year the 65 countries that managed to receive the minimum 75 respondents were included in the index. Japan fell from an overall 3rd place in last year’s ranking, to 6th this year, with Portugal taking the top spot.
The five categories measured how expats felt about the categories of Leisure Options, Personal Happiness, Travel & Transport, Health & Well-Being and Safety & Security with Japan dropping down in all categories from last year, although in many cases as a result of other countries performing better rather than any particular change in respondents’ answers about the pros and cons of life in Japan.
Leisure Options saw Japan come 33rd out of the 65 countries featured in the survey. While entertainment and nightlife options may be abundant in Japan, the winners in this category were all countries known for their good weather and beautiful natural environment (Spain, Portugal and Mexico coming in first, second and third respectively). While Japan too, can boast some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and mountains, the results may have something to do with most expats in Japan being located in the concrete jungle that is the capital, Tokyo.
In the Personal Happiness category, Japan performed dismally, coming towards the bottom of the list, in 48th place while Mexico topped the list. With Japanese working hours and most of the population packed into sprawling conurbations, the fast-paced life of city-based expats is a world apart from those countries that scored well and made up the top five in this category: Mexico, Bahrain, Portugal, Costa Rica and Columbia. It seems that expats prefer sunshine and a slower pace of life.
▼ Japan’s transport system and travel destinations helped to ensure it remained in the top ten overall.
With trains that are a byword for punctuality, Japan scored understandably very well in the Travel & Transport category, coming in 9th place. Asian and European countries dominated this category with five countries each in the top ten with Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland making up the top three.
Health & Well-Being also saw Japan near the top of the rankings, in 7th place, while Taiwan came in at the top spot. While probably not many expats will be partaking in the kind of radio exercise programmes seen in the photo above, Japanese food’s health benefits play a large part in making Japanese people one of the longest-lived in the world. Perhaps if next year a food category is included we’ll see Japan move back up the list.
With its low crime rates, in the final category, Safety & Security, Japan secured its highest rating, 4th place. It was beaten only by Switzerland (1st), Norway (2nd) and Singapore (3rd).
Japanese social media users tried to explain what many thought was a surprising overall result. One explanation was the language barrier, since the survey was of expats’ opinions rather than native inhabitants’, the lack of English signs and speakers may have skewed the results. While this may well have been a factor, regions where English is the primary language all came much further down the overall list (Australia 23rd, Canada 13th, Ireland 50th, Kenya 57th, Malta 19th, New Zealand 15th, South Africa 49th, United Kingdom 41st, United States 47th), with the exception of Singapore (4th). Then again, in a separate Expat Insider survey measuring ease of settling in to a foreign country, Japan came a dismal 58th out of 65, and 62nd in the sub-category of language difficulties, beating only China, Hungary and Russia.
Another posited theory was that the cost of living may be a major factor in the Personal Happiness category since Japan comes 8th highest in the world Cost of Living Index compared to Portugal’s 50th, Taiwan’s 34th, Spain’s 38th, Singapore’s 10th, and the Czech Republic’s 67th places.
Clearly, the survey question compilers have yet to implement essential new sub-categories such as “availability of limited edition KitKats” or “chances of seeing a grinning sumo wrestler chasing a Google car“. When they do, then it will be Japan’s time to shine.