The 5 Best Places To Be An Expat

New Zealand’s not lookin’ too bad, eh? Photo: Rambo Estrada

Due to certain recent national news (see: November 8th), large numbers of Americans have expressed interest in the idea of migration. And this got us thinking: What would migration be like for an American surfer? Where could they go? How would they live?

Well, it just so happens that Expat Insider recently completed a survey that targeted 14,000+ expats from around the globe in an attempt to discern how people liked their host countries. The questions ranged in scope, targeting ideas like Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, Cost of living, Work-life Balance and other categories that help distinguish the good from the bad. Through this, Expat Insider compiled a list of the best and worst countries to which one can migrate. We then scoured the highest-ranking countries for ideal surf locations and landed on the fives places below. Dig in, Never-Trumpers!


According to Expat Insider, the island of Taiwan has the friendliest expat ratings in the world. They lead in most monetary and occupational categories, while also maintaining strongholds in the Quality of Life and Family Life categories. Taiwan is also on the cusp of breaking into the surf world. Recently Jun Jo, a Hawaiian surfer of Taiwanese descent, launched a brand called Vast which serves as Taiwan's first-ever surf company. And the waves? Well, winters are rough, but come typhoon-season Taiwan holds some of the best and least crowded slabs in the western Pacific. In fact, a lot of the coast is still unsurfed thanks to the government's aversion to oceanic activities during times of large swell. If you can avoid the authoritarian kookiness of "The Man", chances are you can score those typhoon swells all to yourself!


Located in South America and directly on the equator (hence its name), Ecuador managed to pull the number-three slot on Expat Insider's survey. They ranked high in categories like Ease of Settling In and Work-Life Balance, along with Personal Finance and Cost of Living. While Ecuador isn't ideal in terms of high-paying occupational options, it makes up for it with low living costs and a highly consistent coastline. Though relatively small in stature, Ecuador reaps both southerly and northerly swells, meaning that there are wave options 365 days of the year. This matched with year-round boardshort weather is a huge draw for anyone who loves to get in a daily surf routine.


So yeah, we're not gonna lie. Although Mexico pulled the number-four slot in the expat survey, that number is likely skewed towards Mexico's foremost metropolis of Mexico City. Mexico City is a long-ass way from anything resembling a wave, but hey, you could always be a Puerto Escondido weekend warrior! Either that, or you could do like Brian "My Eyes Won't Dry" Conley, Shannon "Hopper" Eichstaedt, and Nils Schweizer, who work for six months in the States and spend the remaining months getting tubed off their gourds at a certain Mexican beach break. This is possible because Mexico's Cost of Living is exceptionally low, making it a great locale to do the 50/50 expat shuffle. $15,000 USD can easily get you through six months in Mexico if you spend it wisely. And just a heads up, 6 (months in Mexico) x 30 (days per month) x 5 (barrels per day) is 900 total tubes. Need I say more?

New Zealand

The Beaten Track from Damon Meade on Vimeo.

NZed took home the number-five slot in the overall Expat Insider rankings thanks to a strong showing in the Ease of Settling In and Working Abroad categories. The blustery isle off the southeastern coast of Australia is good for a few things, including wildlife exploration, sheep adulation, and surfing. While certainly the chilliest of our expat options, New Zealand offers a wide variety of lifestyles, terrains, and wave types for enthusiasts of every demographic. The South Island is perfect for the "wanderer" type who only needs a board and sleeping bag to find his comfort-zone. The North Island is more populated and offers some great cultural and occupational options for the more extroverted expat. So long as you can bear the winter weather, New Zealand has something for everyone.

Costa Rica

Coming in the sixth position in the expat ratings is Costa Rica – home of salsa Lizano, Roca Bruja, and the happiest people on Earth (as discovered here). As should be obvious from the "happiest people" statistic, Costa Rica ranked high in the Quality of Life and Work-life Balance categories of the Expat Insider survey. The Pura Vida lifestyle is a big draw for many outsiders, but that doesn't necessarily make it an easy place to live. Most of the work resides in the capital of San Jose, which is in the middle of the country. In order to surf, you're looking at an hour or two drive in either direction (to the Pacific or Caribbean) to get some surf. Still, Costa Rica maintains two highly complimentary coastlines, the Pacific offering endless swell between March and October and the Caribbean pumping out the juice throughout Dec- February. In this sense, San Jose isn't such a bad spot to be after all.