9 Best English-speaking European countries for expats

Expat life
04 Feb 2024
12 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

If you’re looking for an English-speaking country to relocate to, you’ll want to consider a few factors first. Each country has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits your needs. This blog post will discuss some of the best English-speaking European countries for expats. 

Which European countries speak English? 

According to Statistica, around 1.5 billion people worldwide speak English natively or as a second language.


9 English-speaking countries in Europe that are ranked highly on the English proficiency index: 


  • The Netherlands  
  • Austria 
  • Norway  
  • Denmark  
  • Belgium  
  • Sweden  
  • Finland  
  • Portugal
  • Germany 


But we will be focusing on the unique work culture. 

1) The Netherlands  

The Netherlands, also known as Holland, is a small yet mighty country located in North-western Europe. It is best known for its picturesque windmills, endless tulip fields, and liberal attitude.  


For starters, the weather can be quite unpredictable. One minute it’s sunny and warm, the next minute it’s cold and rainy. However, the Dutch have mastered the art of dealing with inclement weather, so don’t let the gloomy days keep you from enjoying all that the Netherlands has to offer.  


When it comes to work-life balance, its city, Amsterdam, ranked 13th in the world. This means that they typically work fewer hours than people in other countries, and they make sure to take plenty of time off to enjoy leisure activities with family and friends.  


Speaking of friends, the Netherlands can be a very social place, but it can take some time to get invited to things on a regular basis. Netherlands residents love their hobbies, and they’re always keen to chat with someone new about their shared interests. So, if you can find a group or club related to your hobby, you’ll be sure to make some great friends in no time. 


And hey if you’re ever looking to try and talk in Dutch go ahead! It always helps when you try to speak in the same tongue. 


Healthcare in the Netherlands is excellent and universally accessible. The country has a public healthcare system that is funded by taxes, and all residents are automatically enrolled.  


There are also private healthcare options available for those who wish to pay for additional coverage or services.  


If you’re looking for an English-speaking country with a high quality of life and plenty of opportunities, the Netherlands is a great choice! 

2) Austria  

Austria is a landlocked country in the heart of Europe with a strong Alpine heritage. Austria is known for its culture and traditions, as well as its natural beauty. Austria is also home to some of the world’s most famous classical composers, such as Mozart and Beethoven.   


Austria is also home to several major cities, including Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck.  


As of 2021, the population is currently at 8,956,279, and the official nationwide language is German. But hey, English is the predominant vernacular in all educational institutions, so you’ll be just fine.  


Austria has a high standard of living and ranks 18th on the UN’s Human Development Index. And its city, Vienna ranked first on Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey. 


Do take note that it is also difficult to get an Austrian work visa. You might want to check the list of skilled workers needed by Austria in order to get easier access to your work visa. 

3) Norway 

Located in northern Europe, Norway is fondly known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” due to its long summer days and short winter nights. While the weather may be extreme, with frigid winters and occasional snowstorms, it’s also incredibly scenic. With towering mountains, pristine valleys, and breath-taking fjords, Norway is truly a nature lover’s paradise. 


In addition to its natural beauty, Norway is also known for its strong commitment to work-life balance and social welfare. In fact, it consistently ranks at the top of international surveys for quality of life and happiness. 


And if you’re looking for a safe place to raise a family, you’ll be pleased to know that Norway regularly tops the global peace index 


Of course, no country is perfect, and there are a few things expats should be aware of before making the move. The cost of living is relatively high and cultural norms can be challenging to adjust to. 


If you’re looking to gain social acceptance in Norway, joining a sports team, or society or doing some voluntary work are all great options.  


Whether you’re into football, knitting, or environmentalism, there’s sure to be a club or group for you. And if not, you can always start your own! Doing some communal work is also a great way to get to know people and give back to the community. 


 Just be warned that Norwegians can be a bit reserved at first, so don’t expect to become best friends with everyone overnight. But with a little patience and effort, you’ll soon be feeling like part of the community. 

4) Denmark  

For expats considering a move to Denmark, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. This small Nordic country is notoriously chilly, both in temperature and in demeanor. The Danish people are known for being stoic and reserved, but they are also honest and hardworking.  


The cost of living is high with inflation rates at 5.4%, but salaries are commensurate.  


Copenhagen is also ranked as one of the top five cities in the world for work-life balance. 


Recently, the Danish government has announced a new change that will make the country even more desirable for employees: a relaxed definition of what constitutes a ‘fixed place of work.’  


Under the new rules, which took effect at the end of April 2022, employers are only required to provide equipment for employees who 


  • work from home or  
  • at other fixed places of work an average of more than two days per week over the course of a month.  


Denmark’s relaxed attitude towards work-life balance has always been one of its most appealing traits; with this latest change, it looks like the country is only becoming more attractive to expats around the world. 


Besides work, life in Denmark also revolves around family, friends, and community, so be prepared to get cozy with your new neighbours.  


So if you’re looking for a stable, safe country with a high quality of life, Denmark may be the perfect place for you. 

5) Belgium  

Belgium is a small, yet beautifully complex country located in Western Europe. It’s bordered by France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg, making it the perfect base for exploring the rest of the continent. And with its convenient central location, it’s no wonder that Belgium is often referred to as the “Heart of Europe”. 


It’s also consistently ranked as one of the best countries in the world to live and work, and it’s not hard to see why.  


In February 2022, Belgian workers celebrated a victory as they won the right to work four days a week instead of the usual five, without loss of salary. This shows that the country is committed to ensuring a good work-life balance for its citizens.  


In addition, Belgium is home to a number of large multinational companies, which provides plenty of opportunities for employment. So, whether you’re looking for a great place to live or an excellent place to work, Belgium is definitely worth considering. 

6)  Sweden  

Sweden is a beautiful country full of friendly people and stunning scenery. It’s no wonder that so many people decide to make the move here! Sweden is well known for its iconic cities, like Stockholm and Gothenburg, which are full of culture and history.  


And, of course, let’s not forget the weather. Sweden is famous for having long, dark winters and short, cool summers. So if you love winter sports or simply enjoy the colder months, Sweden is the perfect place for you. 


Its city, Stockholm is ranked 11 in the world for work life balance and it is also widely considered to be one of the most family-friendly cities in the world. 


Swedish companies allow flexible hours and only require employees to be in the office between 9 am and 4 pm, or sometimes 10 am and 3 pm. 


As such, the Swedish traffic authorities have designated 3 pm as the start of the city’s rush hour, because that’s when parents leave work to pick up their kids from school and kindergarten. 


And if your child falls sick, parents have the right to take time off and look after them with state reimbursement for 80% lost wages. 


In other words, in Stockholm, work-life balance is more than just a concept – it’s a reality. 

7) Finland 

Finland is a land of contrasts. In the heart of Finland beats Helsinki, a Capital that is often called the “Daughter of the Baltic”, due to its location.  


On one hand, Helsinki is a modern metropolis with all the hustle and bustle that you would expect from any European capital, but on the other hand, it still retains a small-town feel with its quaint cafés and relaxed atmosphere. 


Finland is also known for its stunning natural beauty, with dense forests and pristine lakes dotting the landscape. In spite of its northerly location, Finland enjoys a temperate climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream.  


However, winters can be long and dark, so if you are looking to escape the cold then Finland might not be the right choice for you!  


And if you are curious about the Finnish working life, it is regulated by many laws and agreements that both employers and employees must adhere to. That includes minimum wages, working hours, holidays, sick pay, and the terms of dismissal 


And if your boss asks you to put in some extra time? By law, you can choose to refuse it. And if you agreed to do it, they have to pay you some extra cash for overtime.  


So if you are looking for a country that offers both an excellent work-life balance and a high standard of living, then Finland might just be the place for you! 

8) Portugal

Portugal may seem like the perfect European destination with its warm weather, delicious food, and sandy beaches. But let’s not forget that it’s a little different from its European counterparts.


While it is impressive that Portugal ranks in the top 10 for English-speaking proficiency, not everything is sunshine and sangria.


Unfortunately, the work-life balance isn’t quite up to par compared to other European countries. Lisbon, for example, ranks in 51st place on Kisi’s work-life balance index.


So, before you pack up your bags, do some serious research on costs, finding a job, and all that jazz. 

9) Germany  

Germany is a beautiful country with rich history and culture. It is well known for its iconic cities, such as Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg.  


Germany is also home to a variety of different climate zones, from the cold winters of the north to the Mediterranean-like summers of the south.  


The German work ethic is often lauded for its efficiency and productivity. And it’s true, that Germany’s labour productivity remains largely unaffected by the pandemic.  


But hey, contrary to popular belief, Germans are not rigid or robotic workaholics. What many people don’t realize is that Germans actually take up to 26 days off per year 


So how do they manage to be both productive and relaxed?  


The answer may lie in the German concept of “work-life balance.” Unlike in some other countries, where work is seen as a 24/7 commitment, Germans believe that it’s important to maintain a healthy balance between work and leisure.  


As a result, they tend to be more efficient when they are working, so that they can enjoy their time off to the fullest. With its emphasis on efficiency and work-life balance, it’s no wonder that Germany has such a thriving economy. 


For expats looking to work in Germany, these are attractive aspects to consider. The country offers a great opportunity to learn new skills and gain international experience.  


Overall, Germany is an exciting and rewarding country to live and work in. 

And remember, no matter where you end up, the most important thing is to enjoy the journey!

Each of these countries has something unique to offer, but be sure to do your research before making a decision.


Don’t forget to use Instarem to send money overseas no matter where in the world you are working from.


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**Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

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