5 best countries in the world to live that are low in cost, high in quality of life

best countries in the world to live
In the best countries in the world to live in, going to the shops feels like going to a party. Souce: AFP

Everything’s getting more expensive and there seems to be no end to drama and crises in the world.

The best countries in the world to live in know this — and have policies set in place to protect the well-being of their residents.

Prices always go up. That’s economics. The recent price hikes have hit us harder, however, thanks to two major events: the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruptions to global supply chain.

This “inflation surge” is predicted to be the new normal, as we deal with the compounding effects of the climate crisis and an ageing population.

Moving to a greener economy costs money, which companies will pass onto us, the consumers. And there will be more retirees and fewer workers, which companies may adapt by passing the costs to consumers too.

That’s the short answer, although the finer details of what causes prices to go up and down are far more complex.

In the face of rocketing bills, the best countries in the world to live in respond — and they respond well. There are plans to increase the minimum wage, as well as help pay for healthcare and rent.

Other countries plan decades in advance, by clever management of currency, such as keeping it strengthened through large reserves of gold, bonds and financial assets, for example.

All of this not only keep prices low, or at least manageable, for its people, especially budget-strapped ones like its students — but also ensure they get to continue providing a high quality of life.

These are proactive, data-driven and compassionate responses that make them some of the best countries in the world to live in as students and workers.

People with strong purchasing power, in good health (physically and mentally) and green spaces, feel safe, and have the means and wants to pursue their happiness — these are the hallmarks of those lucky enough to reside in the best countries in the world to live in.

5 best countries in the world to live in

best countries in the world to live

No cars, no stress in the Netherlands, one of the best countries in the world to live in. Source: AFP

1.The Netherlands

There are plenty of things to love about the Dutch lifestyle, which makes it one of the best countries to live in.

People are warm and welcoming; it won’t surprise you to see random strangers starting up a conversation on the bus or the tram.

What’s better is everyone speaks English. If you are struggling with Dutch (the language), you’ll find the other person switching seamlessly to English, so language is no barrier.

Do, however, try and learn some basic phrases to get you by; it’s always important to assimilate as much as possible into the country you will be living in.

When it comes to work, the Dutch are known to be hardworking people.

But they also are very committed to maintaining a balanced work-life routine for the well-being of everyone, as per its high rankings on the OECD Better Life Index.

This means no work emails after 6 pm, and the weekends are yours to fully disover the hidden gems of this country, including the colourful houses in Uitdam, the lighthouse on Marken or its beautiful national park, Veluwezoom National Park.

If you are into fitness, you’d like it here. But if you enjoy cycling, you’ll definitely love it here.

Cycling everywhere is a huge part of the lifestyle here, don’t be surprised to see people in suits cycling to work or parents with a child in tow.

Don’t want to spend money on a brand-new bike? Opt for a second-hand one instead. Many students on a budget do that.

Now we all know that Europe is truly a hub for startups and innovations.

But The Netherlands has taken it one step further by offering many incentives for international businesses.

Its strong combination of corporation taxes and financial incentives is a huge opportunity for those building startups.

So if you are one of them, then this should be a big push factor for you to live in The Netherlands.

best countries to live in as an international student

The Swiss Alps are among the best points for skiing. Source: François-Xavier Marit/AFP

2. Switzerland

If the natural beauty of the Alps, towering castles, world-class chocolates and cheese, or the calm, serene lakes are not reasons enough to want to live in Switzerland, let’s look at more.

Switzerland is a very popular destination for study, work, and travel.

There were 74,440 foreign students in the country in 2022 – including 7,526 Swiss expats, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

Why do students flock here every year? Switzerland is politically neutral and economically stable; this is tied to its high quality of life.

The Swiss live well because they earn well — Switzerland is in the top 4% of countries with the highest minimum wage.

And that includes student jobs. While not attending classes, students are able to find part-time jobs and internships that pay relatively well.

When not studying, there is so much to see and experience in this beautiful country.

Hike up and down Gornergrat for stunning views, experience skiing like never before at the top of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, or take a wielding tour to Basel.

Zurich, Geneva, and Bern are the most expensive cities to live in. While accommodation isn’t cheap, here’s a tip; live outside the city.

A shared flat can help you go a long way; multiple sites will help you find what you are looking for, like Homegate, Remax, and ImmoStreet.ch.

best countries to live in as an international student

Thousands flock to the US every year to study or find work. The opportunities available make it one of the best countries to live in. Source: Yuki Iwamura/AFP

3. US

Thousands throng to the US every year in search of the American dream.

For those wanting to further their studies, the country has some of the best colleges in the world and offers a wide range of fields to study. Think Harvard, MIT, and Yale.

For the first two years of a bachelor’s degree in the US, you can take your time and explore a variety of disciplines and topics before making your decision to further your studies.

Other than its colleges, the US is known for great career opportunities, as well as the expansion and creation of new jobs, particularly in tech.

What about accommodation, you might ask? Some cities are cheaper than the rest to live, so it’s all about where you choose to study.

When you live in a foreign country, you are bound to want to explore every inch of it.

Whether on the sandy beaches of Florida, hiking through Yosemite National Park, or going on a historical tour in different cities – there’s always something to do.

And, of course, everyone speaks English here, so you never have to worry about being unable to communicate.

best countries to live in as an international student

Japan is not only known for being an extremely clean country but its people are very respectful. These are some reasons that make Japan one of the best countries to live in. Source: Richard A. Brooks/AFP

4. Japan

Let’s move on to an Asian country which also found its spot on our list of best countries to live in:  Japan.

You’ll soon see why it has equal amounts of potential and opportunities as any Western country, making it one of the best countries to live in as an international student.

Choosing to study and master the Japanese language can open one up to endless possibilities while exploring the country’s culture and cuisine.

And the good news is its government plans to attract 400,000 foreign students to Japan from overseas institutions with the aim to further internationalise higher education.

Kyoto University doesn’t require any prior Japanese language skills, while Tohuku University has world-acclaimed research capabilities.

On top of that, as the third largest economy in the world, there are huge opportunities for graduates to find work and continue living there.

If you are living in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, you probably don’t need a car.

Japanese public transportation is one of the most efficient in the world. In fact, Tokyo is one of the 19 top cities with the best public transport in the world.

Rental can be pricey if you choose to live right in the middle of the city, but “gaijin houses” better known as guest houses, are a good way to find a nice, comfortable place without the stress of furnishing it.

best countries to live in as an international student

The Christ the Redeemer statue, the eighth wonder of the world, towers over Brazil, one of the best countries in the world to live in. Source: Carl De Souza/AFP

5. Brazil

The largest country in South America is famous for its beautiful beaches, samba dance, delicious cuisine, and rainforests.

Familiar with Pelé, Ronaldo and Kaká? You got that right; they were all born in Brazil.

This South American country has approximately 55,000 international students, making it one of the more popular study destinations in the Americas.

Take, for example, The University of São Paulo. Did you know that all its undergraduate courses are free? This applies even to international students.

Take note, however, most courses will be taught in Portuguese so you will need to learn the language.

The other languages spoken in Brazil include Spanish and English.

Already there and not sure where to go now? These language schools offer the best classes and have something for everyone, whether in private or group settings.

There’s no doubt that the people of Brazil are at risk of plunging into extreme poverty, but this should not stop you from wanting to study and work there.

Certain sectors, like agriculture and its industrial sector, have thrived even through some of the hardest times, which means jobs are still available.

When it comes to accommodation, there are sites that will provide options for what each individual is looking for.

Now for the fun side of this beautiful, majestic country. You can’t go past the Rio Carnival, wildlife watching in the Pantanal, or cruise through the Amazon River.