Where is the best place to be an expat?

22nd May 2012, Comments 63 comments

Where is the best place to be an expat? If you think it's a European country, you're incorrect. In fact, according to HSBC's global Expat Explorer survey, only one European country made the top five.

Western European countries tend to be well above global averages when it comes to measurements of wellbeing such as income, social enjoyment, and healthcare. But according to internationals such as you, Western Europe falls far behind when it comes to top global locations to live in as an expat.

In fact, according to a survey into global expat attitudes by HSBC Expat, the best places in the world to live  are Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Egypt, in that order.

Of European countries, Switzerland is the highest at 5th. Other European countries are not even close, with Belgium 21st, Spain 23rd, Germany 26th, France 28th, and the Netherlands 31st.

But hold on, I hear you say. That doesn't make any sense. What about the cornerstones of a happy life abroad, such as healthcare, education, and quality of life, and the ability to interact with locals and make new friends? For expats from western countries, surely Eurozone countries should rate above places such as Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Egypt with regards to these factors. 

Well actually, the picture is more complicated than you may suspect.

First off, education is a clear winner for the Eurozone. France and the Netherlands are the best countries globally in which to raise children as an expat and come highly recommended by expat parents, as they provide an environment where children can easily integrate and experience a healthier lifestyle.

It's generally true that expats in the Eurozone find local healthcare to be excellent, with France coming in 1st, Belgium 2nd, Germany 3rd, Spain 4th, and Switzerland 7th.

So if education and healthcare tend to be better in the Eurozone, why are these countries so far behind as preferred expat destinations?

One reason, somewhat surprisingly, could be the social life. According to expats who completed the last survey, the Netherlands is the most difficult of all 31 countries surveyed for making friends in general, and the second-most difficult for making local friends. And Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany have similar difficulties.  

Another big factor is income - expats in the Eurozone tend to earn less and have less disposable income than their counterparts. Despite the continuing fallout from the global financial crisis, expat wealth in countries such as Egypt, Bahrain, and Japan has remained widely immune to global economic troubles - and this is one of the key reasons that they are so highly favoured by expats globally.

3 Comments To This Article

  • Steve posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 21:38:27 - Reply

    I also agree with the assessment of Netherlands, it's a cold and closed society to foreigners.
  • Ellen posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 21:24:38 - Reply

    Living in Saudi as an expat woman does not seem to score this high on the list I think.
  • Paul posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 11:51:32 - Reply

    I agree with the assessment of the Netherlands. In the last decade there has been an incredible shift away from being a socially open society.