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The best places to be an expat

switzWith economies around the world staggering, many are looking at the possibility of relocating.  With the economies tanking, the grass is looking greener on the other side. If you have a highly mobile job, that is job that is in demand abroad, you may have the world as your oyster. If you haven’t made a career decision, consider choosing a job that will not limit you to one location, check out my post on in demand jobs abroad. So, you want to live abroad … where will you go?

Obviously some places are better than others – most people want to live somewhere that offers a solid quality of life, good healthcare and schools, safety and security, excellent schools, fair work-life balance and prospects for high earnings. Strangely enough the USA and the UK do not fare so well on the list, although they do make it into the top 35 places to go.But according to a survey of 9,000 expats from HSBC, one country rises above the pack on the combined measures of economics, overall experience and family life. That honor goes to Switzerland.

Expats in Switzerland boast high household income,plenty of extra cash and a strong host economy. (Bonus points for alpine cheeses, excellent chocolate and stunning landscapes.) Not so hot according to expat survey respondents are Switzerland’s social life and the ease with which outsiders make local friends, or any friends at all. (Take a closer look at Switzerland’s ranking here.)

Singapore, China and Germany follow closely behind Switzerland, but these are not the countries you would consider when deciding to relocate. Another issue is getting a job there and settling there, how easy is it to do so. Australia and Canada are known for having immigration policies that make it easier for foreigners to relocate and are always actively looking to offer foreigners a fresh start. Canada and Australia make it to number eleven and twelve respectively.

Take “experience” and “raising children” out of the equation and the most financially satisfying country to be an expat is China. (It still ranked third overall.) Travel, culture, lifestyle and adapting can be frustrating in China, but economically it’s a no-brainer: 76% of expats in China say their disposable household income increased since they moved to that country, compared to a global average of 53%. Meanwhile, 85% of expats in China say they are satisfied with the local economy compared to a global average of 62%. (Take a closer look at China’s expat ranking here.)

Other countries popular with expats are Singapore, Bahrain, New Zealand and Thailand; with Oman, Qatar, Hong Kong and Germany especially strong on economic measures and New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Japan, Singapore, India and Belgium especially strong on family measures.

Egypt ranked low on almost every measure except for cost of childcare and education. And scraping in above Egypt was the United Kingdom. Expats reamed the nation for its poor work-life balance, accommodation, mediocre child care and high cost of living. How welcoming is the U.S. to expats? Not much more than the U.K. according to this survey, although curiously respondents found it was easy to set up utilities. So, there’s that.

Here’s a look at how the countries fared overall across the three scales – economics, experience and raising children:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Singapore
  3. China
  4. Germany
  5. Bahrain
  6. New Zealand
  7. Thailand
  8. Taiwan
  9. India
  10. Hong Kong
  11. Canada
  12. Australia
  13. Qatar
  14. Oman
  15. United Arab Emirates
  16. Vietnam
  17. Russia
  18. Japan
  19. Malaysia
  20. Belgium
  21. Mexico
  22. South Africa
  23. France
  24. Spain
  25. Ireland
  26. Turkey
  27. Netherlands
  28. Saudi Arabia
  29. Kuwait
  30. United States
  31. Italy
  32. Brazil
  33. United Kingdom
  34. Egypt

** The Expat Explorer survey polled 9,288 expats from over 100 countries through an online questionnaire. For a country to be included in the final tally, it needed at least 100 expat respondents of whom at least 30 were parents. Take a look at the full interactive HSBC Expat Explorer survey here.

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