The World’s Best Expat Locations?

If you have your sights set on moving to Australia or Spain – perennial favourites among expatriates – then you might want to think again.


According to HSBC Bank International’s new Expat Existence survey, the best place to be an expatriate is in fact Singapore, followed by the United Arab Emirates and the US.


The HSBC report sought to investigate the opportunities and challenges that expats face in their new locations. To this end it ranked the countries according to a variety of factors that assessed expats’ ability to earn and save, their quality of accommodation, the level of luxury enjoyed (such as access to private healthcare, pool ownership, and the ability to employ staff), and a country’s popularity in terms of how long expats live there.


I wouldn’t disagree with the findings. I haven’t been to Singapore since the early 90s, but at the time I found it a clean and pleasant (if somewhat sterile) city.


It’s got an equable – albeit humid – climate, high education standards, low unemployment and good job opportunities, superb restaurants, low tax and living costs, and it serves as a convenient hub for travel in the wider region.


I can’t directly comment on the UAE, having never been there. However, as the CIA World Factbook notes, it has a high per capita income, strong economic growth and zero taxes in its Free Trade Zones. The money-earning potential therefore must be a particular lure. On the flip side I would imagine its climate is a significant drawback though.


The US has evident advantages too. My wife and I lived in New York for a year and loved it: the bustle and excitement, the opportunity to pursue the ‘American Dream,’ the chance to travel around what is an enormous and extremely varied country. I can therefore well-understand the allure it holds (which will no doubt increase once President Bush finally leaves office!).


By contrast, some traditional expat locations fared less well in the HSBC survey.


Australia came in 10th, having received high marks for levels of luxury, accommodation, and the ability to earn and save, but with a low score for longevity. Spain, meanwhile, was 12th and France 13th.


The UK, which trailed in 14th, proved the most expensive expat location for accommodation. It also ranked as the least luxurious, with decreases reported in nine of the 11 luxury categories. This will come as no surprise to the millions of British citizens who indicate they are planning their own escape from the country.


However, before you get carried away with the overall rankings and start changing your plans, it’s worth paying attention to the longevity scores. And here Europe came out triumphant.


The report found 82 percent of the expat respondents in the Netherlands have been there three or more years. Germany had the next highest figure, with 77 percent, while Spain was close behind with 76 percent.


No doubt there are a whole slew of reasons to account for this. Factors such as a reasonable year-round climate, ease of accessibility for trips back home, decent infrastructure (including transport, telecommunications, healthcare and education), political stability and a rich cultural heritage.


So although a hefty pay package and an army of domestic staff may be appealing, the financials of your move should not be the be-all and end-all. Rather, relocating abroad should be about improving your overall quality of life. Ultimately that is what will make it an enjoyable, and successful, experience.


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