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Largest ever survey of expats - Final results

05 August, 2008 23:05  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Four months ago, we talked about HSBC's project to conduct the largest ever survey of expats. The project aimed to give more than 2000 expats across four continents the opportunity to have their say on what life is really like for people living and working away from home, looking at opportunities that come with starting a new life in a foreign country away from home, and the challenges and difficulties that they may face at home and at work.

EasyExpat gave echo to this project, and therefore is today able to have access to the final results.

The survey revealed that Singapore, the UAE and the US are the best locations to be an expat, according to findings of its Expat Explorer survey, the largest international survey of expats ever conducted.

Expat Existence, the first report in The Expat Explorer Series, ranked the top rated places to live based on expats’ living standards, an expat’s ability to earn and save, a country’s popularity (longevity), and the level of luxury experienced.

The Expat Explorer Survey questioned 2,155 expatriates across four continents, examining the opportunities, challenges and difficulties that come with a life away from home. This included how easy expats found it to integrate, how they viewed the changes in their lifestyle, and their children’s experiences in a new country.

Paul Say, Head of Marketing and Communications at HSBC Bank International, said: “The global expat community is vast and living in foreign countries means expats don't often have the normal outlets to express their viewpoints.  This survey has allowed us to delve into the lives of these expats on an unprecedented scale and reveal some fascinating trends into how life differs from country to country.

The UK (14th) and France (13th) were some of the lowest rated expat destinations in the survey, scoring low on their levels of luxury and accommodation.  Spain and China also rated poorly, ranking 12th and 11th respectively.  Australia featured 10th in the survey, scoring highly on levels of luxury, ability to earn and save and accommodation, but scoring lowly for longevity.

Earn and Save

Hong Kong-based expats have the highest salaries in the world, with almost half (49%) earning more than £100,000 p.a., with the highest paying professions in finance and management.  Despite the current economic climate, expats spend more whilst still being able to save.  More than half (52%) of expats spend more on food, 49% more on shopping and 45% more on socialising in their new country of residence and 58% also invest and save more in their resident country.  Top countries for saving included India, the UAE and Singapore.


Almost three quarters (74%) of expats living in Singapore said the quality of their accommodation had improved since moving away from home, the highest amount recorded in the study.  This was followed by expats living in the United States (61%) and Belgium (59%).  The UK was identified as the most expensive expat location for accommodation, with more than three quarters (85%) of expats living in the UK revealing that their living costs had increased.  Only one-fifth (19%) of respondents living in the UK stated that the quality of their accommodation had increased.  India was the cheapest country, with only one-fifth (21%) of expats living in the country claiming that their costs of accommodation had increased.


Europe is a popular destination overall for its longevity – more than three quarters (82%) of expats now living in the Netherlands have been there for three or more years, followed by Germany (77%) and Spain (76%).  Ireland and New Zealand have the greatest percentage of global travellers, with more than three quarters (80%) of respondents originally from both countries stating that they had been away from home for longer than three years.


The report also investigates whether expats’ lifestyles are more luxurious than the lives they left behind and how long people are choosing to stay living away from home.  Countries were rated on a number of categories including access to private healthcare, access to more than one property, ability to own a pool and to employ staff (such as cleaners).

Across the 11 categories of perceived luxuries, on average expats reported an increase in eight of these factors, with employing staff ranked as the highest increase.  The UAE was the most luxurious destination, with expats enjoying increases in 10 of the 11 categories, followed by Singapore and India. The UK was ranked the least luxurious with decreases recorded in nine of the 11 luxuries.


The Expat community is highly important to a number of different economies throughout the world and getting this kind of insight into their everyday lives is helping to shed more light on a highly diverse and far reaching range of individuals,” said Mr Say.

Overall, the Expat Explorer survey will deliver some unique insights into a range of facets of Expat life, with our next report looking at the subject of offspring and some of the issues Mums and Dads face as parents of expat children.  Our third report, centred around Integration, will then focus on some of the challenges faced by expats as they move from place to place.

Top ranked countries
Rank Accommodation Earn & Save Longevity Luxury
1 Singapore India Netherlands UAE
2 US Hong Kong Germany Singapore
3 Belgium Singapore US India

To see more of the findings and the full league table of the first report in the Expat Explorer series, visit


About the survey
The Expat Explorer survey was conducted by independent research companies – data capturing was undertaken by Virtual Surveys between the months of February – April 2008, with data analysis conducted by Freshminds.  The survey looked at a range of topics relevant to expats’ lives including living standards, an expat’s ability to earn and save, a country’s popularity and the level of luxury experienced.

The survey questioned 2,155 expatriates living in over 49 countries, however, only countries with at least 30 respondents were analysed in the league tables.  Due to this small sample number, it was decided that countries with less than 30 responses was not statistically sufficient for detailed analysis in the league tables.

The league table consists of 15 countries and was formed based on the level of percentage changes across the different judging criteria and this was then scored accordingly.  For example, Spain noted increases in 9 out of the 11 different luxuries, however when actual individual percentage changes were taken into account in each factor, Spain ranked 8th due to smaller percentage changes.  The overall score for each country was based on taking the average of scores across the four categories (accommodation, earn and save, longevity and luxury).

HSBC Bank International Limited
HSBC Bank International is a leading provider of offshore financial services and a wholly owned subsidiary of the HSBC Group. The head office of HSBC Bank International is in Jersey, Channel Islands with offices in Guernsey and the Isle of Man.  HSBC Bank International also has a representative office in Dubai and South Africa, a branch in Hong Kong, representation in Singapore and affiliate offices in Malta and London.

The HSBC Group
HSBC Holdings plc is headquartered in the UK. The HSBC Group serves over 128 million customers worldwide from over 10,000 offices in 83 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.  HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.  HSBC is marketed worldwide as ‘the world’s local bank’.


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Expats [Reply]

I can definately see how moving to India or Singapore will increase your quality of life compared with other more traditional destinations. In Spain, for example, the quality of life is only marginally better than the UK while the cost of living is also marginally better. A move to asia will improve those factors much more. People continue to choose destinations like Spain because of the proximity to the UK. The further you move the more radical lifestyle change that needs to happen also.

  intertraveller     18 Aug 2008, 16:07