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In which country is lifestyle better?

15 November, 2010 11:03  EasyExpat EasyExpat

With the 2010 Expat Explorer, HSBC International released the result of its survey on expats' experiences of setting up in their new country of residence, integrating into local society as well as their quality of life.

Thailand tops expat lifestyle surveyThailand - © julie etchepar - Fotolia.com

Some people only dream about that : leave all behind and go around the world. But for those planning a gap year in Thailand they better book soon as the country has come top in the survey and ranked most highly for its overall quality of life, including its food, its social aspects and its opportunities for sports and entertainment.

Thailand is also confirming (for the second year running) to be the most romantic destination, with 69% of single expats having found a partner since relocating, followed closely by Spain (68%). It is also very popular with those wishing to retire abroad.

Language is the biggest barrier to integrate

Overall however, life abroad is not always that easy. The most common concern for expats ahead of moving to their new country is re-establishing a social life (41%), feeling lonely and missing friends and family (34%). The same worries are also much more prominent for female expats.

While language barriers caused concern for just under one third of expats overall, this figure was greatly increased for those heading to Europe (59% expats have concerns when moving to Germany, 58% in Switzerland, 57% in France, 55% in the Netherlands, 50% in Spain and 46% in Belgium).

Language might be a cause for expats finding difficult to make friends abroad but results are however controversial as only 42% of expats based in UK say it is easy to make friends while they are 57% in France and 61% in Spain.

Maybe a second consequence of this language barrier, the survey found that expats tend to spend more time with expat friends, specially in non-English speaking countries. And unsurprisingly expats in Middle East are most likely to only integrate with fellow expats 85% in Qatar, 84% in UAE, 81% in Barhain and 73% in Saudi Arabia) along with 79% in Hong Kong (but also a very well known tiny expat spot) while the average is 58%.

UK top for entertainment but makes a poor lifestyle location for expats

The UK is an unfavourable location for those looking for increased quality of life (ranking 20th in the overall experience league table... while topping the league table a year ago) and this is not helped by the relatively poor economic outlook for expats based here. Nearly half (49%) of expats based in the UK think their social life has become worse since relocating. In addition, the UK scores the worst of all countries on the quality of accommodation and commute to work as well as getting used to the local weather.

However, and with no surprise given that the English language is so widely spoken, UK-based expats found it easy to adapt to the local language and communicate and still rank excellent for entertainment.

Career prospects and quality of life don’t go hand in hand for expats

Moving abroad is an opportunity many people undertake to find a better way of life as well as an opportunity to boost their earning potential by taking on a new career challenge.

But the findings show that the two benefits rarely go hand in hand. It is actually obvious in the study that countries that offer great benefits financially doesn’t generally provide the same benefits in terms of expected quality of life. While the clear financial hostpots for expat is within the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) [1], these countries typically score very low on the quality of life rankings (Saudi Arabia 20th, Qatar 19th and Russia 24th out of 25 countries).

Retirees - © Flashon Studio - Fotolia.comIn contrast, countries offering a good quality of life such as South Africa (3rd), Spain (6th) and France (7th) are very popular with those wishing to retire abroad. A high proportion of expats based in Spain (38%), France (33%), South Africa (24%), Thailand (24%) and Canada (17%) are retirees, with many having moved specifically for this reason. While scoring well on quality of life overall, these countries scored particularly well on food, local diet and healthcare.

At the end, two-thirds (66%) of expats cited the better quality of life as the key benefit to relocating, especially in countries such as Australia, France, Spain and Canada. And this is more important than career development (60%) and financial wealth (55%). Relief!

Locations expats voted as the places with the best life experience

Rank-Country

1-Thailand
2-Canada
3-Bahrain
4-Spain
5-South Africa
6-France
7-Bermuda
8-Australia
9-Malaysia
10-Switzerland
11-Germany
12-Singapore
13-Hong Kong
14-Belgium
15-Philippines
16-United States
17-United Arab Emirates
18-Netherlands
19-Mexico
20-United Kingdom
21-China
22-Qatar
23-Saudi Arabia
24-Russian Federation
25-India

The survey is now in its third year and reached over 4,127 expats in about 100 countries this year. Two years ago EasyExpat.com published the result of the survey 2008, and in 2009 we published the Halifax report on British expatriates.

[1] See the report on expats' financial aspects that we commented last week

   



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Expat in Spain [Reply]

Interesting post. I now live in Spain and love it. It is a great lifestyle but it is difficult to find work. If you have free time, there are wonderful places to explore. Learning the language is a challenge but is all part of the fun too.

  Amazon Perks     19 Nov 2010, 08:17