Live Abroad: The Best Countries To Be An Expat In

Now, more than ever before, is the era of the expat. With so much work taking place online, not to mention multinational corporations and other opportunities abroad, wanderlusters no longer need to dream of travel while stuck in the office when they can live and work abroad with much greater ease these days. Of course, this leaves the inevitable conundrum of where to settle down.

The best country to be an expat in is a highly subjective choice, depending on what criteria is important for you in terms of costs, quality of life and opportunities. Luckily, HSBC compiled the Expat Explorer Survey, questioning thousands of expats and measuring a number of factors to see how countries rank.

Photo via HSBC

Image via HSBC

Expats’ Rankings

According to the overall rankings – looking at economic factors, the overall experience in the country and raising children – Switzerland tops the list. Europe’s famously neutral country ranks high across the board, particularly when it comes to the economic situation both in terms of the country’s stability and income levels. The work/life balance was also highly rated. The one area that the country did not rank well was when it came to making friends, especially with locals.

The East was particularly attractive for expats as well. Singapore took second place and China snagged third. Also making it into the top ten was Germany at 4th, Bahrain in 5th and New Zealand in 6th. They were followed on the overall rankings by Thailand, Taiwan, India and Hong Kong.

The Middle East established itself as the place to be for expats interested in furthering their career paths. More than half of the expats in these countries moved there for better job prospects, not to mention higher salaries. The far east is also a prime location for those looking for greater spending power. While there is a great degree of differentiation in the incomes and costs of living across these countries, the average salary came in at $120,000 (USD) per year. A pretty good incentive indeed…

For raising children, south of the equator is the promised land. New Zealand was rated the number one place for expats to raise kids, followed by South Africa. This rating is according to cost and quality of childcare, education, and children’s well being, happiness and ease of adjustment.

Photo via HSBC

Image via HSBC

Cost of Living Around the World

For some expats, their greatest concern in finding a new home abroad is cost of living. Particularly for global nomads living off their digital income, a salary earned in their own currency can stretch a whole lot further in another country.

A comparison of the cost of living around the world reveals that some of the cheapest countries right now are Colombia, India and Indonesia. Colombia is quickly gaining ground as an attractive new option as both a travel destination and new home for expats. Although lounging on the beach in Bali while working on your laptop doesn’t sound too bad either!

Also on the cheap side are Mexico, Peru, South Africa, China and much of Eastern Europe. Right on the other end of the scale are, as expected, the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. That being said, the high salaries found in a place like Switzerland would certainly help balance out the living costs.

Photo via

Image via

InterNations International Ranking

A favourite website of all expats scattered across the globe to connect with fellow expats, InterNations has also made use of their vast network of foreign nationals to rank countries, to find out the most popular countries for expats. The survey looked at general quality of life, working abroad, family life, ease of settling in and personal finance. The survey also included the crucial questions “how satisfied are you with life abroad in general?”

The results were interesting, with Ecuador and Luxembourg taking up the first two spots. One thing to note with Ecuador is that only a small proportion of expats moved to Ecuador for work purposes, as opposed to Luxembourg who scored highly for work but much lower for personal happiness, demonstrating the difficulty of ranking countries in the first place. Rounding out the top 5 on the InterNations list were Mexico, Switzerland and the USA.


Image credit: Expat Destinations infographic via Expat Insider

Choosing a Country for YOU

Ranking countries is clearly incredibly subjective. Luckily for potential expats, the various surveys are quite open in their data, showing which factors current expats are happy with, and what they are unhappy with. Whether you’re looking for a place to raise your kids, moving country to climb the career ladder, looking for a salary increase, want a better quality of life or are looking for an exciting place to to live for a while you work online, there is a country out there that suits your requirements. One great resource that digital nomads should definitely check out is the NomadList. This guide to living abroad gets fellow expats to rate a country on various factors such as internet speed, cost of living and quality of life.

Another factor that is very important for your decision is the language in the country you’re heading to. If you’re off to Switzerland, for example, consider what region of the country you’ll be going to, because you might need to learn German, French or Italian. You may be tempted to take the easy route out and move somewhere where English is the main language, but don’t let that keep you back. Learning another language is not only a fun challenge, but has many benefits! Don’t leave it to the last minute either – take some lessons before you go to make the transition a bit easier.

Contact us today to find the language for you and your next adventure!