Starting the search for somewhere to settle is one of the most daunting tasks for a potential expat, perhaps second only to making the final decision to move. Between the two there’s all the detailed research, but you can’t research every country in the world; you have to start somewhere. If you are looking to stretch your retirement income, advance your career or simply work your way around the globe, then you’ll have different priorities and considerations.
To help you out, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the Expat Insider survey recently conducted by Internations. Here’s what the results are saying about the most popular expat destinations of the past twelve months.
Ecuador is favoured by expats who have sought out a new life rather than moving for a job or because of family ties. People moving to Ecuador have found that they are happy with the lives they can build there, with the country coming top in the list for personal happiness. This is well supported by a beneficial cost of living.
Settling in Ecuador is reported by expats as easy; on the whole, they feel welcome and able to make friends readily. Incomes, though, are often lower than in their countries of origin and job security may be poor. It seems likely that people settling in Ecuador are able to do so because of wealth brought from their countries of origin often in retirement, coming high on the list for imported spending power. For those who do settle in Ecuador for work, they find that the work-life balance is good.
The country scores in the top four for opportunities for leisure, reflected by its motto to ‘love life’. Ecuador also ranks highly for travel, with its transport infrastructure ranking in the top third. Learning to speak the language in Ecuador is important, with over two thirds of expats saying that it would be difficult to live there without speaking Spanish.
Mexico takes second place in the overall rankings, having moved up from third place in 2014. As with Ecuador, expats benefit from finance from their countries of origin because of the relatively low cost of living. Over 80% of Mexico-based expats express satisfaction with their personal finance.
The country is easy to settle into, coming top in the rankings for this category, with friendliness from Mexicans and finding friends said to be easy. Over two thirds of expats have local friends and over a third of expats say that most of their friends come from the local population. A majority say that the local population is generally friendly towards foreign residents, with a score double that of the global average.
Mexico ranks at 22nd place out of 64 counties on quality of life. Leisure and health are said to be well provided for but general wellbeing is less satisfactory, with personal safety only half way up the scale of 64 countries surveyed. Nearly half of expats said that it is essential to be able to speak Spanish in Mexico, but learning Spanish is said to be relatively easy once you are in the country.
Malta is one of the world’s favourite destinations, coming in third overall as rated by expats who have moved there. The country is rated top for working abroad, holding first place for career prospects, third for work-life balance and tenth for job security. The small Mediterranean island nation is a favourite destination for IT professionals, with the gaming sector having started to develop a hub there in recent years.
It is said to be easy to adapt to life in Malta, with expats rating it in the top five counties for finding friends and feeling welcome. Quality of life is also rated well, coming fourth in the rankings for health, safety and general well-being. Expats in Malta rate their personal happiness highly as they do for leisure opportunities. The Mediterranean climate is high on the list of considerations for expats moving to Malta. The quality of healthcare is rated as good and the island is in the top quarter for an advantageous cost of living. Most expats move to Malta for work although there is a small proportion of retired expats.
Singapore is one of the world’s leading global cities. Effectively a city state, Singapore comes out on top in a global quality of life survey, with very high rankings for personal safety and peacefulness along with excellent scores for transport connections. Often considered the ‘Switzerland of the south east’, Singapore is a global financial sector and has high scores for medical care. Cost of living can be high though, and health care contributes to this factor.
Expats say that the city state is relatively easy to settle into, with widespread use of English and a welcoming reaction from locals contributing to this. Singapore is positioned about half way through the ranks for finding friends and in the top third for leisure activities.
For those moving to Singapore for work, the city state ranks in the top five for job security but ranks poorly for work-life balance. The state of the economy is considered good, which contributes to positive feelings of job security and prosperity. For people moving there on senior work placements expat managers rate the destination very highly, with Singapore rated top in measures of working conditions across the globe.
The tiny European state of Luxembourg is the place for a good career move. The country is third overall in the rankings for expats working abroad, so this isn’t a destination for making your pension go further. The cost of living in Luxembourg is high, with a place near the bottom of the list for this measure. However, the high incomes enjoyed in Luxembourg more than compensate, with many people saying they have more than enough disposable income.
Job and career prospects are excellent, ranked third in the world out of the 64 countries surveyed. The country ranks first for job security and fifth for career prospects, although only average for work-life balance. Furthermore the economy is highly rated, coming third below Switzerland and Singapore. 63% of expats rated the economy as very good, more than double the global average.
Quality of life is said to be good in Luxembourg, with many expats declaring high ratings for general health and well-being. Family life is highly regarded coming in the top third for cost and availability of childcare and education. This makes it the 10th most sought-after destination for expat families.
New Zealand is one of the world’s top quality of life destinations. The small pacific nation does well in scores for health, safety and well-being and has a reputation for great opportunities for leisure activities, particularly outdoors. Work-life balance is said to be good, coming in the top ten counties for the shortest working week, which is important if you want to enjoy the good life. It’s sometimes said that New Zealand is a great place to live because it hardly ever makes the news.
Family life in New Zealand is good, rating well for childcare and education, although the costs of childcare are sometimes a little high, as is the general cost of living when compared to average global levels. Expats say that education is good, with state schools being well thought of. The economy is stable and described as prosperous. When asked 82% of expats said they were pleased with the economic conditions.
New Zealand is said to be one of the easiest places in the world in which to adapt to a new lifestyle. 94% of expats say that they feel welcome in the country and that the people are friendly towards them, so making local contacts is said to be straightforward.
Thailand is classified as an expat dream destination with its characteristic tropical climate. The country’s place in the top ten global expat destinations is helped by its affordable housing, which is only beaten by Ecuador. The country ranks well in general quality of life, being placed in the top third. It comes fourth in personal happiness as expressed by expats living there, and is also well thought of in terms of both leisure activities and transport links. However, these high scores are balanced by only a mid-range rating for general safety and well-being. But with no quality of life scores in the bottom half, the country averages well.
It is said that Thailand is easy to settle and that the locals are thought of as friendly and welcoming towards expats, so finding friends is relatively easy. The only obstacle is that expats have expressed difficulty learning the language.
Work-life balance in Thailand is rated highly and managers transferring to the country place Thailand tenth out of 26 when prioritizing life in and out of work. Overall expats consider family life to be in the mid-range for the cost and availability of childcare, but the score for the quality of education is in the bottom quarter.
The attraction for expats moving to Panama seems to be for quality of life, often in retirement. The famous Central American state rates 6th for personal happiness, which possibly reflects the relaxed Panamanian way of life. For those not yet ready to retire, the country also rates well for working abroad, with good scores for job security and work-life balance. The country is also used as a base by freelance professionals and business owners. The cost of living in Panama is low, rated in the top quarter of counties for low cost of living. Panama also has good healthcare without having a reputation for being expensive; in fact, Panama benefits from a degree of health tourism. The country has a special programme for pensioners retiring there that offers substantial discounts on healthcare and other services, including entertainment and public transport.
Canada is high on the list for expats looking for the right place to settle for work. The country ranks in the top quarter for working abroad with good ratings from expats for career prospects, job security and work-life balance. Furthermore the country ranks fourth for its working week at 41.6 hours. This is the lowest average working week for any of the ten countries in our list, although Australia and New Zealand are also in the top ten at 42.3hrs and 42.4 hours respectively.
The first year of life in Canada seems to be relatively easy, as expats say it is one of the top ten counties for feeling welcome; Canada is also in the top quarter for friendliness. Canada also scores well on family life, with good results from expats in the areas of family well-being and education. Quality of life is well thought of including health care, opportunities for leisure and personal happiness. This might be expected to influence the cost of living, but Canada comes in just above half way in the rankings for cost of living, so it’s by no means the most expensive place to live.
Australia tops the list of countries described by expats as their ideal place to live, with high scores for leisure options and topping the list for quality of life. The country ranks tenth in the list for feeling welcome, with over 80% finding the Australian culture easy to adopt. This is reflected by the fact that the local population are seen as friendly and above the global average on this score. Family life is considered to be good in Australia, with expats very positive on matters related to health and safety for children.
Of course all this comes at a cost; services are expensive, as is the general cost of living compared to many expat destinations. Australia is a country with high standards, so it is in demand. To pay for this standard of living, job security is considered good, and incomes are relatively high, coming in the top 15 out of 64 as rated by expats. Work-life balance is also above the global average, with the working week below the average across the globe. Over three quarters of expats generally approve of the state of the Australian economy.
Have you lived in any of these countries? Do you agree with the survey’s results? Let us know in the comments! via expatfocus.com