The 20 best places to live overseas

Which countries stole the top spots?

Experience, economics, and raising children abroad
Tired of your old job? Looking for a new environment? There are many reasons to leave your home country in search of greener pastures, but picking where to go can be an overwhelming decision. Job opportunities, salary, quality of life, safety, and childcare are just a few of the factors to consider.

For those looking to make the move, HSBC's annual Expat Explorer survey is an excellent resource. The survey ranks the top countries based on experience, economics, and raising children abroad, with subcategories for each group — and a lot can change in a year.

Last year's number one, Switzerland, dropped to 10, India jumped way back from nine to 17, and new countries entered the top 20 ranking.

Keep scrolling to see which countries stole the top spots, and maybe find a place to make a fresh start.

20. Malaysia

Adventurous and social expats are likely to head to Malaysia. Sixty-three percent say their greater disposable income and better work/life balance give them time and money for a social life. Those who make the move seem to love it, with expats in Malaysia scoring highly for making friends. The country is only middle of the pack, however, in economic measures and raising children abroad. The quality of childcare is not good, but 60% of parents do feel the overall quality of life is better for their children.

19. Mexico

According to one expat, "If you love color, noise, laughter, history, culture, you'll love Mexico." Those who moved to Mexico acclimated themselves with the culture and lifestyle quicker than other countries. After only two years, 76% of expats claim the country feels like home, compared to the 62% global average. No surprise: 82% enjoy the Mexican cuisine. However, the country ranked below average for career progression and financial benefits, despite its high ranking for overall experience.

18. Czech Republic

Although expats found family integration here to be difficult, the cost of raising children is ranked fourth out of all the countries. According to HSBC, Czech Republic is one of Central Europe's most industrialized economies, making it a prime spot for international foreign investment. The country also ranks high in work-life balance. The country's high standard of healthcare puts it in the top 10 compared to other countries.

17. India

Down from ninth place in 2014, India remains a rising economic superpower, drawing many expats to seek new business opportunities and career options. People are attracted to its cheap cost of living and family-focused culture. India ranks ninth in raising children abroad thanks to its high quality of childcare and education. The country is no slouch on the social scene either, ranking eighth in social life, sixth in making local friends, and fourth for culture. "While you are walking in the street in India, you will be amazed by their culture and hospitality," an expat told HSBC.

16. United States

As the world's largest economic power, expats are attracted to the US for financial freedom, career growth, and a sound family life, according to HSBC. Ranking third for career progression and fourth for entrepreneurship, we can see the appeal. The cost of living is dependent on the city, with New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles being the most expensive. But many stay in the US for its high quality of life, and 61% of parents see the US as being more suitable for raising children.

15. Russia

Russia seems like a fun place to live, with high scores for entertainment, work-life balance, social life, making local friends (first!), and more. Despite high salaries, the cost of living in Russia is expensive. The quality of childcare and education is good but, again, expensive — the country ranks second in school quality. HSBC recommends putting forth an effort to learn the language and the Cyrillian alphabet to better acclimate yourself.

14. Oman

Oman has a high standard of living, ranking second for disposable income and fourth for work-life balance. Its bursting with gourmet restaurants, shopping opportunities, and traditional markets called souks. The economy is strong, especially for expats, and ranks ninth for economics. Oil remains as Oman's biggest industry, with agriculture, fishing, and tourism on the rise. If you plan to raise a family, be warned. The country ranks poorly for raising children abroad, ranking middle of the pack or near the bottom for all measures in that category.

13. Spain

Despite its poor economy rankings, HSBC says Spain continues to be a popular expat destination. And rightfully so — it's ranked second for experience and fourth for raising a family. Did we mention it's number one for social life? The global financial crisis hit Spain hard, and unemployment remains high. A large portion of expats run their own business, according to HSBC. "I have lived in the south of Spain for seven years and I love it. The pace of life, the weather, the people, everything," said one expat.

12. Netherlands

The Netherlands ranked high in overall quality of life, schooling, and No. 1 one for job security, making it a prime place to raise a family. Backed by a strong economy, expats seek out the Netherlands for its employment opportunities and working conditions. It is ranked fifth for work-life balance, with food processing, chemicals, gas, and oil as major industries.

11. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is fairly independent from mainland China and maintains its own currency and set of laws. Expats tend to have high salaries and large amounts of disposable income, and it's ranked first for career progression. In addition, there's a thriving social scene for expats (third for social life!), and 65% enjoy the local cuisine. Expats may have to get used to less space than they had at home, though. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive and densely populated cities in the world. Expats also have to work very hard here, as the work-life balance swings more toward work.

10. Switzerland (huge jump from 1!)

Despite its drop from first place overall, Switzerland still ranks first in economics. Almost a third of expats earn more than $200,000. Of course, high salaries are necessary because everything is more expensive, including rental costs and living expenses. Switzerland is ranked fourth for quality of life, most likely due to its gorgeous scenery, skiing in the Alps, mouth-watering food, and incredible chocolate.

9. United Arab Emirates

The UAE continues to offer many high-paying jobs for expats, with an average salary of over $124,000. While there is a high cost of living, the quality of life is solid, with plenty of delicious restaurants and world-famous shopping malls. Expat children are not permitted to attend public schools, but there are various international schools. Unfortunately, space is limited, forcing parents to start the enrollment process early. The culture is dramatically different from the west. Islamic traditions and ideals make the country very conservative, with strict rules for public conduct. The language is difficult for many expats, who have trouble making local friends and integrating into the community.

8. Taiwan

HSBC sums it up succinctly: "Taiwan has a lot to offer expats — a vibrant culture, sparkling seas, and a cosmopolitan capital." Taiwan stands out for how well expats integrate into local life and how much they enjoy the culture, including the country's famous night markets and celebrations such as the Lunar New Year and Ghost Festival. Seventy percent of expats are satisfied with their social life here. Expats were most unhappy with the country's work-life balance, school quality, and childcare.

7. Australia

Australia scores high in assimilation, work-life balance, and other experiential aspects. These more than make up for the decent economic scores and a few other downsides, like its expensive cost of living and the quality of childcare. Expats enjoy a relaxed and often informal work atmosphere, but respect and professionalism are still practiced.

6. Canada

Canada is a great destination for expats who want to be integrated into their new culture. More than half of expats report that it is easy to make local friends, and 75% note the ease of integrating into the local community. Housing, quality of life, and career progression all rank highly. Expats are fairly sour about work-life balance and disposable income, but they can rest easy knowing their kids are doing well. Canada is in the top 10 for family destinations, with access to high-quality education, healthcare, and a low crime rate. “I love Canada and its people! I felt welcomed from the very beginning,” one expat told HSBC.

5. Germany

Germany is one of the top five places in the world for expats raising kids, with 82% of expats expressing confidence with the local economy. It is also considered an extremely safe place to live with a very stable political system and low crime. Sixty-six percent say Germany is safer than their home country. On the flip side, expats in Germany struggle to deal with the high cost of living and complain about the social life.

4. Bahrain

According to HSBC, "People are drawn to Bahrain for its exciting career prospects and laid-back lifestyle." The country is ideal for expats looking to submerge themselves into the culture, ranking seventh for making new friends. Bahrain ranks seventh in experience and eighth in economics. The country comes in at third place in both disposable income and work/life balance. It's also a great place for families, with 54% of expats saying the quality of life for their children is better.

3. Sweden

Sweden is the number one country for expats to raise a family. It takes first in both childcare quality and overall childcare cost. Sweden's stable economy is also one of its strong points, ranking first in both job security and work/life balance. The country boasts beautiful Scandinavian forests and lakes, a good quality of life, and affordable healthcare. But expats must also consider the high taxes, costly living expenses, and difficulties finding accommodation. According to HSBC, "Sweden prides itself on being environmentally friendly and balancing financial stability with the well being of its people."

2. New Zealand

New Zealand has a relatively low crime rate, according to the US State Department, and HSBC named it the best place for bringing up confident, well-rounded kids. Ranked number one for experience, the government seems eager to recruit expats. Seventy-seven percent of expats feel their quality of life is better in New Zealand, earning it a gold for the category. What keeps it at No. 2 is its economics. New Zealand ranked low for expat disposable income and wage growth.

1. Singapore

Ranking second in economics and third in both experience and family, Singapore is the most desirable place for expats. "One of the cleanest and safest cities in the world, Singapore is a multicultural hub that’s worked hard to earn its place among the thriving Asian Tiger economies,” HSBC declares.

The country is ranked first in school quality. In fact, in 2012, British education minister Michael Gove suggested that Britain adopt a similar system to Singapore's. But to make it in Singapore, you have to be career-driven; the country scored extremely low for work-life balance. And while 65% have more disposable income, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities. Another uncomfortable aspect is the government's control of local media.


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