The 20 best countries around the world to live as an expat, ranked

Tired of your home country?

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Tired of your home country?
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HSBC Expat

  • HSBC Expat released its annual expat survey to find the best countries for expats to live based on economics, quality of life, and a slew of other factors.
  • The top countries include Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, and Bahrain.
  • Switzerland is the best country to live abroad if you want to make more money – the average expat salary is $202,865.

Tired of your old job? Looking for a new environment? There are a lot of reasons to leave your home country behind in search of greener pastures, but picking where to go can be an overwhelming decision.

There are a lot of conflicting factors: job opportunities, salary considerations, quality of life, safety, and childcare are just a few. HSBC has made the decision a whole lot easier with its latest annual Expat Explorer survey.

The survey ranks the best places to go based on experience, economics, and raising children abroad, with subcategories for each group. We’ve picked out the top 20 places overall. (But you can also personalize the rankings based on which factors matter to you.)


20. Russia

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Shutterstock.com

Russia seems like a fun place to live, with solid scores for social life (sixth), making local friends (12th), and work-life balance (14th). It ranks 24th for health, however, perhaps because of the popularity of doughy foods and meats high in cholesterol.

Russia is notorious for problems with public services like water and electricity. In addition, for American expats, Russia might prove uncomfortable as many in the government and media frequently demonize the US and vice versa.


19. Vietnam

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Chairat Wanachaweng/Shutterstock

While Vietnam ranks pretty high in economics, the country excels in disposable income, ranking first. Everything costs less, from transport to entertainment, and great public transportation makes domestic travel easy.

Food is a major plus in the country, as a greater percentage of expats say they enjoy the food compared with the global average. The country ranks sixth in culture and third in making local friends.

Vietnam is not without its problems, however. The country ranks near the bottom for health, quality of life, and childcare.


18. Ireland

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Aitormmfoto/Shutterstock

“Ireland is full of opportunities for young people who want to get international experience. It’s also easy to make friends,” one expat told HSBC.

Despite the opportunities, the country ranks low on disposable income, wage growth, and career progression. But the country shines when it comes to family life. The country ranks first for quality of life, third for schooling, and fourth for integration.

Maybe it has something to do with that rainy weather.


17. Hong Kong

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zhangyuqiu/Shutterstock

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. In addition, there’s a thriving social scene for expats, and many expats travel around the region.

Expats may have to get used to less space than they had at home, however, as it is one of the most expensive and densely populated cities in the world. Apparently, expats work very hard here, with a very low score for work-life balance.


16. Mexico

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Shutterstock/SVongpra

Mexico is far from the safest country in the world, coming in 26th, and career prospects aren’t great. But, if you’ve built your nest egg already, it’s great place to set up shop for the good life.

Expats to Mexico tend to be older than the average and nearly two-thirds are retired. The low cost-of-living means that those retirement accounts stretch further.

Expats report living in higher-quality homes, taking more vacations, donating more to charity, and having a more active social life than the place they left.


15. Malaysia

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TripAdvisor

Those who make the move to Malaysia seem to love it, with expats in Malaysia scoring highly for learning the local language, traveling more, and exploring Malaysia’s fascinating culture.

Malaysia tends to be very affordable, ranking 11th for disposable income and savings. Nearly two-thirds of expats say they have more disposable income due to the lower cost of living and lower taxes.

The country is only middle of the pack, however, in economic measures and raising children abroad. Education is decent but expensive, and the quality of childcare and school is okay but not great.


14. Spain

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anekoho/Shutterstock

As Spain has spent the better part of the past decade or so flirting with financial crisis, it should be little surprise the country ranks low on the economic totem pole. Expats moving to Spain report earning $58,000 less than the average expat.

But if building up your fortune isn’t your goal, it can be an amazing place to live. The country ranks second in the world for experience, first for quality of life, and fourth for family. Good weather and tapas have their benefits.

75% of expats to Spain have lived in the country for at least five years and most say they’ve stayed because of the quality of life.


13. Indonesia

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Shutterstock

While Indonesia doesn’t rankly highly on economics, it does excel in one area: entrepreneurship. It ranks first in the category, with 60% of expats saying its a good place to start a business.

What expats to Indonesia seem to really love is cultural immersion. Nearly 80% of expats say they enjoy getting involved in the local culture and 75% say they’ve integrated well with the local people.


12. India

The most populous democracy in the world is a rising economic superpower, drawing many expats to seek new business opportunities and career options in the country.

What makes India so attractive, however, is how cheap it is to live well. There is cheaper childcare, healthcare, clothing, groceries, and household goods. India ranks seventh in quality of childcare and 14th in education.

The country is no slouch on the social scene either, ranking fourth in social life, tenth in making local friends, and tenth for culture.

“India is fun, exciting and varied – and that can sometimes mean challenging, too,” an expat told HSBC.


11. France

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EuroVizion / Flickr

France is one of the best places for expats to move to … if you are retired.

The majority of expats that move to France are 55 and older and looking for a better of quality of life. Nearly 75% of expats say they found the improved quality of life they were looking for.

France is also a great place to raise a family. Expats report school and childcare being easy and cheap to set up, as well as being of a high quality. 64% of expats say their children’s health and well-being is better than where they left.


10. United Arab Emirates

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screenshot via NBC News

The UAE continues to have lots of high-paying jobs for expats, who are typically young. The wealthy country provides good working environments, great accommodations, and options for raising children. And then there are the world-famous hotels and shopping malls.

Still, 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, though that area is apparently improving.


9. Taiwan

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Wikimedia Commons

HSBC sums it up succinctly: “Taiwan might be the expat world’s best kept secret … Taiwan has risen through the league tables to become a serious contender for the best international way of life overall – including financial, personal, career and family wellbeing.”

Though salaries aren’t exceptionally high, Taiwan has a low cost-of-living which means more disposable income, investments, and less debt. Nearly half of expats to Taiwan say moving helped build up their wealth.

If you plan on moving, it’s best to pick up Mandarin or Cantonese. Nearly 60% of expats say they speak one of those languages in addition to English.


8. Switzerland

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Flickr/Guillaume Baviere

Life in Switzerland is pretty good. Amid the Alps, the skiing, the food, and the chocolate, you also have a country that ranks first in economics.

The average income for expats is a whopping $144,748. Of course, high salaries are necessary because everything is more expensive, including groceries, healthcare, accommodation, accommodation, and going out.

A huge reason for Switzerland’s high ranking is due to its gorgeous scenery, with plenty to do in both summer and winter. In addition, travel is very accessible. The country’s central European location puts it a short train ride from hot destinations like France, Germany, and Italy.

Rachel Southern, an expat blogger, sums it up:

“There is plenty to do in Switzerland: mountains for winter sports and lakes for summer sports. The healthcare is amazing, as is the public transport.”


7. Sweden

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Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

Expats warned HSBC that Sweden takes some getting used to. The weather can be harsh and the people closed off, that is until you get them to open up.

But the frigid winters are a small trade-off for the best work-life balance in the world and the second highest rating for job security. The country also ranks as the best place in the world to raise children, thanks to low costs to raise children and the high quality of childcare.


6. Australia

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Getty Images/Michael Dunning

Australia offers expats such a great quality of life that they don’t want to leave,” HSBC observes.

The big country down under scores high on experience. While salaries are generally higher and work stress about the same, expats report a high quality of life. Almost 75% say that they are more active living in Australia than the country they left behind. Perhaps its the fantastic weather.


5. Bahrain

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Robert Johnson — Business Insider

Unlike other countries in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain does not rely upon oil. The country is instead heavily invested in the banking and tourism sectors, which makes it a great destination for expats looking to integrate into the culture.

“The locals respect and accept expats in a very friendly way,” an expat told HSBC.

Bahrain has a respectable 11th-place ranking in experience and fifth in economics.


4. Canada

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Flickr/Nicolas

Canada is a great destination for expats who want to be integrated into their new culture. The country has made it a goal to attract 1 million expats to live and work there by 2020.

The welcoming spirit pays off. Expats report that it is easy to make local friends, and 70% note the ease of integrating into the local community.

It does take a little while to get settled, however. A little over half of expats in Canada say it took them less than a year to feel at home. The global figure is slightly higher.

“Canada is a culturally diverse country. Be open, accepting, and tolerant of others but retain your individuality,” one expat tells HSBC.


3. Germany

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La Citta Vita/Flickr

Germany is the fifth-best place in the world for expats to raise kids. The country also benefits from having the lowest average working hours around the world (26 hours a week), leading more than 70% of expats to say moving improved their work-life balance.

It is also considered an extremely safe place to live with a very stable political system and low crime.

Expats in Germany struggle, however, to deal with the high cost of living and complain about the social life.


2. New Zealand

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Shay Yacobinski/Shutterstock

New Zealand has the second lowest crime-rate in the world, according to the 2017 Global Peace Index, and is tied for the least corrupt country in the world.

With the country’s stunning nature, it should be little surprise that 60% of expats who move to New Zealand do so to improve their quality of life.

And New Zealand’s government seems eager to recruit expats, with a snazzy website for people thinking about moving to the country.


1. Singapore

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Marina Bay Sands hotel is seen at sunset on June 11, 2018 in Singapore.
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Chris McGrath/Getty Images

“A very easy country to move to. You can enjoy living in the Far East, but still enjoy much of home in the west,” one expat living in Singapore told HSBC.

Singapore ranked third in economics, and fifth for experience. The country is especially good for raising children thanks to great childcare and education – even if it is expensive.

But to make it in Singapore you really do have to be career-driven, with the country scoring low for work-life balance and with nearly half of expats saying work stress is higher than at home.