Anybody considering life as an expat should pay special attention to Internation’s latest Expat Insider survey. The international networking and events group for people living overseas questioned more than 18,000 people to compile its annual list of the best and worst destinations for expats, based on factors such as Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, and Personal Finance.
The winner in 2018, Internations reveals, is the same as in 2017. The tiny gulf state of Bahrain has swept all before it once again, and, completing an eclectic top three, Taiwan, is followed by Ecuador.
Why Bahrain? Respondents judged the gulf state – regarded as one of the first “post-oil” economies in the Middle East, as the 2nd friendliest of all expat locations, and number one for feeling “At Home”. Despite the language barrier, expats were not perturbed, agreeing that it was easy to make new friends in Bahrain, whilst many respondents also highlighted job security, satisfaction, and working hours as particularly good, awarding the country a top rating on all three counts.
For Family Life, Bahrain ranked 7th overall, with the quality of education ranked 3rd, and availability of childcare 9th, whilst 9 in 10 parents felt that the attitude towards families with children was spot on. On the financial side, Bahrain has slipped somewhat, to 22nd place on the Personal Finance list.
In terms of quality of life, however, Bahrain has upped its game, gaining 12 places year on year to sit 20th on the list.
Taiwan rises from 4th to 2nd on this year’s list, and ranks 1st overall for quality of life, with high quality, affordable healthcare, good transport and high levels of employment and job satisfaction. A haven for “digital nomads”, expats in Taiwan typically work shorter hours, although 70% of expats living in the country are earning less than $50,000 per annum. Personal finances do not seem to be a problem, however, and despite a tricky language barrier, Taiwan’s social scene is attractive, ranking 15th for ease of Settling In, and 8th for finding new friends.
Third placed Ecuador has enjoyed a stellar year in 2018, receiving favourable reviews for finances, job satisfaction, and career progression, although a larger than normal proportion of expats in the country are retired, and relocated due to the perceived high quality of life. The only objection to the lifestyle in Ecuador concerned its lack of digital infrastructure. Expats also noted that, to enjoy life to the full and the legendary hospitality of the locals, it helps to have a working knowledge of Spanish.
At the other end of the scale, the UK has had a, no doubt Brexit related, bad year. The country has dropped to 59th place, fuelled no doubt by uncertainty around employment and uncertainty over being made to feel welcome. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Peru have all experienced poor years too, with India also struggling to persuade expats of its value.
Perennial expat favourite Spain scores highly across all categories, ranking 1st for Leisure Options, 7th for Personal Happiness, 11th for travel, 8th for Health and Well Being, and 23rd for Digital Life, although the country is not especially perceived as safe.
Of course, many, if not most expats relocate for practical reasons and are not at liberty to pick or choose their location. Internations reveals that just 10% of expats have moved in pursuit of a better quality of life, albeit this is the third most popular reason given for emigrating, with the most popular being a new job (12%), and to live in a partner’s home country or for reasons of the heart (12%).
Nearly one third of all survey respondents felt that they would remain in their adopted countries “possibly forever, with just 1% planning a stay of less than 6 months. 16% were undecided, and just under one fifth were planning a stay of longer than 5 years.
Although the United Kingdom may not have scored highly in this years’ survey, its expat community are renowned for being adventurous, friendly, and maintaining high standards, Internations says.
Brits spend longer abroad than any other nation, – 37% have been living in their host countries for more than 10 years – and tend to develop better relations with locals, with 54% saying they found it easy to meet locals. Practical, adaptable, and loyal, Brits seem to enjoy their time abroad and most plan to stay longer. Their main motivation? Finding sunnier climes to retire to.
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