HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2017 - Part 1


Fraser Clarke

HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey for 2017 has been published, with Singapore once again named as the best location globally for expats to call home.

There have been some notable changes since the 2016 report however, with New Zealand and Canada dropping to third and sixth from second and third respectively, and Australia and the United Arab Emirates re-entering the top ten.

In the first of a two part special report we’ll look at where the countries we work with ranked, and what expats loved (and loathed) about their new lives overseas.

Part 1 - Australasia, Canada and The Far East

Singapore - 1st (-)

Singapore once again topped the poll, despite not actually winning any single indicator outright. Consistency was the key to the Island City State’s success, with it scoring 19 top tens across the 30 areas examined by the report.

Expats Loved

  • A move to Singapore was great for career progression, with a highly competitive and stimulating working environment prevalent throughout the country
  • The way the country supports entrepreneurship was also applauded
  • Expats rated healthcare highly in Singapore, with just five countries topping the island’s world renowned system
  • The financial security of a move was also highly spoken about, with the country boasting a strong and secure economy
  • Singapore also scored very highly for safety, with crime rates lower than almost anywhere else in the world, making it ideal for families
  • Finally the quality of education and childcare were rated highly by expats - further adding to the family appeal

Expats’ Downsides

  • The positives for your career can come at a cost, with expats warning that the country doesn’t offer a perfect work/life balance
  • So too does the high standard of childcare and education, with HSBC’s findings rating Singapore as one of the most expensive locations globally in which to raise children

New Zealand - 3rd (-1)

New Zealand falls one place behind soaring Norway, however remains one of the most attractive destinations for expats seeking a change from Western Europe. The country topped four areas, however low scores for financial remuneration and the country’s remoteness saw it once again fail to topple Singapore.

Expats Loved

  • New Zealand’s support for entrepreneurs makes it an excellent location in which to start your own practice
  • Stable governance and a lack of political unrest saw the country score highly in the politics section
  • Healthcare in New Zealand was ranked as the second best globally in the report, with a high standard of care available countrywide
  • New Zealand’s quality of life was, unsurprisingly, rated extremely highly by expats
  • Finally experts spoke highly of their family health - with New Zealand’s active lifestyle, fresh, clean air and stunning scenery promoting a healthy way of life

Expats’ Downsides

  • New Zealand isn’t a country where the financial benefits will be life changing - unlike in the Gulf where high tax-free salaries are the the norm - with the money being far more similar to the UK
  • New Zealand’s culture also scored poorly, despite the country being home to the unique Maori people, with many towns and cities feeling all too generic for expats
  • Finally the cost of raising children was once again high, despite the standard of childcare not being near Singapore’s world leading levels

Canada - 6th (-3)

Canada has been attracting expats from around the world for hundreds of years now, with the country’s friendly attitudes and the promise of a more enjoyable work/life balance appealing to many. This year it has once again scored well, despite sliding behind Norway, Germany and The Netherlands in the rankings.

Expats Loved

  • Canadian society is extremely tolerant, with expats from all different walks of life welcomed with open arms
  • The quality of life on offer in Canada was ranked as the world’s fifth best - with a good standard of living, and work/life balance on offer
  • People moving to the country found it easy to integrate into Canadian society
  • A stable political climate has played a big role in attracting expats who, otherwise, may have headed to the USA or UK.

Expats’ Downsides

  • Despite finding it easy to integrate into Canadian life, expats found it tricky to enjoy an active social life - with the country’s vast size and focus on family counting against this
  • Expats also said that they found they had less disposable income than they had imagined - with heavy winter fuel bills especially coming as a shock
  • Finally expats commented that they found it difficult to make friends, with the country not having a large strictly expat community, potentially making the move less than ideal for solo travellers

Australia - 7th (+4)

It was a good year for one of the world’s favourite destinations for expats, as Australia rose from 11th to 7th in this year’s survey. Scoring highly in the areas where expected, and performing above expectations in areas where the country typically fell down has made a move ‘down under’ more appealing than ever.

Expats Loved

  • Speak to anyone about Australia and they’ll likely mention the quality of life. A laid back approach and a focus on achieving a healthy work/life balance defines the Aussie culture, making a move ideal for those in need of a serious change from the NHS
  • Australia ranked fourth in both healthcare and family health - a testament to the high standard of care available in the country
  • Expats in Australia also found it easy to settle into Aussie society, with tolerant, open attitudes found throughout the nation
  • Finally a move was financially secure for expats, if not overly rewarding

Expats’ Downsides

  • As with neighbouring New Zealand, the cost of raising children in the country was high
  • The standard of property on offer to expats also didn’t score particularly well, with many disappointed at the homes on offer
  • Finally expats in Australia found that they didn’t have a great deal of disposable income, ranking the country 29th globally under that factor

Vietnam - 30th (-11)

A disappointing result for Vietnam, which saw the country drop from a highly impressive 19th globally last year. Despite offering a lot for your money and a seriously friendly local population, expats rated the country poorly in terms of the overall quality of life they enjoyed.

Expats Loved

  • Vietnam’s low cost of living has had a positive impact both on expats’ savings, and on the amount of disposable income they have available
  • Expats also rated the standard of property on offer in the country highly, with great quality, spacious houses and flats available at very decent prices
  • Finally expats moving to Vietnam found it easy to make friends in the country, with plenty of bars and restaurants - and extremely friendly locals - making it ideal for those looking to meet new people

Expats’ Downsides

  • Many of the downsides of a move to Vietnam are related to family life, with the quality of childcare on offer in the country one factor in which it scored very poorly
  • Further to this many expats living in Vietnam rated it poorly in terms of how close their relationship with their partner ended up being
  • The overall quality of life on offer in the country was also rated poorly, with the limited availability of high quality private schools, hospitals and businesses cited as major reasons for this

China - 41st (-7)

Just as with Vietnam, China has slipped slightly in the rankings over the past 12 months - despite actually growing in popularity amongst expat medics. The country scored highly in terms of career progression, however many people found the change in culture too overwhelming to deal with.

Expats Loved

  • In terms of career progression there are few places better than China. Potential employers will look extremely favourably at anyone who has worked in such a unique environment, whilst growth in healthcare can see well trained Western medics take up senior leadership positions
  • Despite still officially being a communist country, expats also reported strong wage growth as a major positive of working in China
  • Finally China scored well for safety - with crime rates in the country far lower than in many other locations. This makes it perfect for adventurous medics who look to independently explore their new home

Expats’ Downsides

  • One of the major issues facing China as a whole is pollution, and the smog that is experienced in the major cities has a big impact on family health in China.
  • Secondly the Chinese can often be insular and suspicious of foreigners, and this can make it tricky to integrate into society. Expats also found that tolerance rates weren’t high in the country, with Western immigration still a relatively new phenomenon
  • Finally a move to China is one which will require hard work, with the report finding that the country’s work/life balance is one of the least healthy on the planet

Part two of our series examining HSBC’s Expat Explorer Report 2017 will be online next week, keep checking our website and social media feeds to find out what continues to draw people to the Gulf.

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