HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2017 - Part 2


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, whilst Australia and the United Arab Emirates have re-entered the top ten.

In the second 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 2 - The Gulf

The United Arab Emirates - 10th (+2)

Despite being hit by the oil price slump, The UAE actually gained two places in this year’s report - with the seven Emirates remaining the Gulf’s most popular location for expats.

Expats Loved

  • As you would expect, a move to the UAE was great for expats’ finances, with the country ranking fifth globally for wage growth
  • The country’s settled political scene also scored highly, with the security further helping finances
  • Expats found that the quality of healthcare on offer in the UAE was extremely high - ranking ninth globally
  • Finally the country was considered the fifth safest in the survey

Expats’ Downsides

  • The UAE was ranked as the most expensive in the world in which to raise children
  • Further to this, expats found the Emirates low on culture, with a modern cityscape and vast desert showing little signs of individuality or history
  • Finally expats found integration into society difficult, with compound living making it difficult to meet local Emiratis

Bahrain - 13th (-4)

Bahrain falls slightly compared with the 2016 report, yet remains an extremely attractive location for expats seeking a move to the Gulf - especially those looking for something a bit different to the UAE.

Expats Loved

  • The quality, availability and price of property in Bahrain made it popular with expats
  • Expats in Bahrain also found that they had plenty of disposable income, thanks to high salaries and a reasonable cost of living
  • Finally expats found Bahrainis to be very tolerant of other cultures and beliefs. This is a trait that can be unusual in the Gulf, and the islanders mentality made it ideal for people looking for a smooth transition into a very different way of life

Expats’ Downsides

  • As with other Gulf locations, expats didn’t rate the cultural experience highly
  • The country also followed regional trends when it came to the cost of raising children, which was considerably higher than average
  • Finally people found that the oppressive heat and poor pedestrian infrastructure had an adverse impact on their health

Oman - 15th (+3)

Another impressive result for Oman, a stunning country that blends the traditional Arab culture with more liberal beliefs. It’s often overlooked by expats, however that is unlikely to remain the case for long.

Expats Loved

  • No location on earth offered better wage growth than Oman, with the Sultanate being ideal for expats looking for a financial boost
  • Oman also scored well on the savings indicator, finishing second overall
  • Oman not only offers excellent salaries, it also offers a great work/life balance. The seventh best in the world, and one of the very best in the region
  • Finally people also found Oman an easy place to make friends, with a friendly local population combining well with a relatively small and close-knit expat community

Expats’ Downsides

  • Expats felt let down by the quality of schooling in the country, with few high quality Western schools available
  • The Omani culture also scored poorly, with compound living and modern cities often creating a man-made impression
  • Finally the country didn’t rank well for career progression, with experience in Oman unlikely to look as impressive as in an area such as China on a CV - and most people working set 1/3/5 year contracts

Qatar - 31st (-2)

It may have been a difficult year for Qatar, however the country still holds attractions for expats. As the 2022 Fifa World Cup draws closer, foreign investment is rising - whilst infrastructure countrywide is continuing to improve.

Expats Loved

  • Living in Qatar allowed expats more disposable income than anywhere else in this year’s report
  • The financial benefits don’t stop there, with wage growth being the world’s third highest
  • Aside from the obvious financial benefits, expats also found the country to be very safe - ranking it 13th globally

Expats’ Downsides

  • Expats found it very difficult to integrate into life in Qatar, with well publicised recent issues making this even more troublesome
  • Qatar is considered by many to be one of the fattest nations on earth, and that certainly looks to have rubbed off on expats - with many feeling a move had a negative impact on their health
  • Finally, expats weren’t taken with the hit-or-miss standards of accommodation in the country, nor were they impressed by the high costs associated with living in and around Doha

Saudi Arabia - 40th (-9)

A disappointing slump for Saudi Arabia, which remains extremely popular amongst expat medics. We expect to see the country’s popularity rise in 2018 however, with a range of reforms being introduced aimed at moving the Kingdom forward.

Expats Loved

  • The financial side of a move is undoubtedly what attracts many to the Desert Kingdom, and the country topped the ‘savings’ indicator
  • Wage growth and disposable income also scored well, with those aspects of a move further enhancing the financial benefits
  • Finally people felt that their jobs were secure in the country, even in spite of the oil price slump

Expats’ Downsides

  • Saudi Arabia remains deeply conservative and, as a result, the open practising of any other religion or cultural habits are not tolerated
  • Expats also found it difficult to find good quality international schools, with the small number available being expensive and having lengthy waiting lists
  • Finally individuals and families commented that they found integration extremely difficult

Kuwait - 42nd (-7)

Not a great year for Kuwait, as the country falls behind Italy, Turkey and new entrant Portugal, and sits as the lowest ranked Gulf nation. The financial benefits can still be appealing, however most medics are now looking elsewhere.

Expats Loved

  • Kuwait can still offer some of the highest salaries on the planet, and scored well on every financial indicator
  • Jobs and the political scene both remain relatively secure, meaning that a move shouldn’t be a massive risk

Expats’ Downsides

  • A move is far from ideal for families, with expats reporting a disappointing quality of life - hampered by difficulty integrating into society
  • Entrepreneurial expats find a move difficult, with little support available for businesses
  • Finally expats found that a move had a negative effect on their closeness with their partner. This acts as a further sign that Kuwait is less than ideal for those seeking a long-term move with their family.