Tuesday, 6 October 2015

These are the top 10 countries for expat economics in 2015

We’ve just released the results of our latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey, this year covering the views of over 20,000 expats from around the world.
The responses we received have been  used to create three key league tables that together make up the picture for a balanced life abroad: Economics ,Experience and Family.

For the Economics league table, a number of different factors go into the rankings. These include expat’s views on their personal finances, confidence in the local economy, views on political stability, the ease of setting up a business and working life aspects such as career progression and job security.

Below is a ranking of the top 10 countries for expat Economics in the world, as revealed in this year’s survey starting at number 10…

10. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a strong economic destination and particularly attractive to expats working in financial services (39% of expats surveyed in Hong Kong work in this industry). It has the best career progression opportunities of any destination with 68% of expats stating it is a good place for this and 86% saying that the chance to acquire new skills is better than or just as good as at home. As well as employees, entrepreneurs can benefit, as 54% say Hong Kong is a good place to start a business.

9. Oman 

It seems that Oman offers the best of both worlds when it comes to expats enjoying increased disposable income and a better work life balance. Our survey reveals that 72% of expats there say they have more disposable income compared with the global average of 57%. Meanwhile 65% say they enjoy a better work life balance (compared with the global average of 50%).

8. Bahrain 

For expats in Bahrain, this small Kingdom in the Persian Gulf offers a place for expats to both save more and enjoy higher disposable incomes. Expats in Bahrain are nearly one and a half times more likely than the global average to say they are able to save more and 72% say they have more disposable income compared with 57% of the global average.

7. Saudi Arabia

More than any other country in the league tables, expats associate Saudi Arabia with the financial side of life. Nearly three-quarters (73%) say this is the most important aspect of life when making the move. The country offers expats strong contractual benefits, a lower cost of living and a strong economy (68% say this is the case).

6. Sweden

Flickr - Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho
With Sweden’s more relaxed workplace culture and flexible working practices, it is no surprise that over 72% expats say their work life balance has improved since moving there. Despite earning less than some of the other countries in our top 10 list, expats enjoy the working culture and making the most out of the free time they have. One thing our survey clearly highlights is how 60% of expats in Sweden say they have seen their relationship strengthened since relocating.

5. Qatar

Beyond the country’s mesmerising sand dunes, many expats in Qatar gain from generous expat packages that help them to settle into their new surroundings. Three quarters of expats say they receive a relocation allowance from employers, which helps them to acclimatise to their new home and settle in quicker. You can also take a look at our Qatar Expat Country Guide for more great tips on moving, living and working in the emirate.

4. United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, and more specifically Dubai, offer budding entrepreneurs a promising location to realise their business dreams. 86% of expat entrepreneurs in Dubai say it is a good place to start a business.
As well as entrepreneurs, expats working in the UAE also benefit from increased disposable income and workplace benefits such as travel and healthcare allowances – 88% of expats in Dubai say they get allowances for annual trips home compared with the global average of 33%, while 72% say they have medical allowances as part of their employment contract (compared with 52% elsewhere).

3. Germany

Germany ranks third in this year’s Economics league table. In a country known for its strong financial and manufacturing industries, four in five expats are confident about the German economy. Not only do expats feel secure about the country’s prospects, it also stands out as a place for career progression. Around half say they’ve been able to advance their career since moving there.

2. Singapore 

Expats heading to Singapore enjoy a combination of financial and career advantages. Our results show that three in five expats in the city-state have boosted their earnings. Over a quarter (28%) of expats there earn more than $200,000, compared with just 13% globally and over half believe the opportunity to acquire new skills is greater in Singapore than it is at home.
With Singapore as one of Asia’s key financial hubs offering robust economic and financial fundamentals, it is no surprise that 78% of expats there express high levels of confidence in the local economy.

 1. Switzerland

Switzerland is number one this year for expat economics. A strong local economy and wonderful opportunities for work progression make Switzerland an ideal destination for career-minded types. As well as the opportunity to progress careers and increase earnings, as noted by 53% and 65% of expats in Switzerland respectively, three in four expats also say they also have the chance to enjoy life outside of work.

Discover more about the best places to live and work abroad. Visit the HSBC Expat Explorertool to browse the 2015 survey data and see how different countries compare.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Expat entrepreneurs are drawn to the world’s financial hubs

Every move abroad brings with it a unique set of challenges and adventures, but for those who are relocating to set up their own business or expand into a new market, this is particularly true.
With start-ups growing in volume and scale across the world, the title of the best places for entrepreneurs is one that’s hotly contested. What’s most important to entrepreneurs? How does this compare around the world? And what truly makes for a great business landscape in 2015?

In this year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey, we have looked into all of these topics and quizzed expat entrepreneurs around the world about exactly what drives them to set up or expand. Here’s what they told us…  

This year’s data reveals that the cities of London,Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong are the four most popular places in the world to start a business, due to their strong economies, culture and business environment.

In Dubai particularly, there are twice as many entrepreneurial expats as the global average (9% compared with 4% globally). Over two thirds (68%) of those living there say Dubai offers political stability, a key factor in providing the right landscape for those who want to run their own business.
Throughout the survey, we heard from a number of respondents who praise the business environment in Dubai –particularly calling out the great potential for building networks, attracting new clients and reaping the benefits of an international business climate. But having belief and confidence in the local economy is also crucial; not only for establishing a business, but also for successfully maintaining its momentum.

Dubai scored positively in this respect, but it’s also a trend which extends to expats living in Singapore and Hong Kong (78% and 60% respectively), who say they feel much more confident about the local economy in comparison to the global average (48%). The data also supports a view from the World Bank[1]that these two places rank among the top places in the world when it comes to the sheer ease with which entrepreneurs can do business.

Another key part of this which has to be considered by any global entrepreneur is inter-connectivity; not just from a travel perspective but also technologically and socially too. Hong Kong and Singapore are widely lauded as having some of the fastest broadband capabilities in the world – a no brainer for any start-up – and the international travel networks which exist in London and Dubai mean that almost any other country is within (relatively) easy reach.

Looking at the survey data for London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, we see expats also calling out other benefits like work/life balance as a key part of living in these places. Despite their social landscapes being somewhat different, cities like London and Dubai are among some of the most renowned when it comes to social life – the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ no doubt rings true among many expats who’ve made the move to these hubs.

Starting a new business, wherever you are in the world, seems to bring about a level of balance between work and personal life. Wherever entrepreneurial expats decide to run their own business, doing so does not significantly affect their work/life balance. In fact, it seems that the majority (58%) of people who move to start a business are more likely to report an improvement in their work/life balance, and a similar proportion (57%) say they are more fulfilled than they were before moving.

We can’t neglect the importance of looking at opportunities for self-development – a key benefit of entrepreneurship, and something that many expats living in London remark on. Here, expats are particularly likely to comment on the benefit they’ve had from learning new skills, more so than any other location (64% compared with the global average of 43%).

So we see that for many expats, these locations can quite literally offer the best of all worlds – be it a stable economy, positive political landscape or opportunities to network or develop new skills. If you were choosing a location to start a business, where would you choose? Let us know your top tips for expat entrepreneurs in the comment box below! 

Discover more about the best places to live and work abroad. Visit the HSBC Expat Explorertool to browse the 2015 survey data and see how different countries compare.

Find practical information, resources and guides about setting up your own business abroad with HSBC Global Connections.

[1] data.worldbank.org/indicator/IC.BUS.EASE.XQ/countries/1W

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

One global survey, 22,000 expats and a whole lot of views about life abroad... The HSBC Expat Explorer survey results are out!

Living abroad can be exciting, challenging and occasionally daunting. There are many questions to ask before you go: what is it really like to live abroad? Where are the best places for my family to grow and develop? Where should I go to find fulfilling work, or develop my career?

These are big questions, and in our eighth annual study we heard from over 20,000 of you – our largest survey yet – about all of these things, and exactly what it’s like to live abroad.

This year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey covered everything about expat life, from the most popular destinations for the career-minded to getting your finances straight; from finding the best lifestyles abroad to helping your children to adjust.

You’ll be hearing lots more from us on this in the next few weeks – but in the meantime, here’s a flavour of the places that top our league tables for expat life in 2015 and why they made it to number one.

Singapore is number 1 for a balanced life abroad

This year Singapore ranks first overall for a brilliant, all-around expatlife. As well as benefitting from increased earnings, expats living there praise the opportunities for career development and share their optimism about the local economy. But it’s not just a case of career and financial rewards. Expats also say they’re enjoying better physical health and feel safer in their environment since making the jump. Singapore is a big winner with expat families too, with three in five expat parents saying their children’s health and wellbeing has improved since moving.

Switzerland attracts career-driven expats

When it comes to finding career success and financial wellbeing, Switzerland is the clear winner, taking the top spot in our Economics league table this year. Over three quarters of expats there feel confident about the local economy and more than half say that it’s a good place to progress their career. The results also show that over half of the expats in Switzerland find work to be more enjoyable and satisfying compared to their home country. Combined with other perks like more disposable income, higher salaries and being able to save more, Switzerland’s benefits for career driven expats are very clear.

 New Zealand – The best place for experiences abroad

With its beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere, it’s no surprise to see New Zealand leading the way for a fantastic expat experience this year. Expats there say they find it particularly easy to settle into the way of life, with one in three feeling at home instantly or within six months. The country’s great outdoors is a particular draw: over half of those living there say they’ve become more physically active since relocating.

Sweden is the most family friendly country in 2015

Sweden, a new addition to this year’s league tables, takes the top spot for expat family lifeExpat parents in Sweden praise the childcare available – particularly saying that it’s easy to arrange their children’s education and at lower costs. A great number of parents also say that their children’s quality of life has improved since moving. What’s more, Sweden has a lot to offer to single expats looking to settle down or start a family: our survey reveals that two in five have found a long term partner in the Scandinavian country.  

Browse the 2015 survey results and see how different countries compare using the ExpatExplorer tool.

We’d also like to give a big shout out to all of you who shared their views and experiences with us this year. Thank you for taking part in the 2015 Expat Explorer survey!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Expat problems and silver linings: overcoming challenges during a move abroad

Expats who have gone abroad in search of a new challenge can find they’ve got more than they bargained for. Whether it’s more commonplace challenges like tracking down films recorded in your native language, or the emotional impact when realise you’ve lost your accent, living abroad makes for a more resilient and resourceful person. This post highlights some of the shared problems that expats face, and gives some tips to help rise to the occasion.

Keeping up with your home country’s pop culture

First time expats can prioritise activities like socialising and adjusting to their new surroundings. But in the rush to blend in and start a new life it’s easy to forget how much co-ordination is necessary to maintain ties with home. An easily overlooked link is pop culture. Ordinarily after a long day at work you’re able catch up with your favourite drama series from the same exact spot you left off and discuss the show’s revelations with your friends shortly after. But this isn’t always the case for expats who struggle to even access their favourite shows. Some expats have the added task of trying to find anything recorded in their native tongue and after long and strenuous searches are only able to find badly dubbed films they’re vaguely familiar with. 

One imaginative way to bypass this obstacle is to start writing up your own fan fiction. This way you’re able to finish the season on your own terms, and bring to life the ending you want for the story’s protagonist.

Expat arithmetic
Nothing strengthens your mental arithmetic like the switch to expat life. Expats need to quickly and accurately convert many things. Whether it’s calculating how far you need to run to prepare for your 10K training, piecing together whether that bargain is as big as you’re being told or figuring out an appropriate time to phone your parents with an update, counting becomes a big part of your day.

For those that are not mathematically minded, calculation is one of those skills that just gets better with practice. Instead of dreading converting the metric system to imperial, seize the opportunity to exercise those numeracy skills.  
 Creative Commons – Anssl Koskien

Where did my accent go?
It can be a comforting and familiar feeling when you encounter someone from your hometown on your expat journey. Although you may have only just met this person conversation often flows when you discuss town customs, celebrations and oddities. But as the conversation progresses you discover that they’re talking to you like you were merely a visitor passing through, instead of a born and raised local. Then as you hear your accent next to theirs you realise that it’s become diluted and you’ve lost your twang.

Although this can feel like you’ve lost your grasp on the home you’ve left, think instead of how far you’ve come. A noticeable contrast to a time when you could barely understand the local dialect, you’re now
fully embedded into it.

Working out vacation times for the expat kiddies
The final issue is a reality for many expat parents. Families living abroad may plan their annual holidays to ensure that their mini expats are able to spend quality time catching up with their family and friends from home but these attempts can sometimes be thwarted by school schedules that no longer match. Little travellers who are excited about being reunited with their loved ones may soon find that they need to patiently wait for their friends to finish the school year. So even though the distance has been removed another obstacle to their reunion has taken its place.

Seize this opportunity to have quality family time with your loved ones in the place that you call home. By giving your mini-expats a tour of your old haunts, you’ll be making the most of this precious uninterrupted time, whilst helping them to foster a sense of belonging …before they are too busy with their friends.

Let us know which expat problems you’ve encountered on your travels and the solutions that you’ve devised to conquer them using our
Hints and Tips tool

Friday, 4 September 2015

Things for expats to remember on their house hunt

Wherever you are in the world, there’s no getting away from the fact that house hunting – while often an exciting prospect at the start - can quickly start to feel like a chore.  Whether it’s endlessly browsing property websites, going to dozens of viewings or trying to keep your frustration contained when your realtor continues to show you the wrong places; we can all relate to these sorts of problems. Throw in an unfamiliar country and the whole thing can quickly become a tricky task to approach – it can be difficult to know where to start. 
As is always the case with a move abroad, there are plenty of challenges along the way. But finding somewhere you’re happy living is an experience that should be savoured – it’s an exciting time, and with a bit of forward thinking and organisation you’ll find that the difficulties are easier to overcome. You might even find that you start to enjoy the process! Here are a few pointers to help you make the hunt for a new home abroad:
Organisation is key
Time is of the essence for expats on the search for accommodation, this is especially true for those that might be slowly spending their decoration money on an extended hotel stay. So the best way to make the most of your time is to organise it well. Before even setting off, make use of all of the resources available to make sure that you’re able to hit the ground running. Whether it’s researching on the internet, contacting your future colleagues, or even connecting with other expats that have had similar experiences in the area you’re moving too, gathering intel on the city you’re going to and the local processes will go a long way towards helping you prepare. 
What do you want?
Sometimes we just don’t know what we want until we see it – but having a clear vision in your mind of a few things that you’re looking for is a good place to start. Have a look at yourself and your current home and lifestyle. If you’re more traditional you may be after a more classic house in the suburbs with the white picket fence and community feel, but if you’re a more eccentric personality you might feel more at home in the centre of the city so you’re in the middle of the mix. Think about what works now and what you want to get out of your life abroad – having these points in mind from the outset will help a lot.

Creative Commons - Laura D'Alessandro
Rent Vs Buy
How long will you be staying at this location? If you’re still unsure during your search perhaps it might be worth renting initially.  Another thing to consider is the property market of country that you’re moving to. In Germany for example you may be an expat relocating for a long period of time with a family, looking for a house to buy to ensure stability for your kids. But finding that could be trickier in a country where most of the properties are rentals; you’ll find that levels or ease of home ownership often vary from country to country. This is usually the result of a culmination of factors, such as the country’s culture, values and local legislation, which is why it’s also worth enquiring into what the landscape of the local property market looks like.
Want Vs. Need
When presented with all sorts of fascinating features you need to remember that your home still has to be practical. Although you may be in the country of your dreams and presented with the opportunity to live in a house that looks like it belongs in a magazine, it is wise to check the property against a list of things you need. It’s rare to find one property that meets all of your needs, so make sure that your list has a clear priority order, so that you’re able to quickly and easily calculate if you’re willing to sacrifice air conditioning for an apartment next to the office. Flexibility can go a long way in preventing you from having a long and arduous search.
If you’re relocating with the family you’ll also need to consider everyone’s needs and schedules when making your trade-offs. So although a property may be aesthetically pleasing it can quickly turn into an eyesore if it’s located in a neighbourhood where the schools are hard to reach and family friendly leisure activities are few and far between. The major things that help a family to settle in are their friends, neighbours as well as the guidance of others in the expat community. So consider this as you browse around – do you want to venture outside of the expat bubble, or stay within it?
Creative Commons - Arbyreed
You’re not only shopping around for a house, but you’re also on the market for a welcoming neighbourhood to help with a smooth transition, which arguably goes a long way in helping you to find that perfect property: wherever you’re headed! 

Let us know what helped you on your house hunt using our Hints and Tips tool

Friday, 28 August 2015

A glimpse into the mind of a seasoned expat: As told by the expat community

The difference between seasoned expats and first timers is often more than just the amount of times that they’ve lived abroad. It’s often the mind-set they adopt in their new location. Whether it is the enthusiasm shown when learning about new customs, the charisma shown when networking or the willingness to practice and be corrected in a new language, an experienced expat’s mind-set is just that little bit different.  

Everyday life

Whether you’ve been taught to eat your food using stainless steel cutlery, or been instructed to eat with chopsticks, letting go of cultural norms that have been drummed into you since the day you were born is not easy. As you step off the plane and feel the breeze of a new land brush your past your face, you should prepare yourself for the experience that is to come. One part of this is accepting that life will be different, but that is what makes life as an expat so exciting. Seasoned expats don’t grimace at the thought of burning their tongue on an unexpected spicy local delicacy or cringe at the thought of joining their colleagues at a karaoke bar, they join in. Expert expats are often more worried about missing out on these cultural quirks as they make for the most interesting stories. 


The chance to live and work abroad is a truly amazing occasion. You’ll get the opportunity to have new and varied experiences, meet new people and maybe even migrate to a better climate. With that said it is not a holiday and for that reason requires a lot more preparation. Many veteran expats make sure to research costs, find appropriate accommodation and budget wisely. Treat expat life like a marathon, pace yourself properly and the rush of endorphins will carry you to new highs!

Networking/Making friends

When starting from scratch in a brand new place friends are vital. They can help you with settling in and adapting to the new culture. For this reason it is easy to be in a rush to make as many friends as quickly as possible, but it is vital to be patient and loyal to those who help you in the early days. An experienced expat remembers that patience is key when communicating through language barriers and cultural differences. Little things such as the inflection of the voice can mean very different things when communicating in a language that either you or the person you’re talking to is not familiar with.


Whether it’s walking in London, the funicular in Switzerland or a motorcycle in Vietnam, changing up your mode of transport can really do a lot to inform you of what’s is currently available to you and educate you on the country’s rich history. By adopting the local form of transport you become attuned to the rhythm of your new home and gain a greater understanding of the locals and their experiences.

Language learning  

The best way to learn a language is through immersion. Being constantly surrounded by the dialect and people fluent in it allows you to learn much more quickly than any audio book or classroom experience.

How many of these philosophies have you adopted in your approach to expat life and how many additional thoughts do you have to share? Tweet us @expatexplorer with your mantra. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Preparing for Repatriation: A Masterclass

As an expat, it’s unlikely that you’d consider moving abroad without doing your research. The beginning of an expat journey can often feel daunting, so doing some reading on what life will be like abroad, how hot or cold the weather will be or even looking up key phrases will always be useful.

However, it’s not just a case of preparing for the start of an expat journey. There’s also plenty of value in thinking about how you’ll approach the end of your expat life as well, and the prospect of repatriation can bring a lot of things to consider. If you’re heading home, it’s worth being ready for the prospect that things may not be as familiar as you remembered – here are our top tips for getting ready to go and making things easier once you’re back:

Lesson 1 – The same, but different

Although it may feel as though repatriation is a return to the familiar, it is worth preparing for the once familiar to feel somewhat peculiar. We all understand that the bustling cities we left behind did not cease to exist in our absence. However; you may be startled by how much has changed as you send an invite for a reunion brunch at your favourite restaurant, only to have your friends and well-wishers inform you that the bistro relocated shortly after you’d left.

Be ready to accept the idea that things might not be exactly as you left them – embracing change and trying to maintain a positive attitude will help you to get to grips with returning home, even if it’s not exactly what you’d expected.    

Lesson 2 – Read, read and read some more

When returning home, the preparation you need to do might not be as extensive when you first went abroad but it does help to keep up with conversations about your local area. Ways of doing this are numerous, but mostly it helps to focus on doing your reading; whether that’s through news, participating in discussions on social media groups, setting up alerts to keep you posted on events at home, or keeping in touch with a network of friends and family – you’ll need to have an idea of what to expect when you arrive. These are some unique and meaningful ways to catch up on pop culture, legislative changes and maintain connections with loved ones, because as we mentioned in the previous point, life has, to some extent, gone on without you. By doing this the return home will feel much more comfortable, as you can return knowing that you’re a clued up local once more. 

Creative Commons – Wolfgang Lonien

Lesson 3 – Homesickness

For many touching down at the airport it is likely they’ll receive a hero’s welcome; family, friends and well-wishers may wait with baited breath at the arrivals lounge as they look forward to welcoming you home. But after this newly acquired celebrity status fades away, and you process the excitement that follows the reunion, you can expect a mixture of emotions – there’ll be highs, but you might also find that there are lows, for example homesickness for the life that you built for yourself and your family abroad.

Expats may experience a rollercoaster of emotions after leaving a country they truly immersed into. Although emotions can sometimes feel a bit mixed after a return home, it’s worth keeping sight of the fact that even if it’s difficult – you’ll overcome these difficulties in the same way that you did at the start of your journey. Settling back in, reconnecting with friends, progressing a career or helping your family to grow and develop; these priorities will usually stay the same wherever you are in the world.

Above all else, it’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes more than one country can become ‘home’ – and settling back into life in one country doesn’t mean you need to sever connections with other places that you’ve lived. Keeping track of your expat memories, as well as thinking about how you can keep these alive for you and your children is one way to make sure that you keep close to your experiences – however your expat journey ends! 

Creative Commons -Darriel Street Photography



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