Expat Resource Centre

Which Country is Right For Me?

You know you want to move abroad, but you don’t have any fixed idea of where you’d like to settle as an expat. Trying to find the best places to live can be tricky – and it’s unique to everyone looking, really depending on your own personal circumstances, whether you’re moving alone or with family, what your future plans are, and what you like to get out of life.

Expat Guide - Choosing a Country image

As economies around the world fluctuate, so does the scoreboard for the countries in the world in which expats can reap the best salaries and where the standard of living makes the best use of those earnings. The annual 'Expat Explorer Survey' ranks countries around the world for earnings, as well as for ease of setting up, quality of life and integration.
 
Here we’ve got the low down on the high end expat hot spots – in terms of where you can earn big bucks, and where you may be better off spending them!

 

The Top Five Places To Earn

If you’re looking solely at earning potential for your expat relocation, look no further than Asia. With countries factoring in first, third and fifth positions in our top five – average expat remuneration packages here are at least 15% higher than the global average. 

These top five locations are ranked based on the number of expat households with an income of over $200,000.

1. Indonesia 

Possibly a surprise for some, but Indonesia ranks in top places for earnings. A great place to settle if you’re looking to earn good money, the majority of expats settle here to take up posts in education or in the financial sector. 
 
A sovereign state in South East Asia, this archipelago consists of over 17,500 islands (with over 6,000 inhabited) including Java, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea and the popular tourist destination of Bali. 
 
The rapidly growing economy is now the 10th largest in the world by nominal GDP and Indonesia boasts the highest proportion of expats earning more than $250,000 at 22% compared with a global average of 3%.

2. Cayman Islands

A British colony in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are made up of around just 100 square miles spread between three beautiful tropical islands – Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
 
A major offshore financial centre, the Cayman Islands have more registered businesses than people and of its population of 56,732 in 2012, only 32,201 people are Caymanians.
 
With a high standard of living comes higher wages, and with no income tax, capital gains tax or corporation tax, the Cayman Islands are an attractive destination for expats.

3. China

A growing favourite for expats from around the world, China offers the greater job prospects and higher salaries to complement the fact that business is booming there.
 
This is supported by research from the International Comparison Programme for the World Bank, which shows that China is quickly moving towards becoming as large an economy as the USA.
 
With a wide range of opportunities on offer, the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey shows that careers in education, construction, manufacturing and utilities are among the favourites in the expanding job market.

4. Switzerland

The only European country in our top five, and one of only two from Europe in the top 10, Switzerland is reported by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report to have the highest nominal wealth per adult (financial and non-financial assets) in the world. 
 
It has the world’s 19th largest global economy by nominal GDP and the Greater Zurich area is one of the most important economic centres in the world.
 
Above average salaries here go some way to compensate for the high cost of living, especially in Zurich and Geneva.

5. Malaysia

Malaysia has one of the best economic records in Asia, and is the 29th largest economy in the world.

As well as offering a relatively high standard of living, 41% of expats also believe that the economic climate there is on the up.
 
With education, IT and the Internet heading up the occupations of expats in Malaysia, banking, insurance and financial services are also high on the agenda for many expats moving here.

 

And The Bottom Five

5.  Spain

4.  Taiwan

3.  Italy

2.  Mexico

1.  Kuwait

 

The Standard Of Living Top Five

Using data from the same HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, the top five best places to live in terms of cost effective living are also Asian. 

Scores are based on a number of day-to-day expenses including accommodation, transport and utilities.

1. Thailand

With a good number of high earning expats (ranking 15th for household income over $200,000), Thailand expats have to spend less than average on a number of important day-to-day expenses and 68% (compared with a global average of 31%) say that they spend less on personal tax rates following their move. 
 
Accommodation is a big factor here with 63% spending less on housing, compared with a global average of 19%.

2. Indonesia

Not only does Indonesia have the highest proportion of high earners from any country in the world, the cost of day-to-day essentials is also relatively low. 
 
Here with 56% spend less on housing compared with their home countries, and spending on private transport, healthcare, childcare and education, utilities and groceries is also much lower.

3. Taiwan

Expats in Taiwan report higher than average economic confidence and this is backed by the lower living costs that are enjoyed there. 
 
52% of expats spend less on housing than they did in their home countries, with 54% finding the same about groceries, and 45% on household goods. 

4. India

80% of expats living in India are pleased with the state of the economy compared to a global average of 56%. 
 
This contentment also drills down to everyday expenses, with 51% spending less on housing than they did previously, and 43% finding groceries cheaper than in their home countries against a global average of 20%.  

5. Vietnam

While expats are less likely to earn bigger bucks upon moving to Vietnam (ranking 17th for income), the low cost of living here puts the country into our top five.
 
This means expats have more disposable income upon relocation – 64% report an increase compared to a global average of 49% and transport and accommodation are reported to be the items expats are most likely to spend less on following a move here. 

And The Bottom Five

5.  United Kingdom
4.  Italy
3.  Netherlands
2.  New Zealand
1.  Ireland

Moving Abroad – It’s Not Just About The Money

Of course, there’s so much more to choosing where you want to live as an expat. And what you can earn may not factor for you. Other things to consider include affordable education if you’re looking to study, a safe environment in which to bring up children, lower unemployment, affordable accommodation, culture and community, and ease of access to healthcare

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