The 20 best places to live overseas

GlobalmapHSBCA map of the most attractive countries for expats. Size corresponds to ranking.

Tired of your old job? Looking for a new environment?

There are a lot of reasons to leave your home country behind in search of greener pastures, but picking where to go can be an overwhelming decision.

There are a lot of conflicting factors: job opportunities, salary considerations, quality of life, safety, and childcare are just a few. HSBC has made the decision a whole lot easier with its latest annual Expat Explorer survey.

The survey ranks the best places to go based on experience, economics, and raising children abroad, with subcategories for each group. We’ve picked out the top 20 places overall. (But you can also personalise the rankings based on which factors matter to you.)

19. Malaysia

Adventurous expats are likeliest to head to Malaysia. Forty-nine per cent told HSBC that the need for 'a new challenge' motivated their move.

Those who make the move seem to love it, with expats in Malaysia scoring highly for learning the local language, travelling more, and exploring Malaysia's fascinating culture.

Malaysia tends to be very affordable, ranking highly for accommodations and local shops and markets.

The country is only middle of the pack, however, in economic measures and raising children abroad. Education is decent but expensive, and the quality of childcare is not good.

18. Japan

Japan's stagnant economy has it ranking low in economic measures, but the country makes up for it with its exceptional healthcare, travel options, and local culture. It doesn't hurt that the food is healthy and delicious, ranking first in both diet and local food.

In addition, Japan ranks highly in raising children abroad, thanks to its high-quality, affordable education.

One expat described the people in Japan as such:

'The people here are so friendly and go out their way to help you, even if they speak limited English. I feel welcome here.'

17. Russia

Russia seems like a fun place to live, with high scores for entertainment, work-life balance, social life (first!), making local friends (first!), and more. It ranks 30th for healthy diet, however, perhaps because of the popularity of doughy foods and meats high in cholesterol.

In terms of economics, expats report middle-of-the-road income but high disposable income. The quality of childcare and education is good but expensive.

Russia is notorious for problems with public services like water and electricity. In addition, for American expats, Russia might prove uncomfortable as many in the government and media frequently demonize the US.

15. United Arab Emirates

The UAE continues to have lots of high-paying jobs for expats, who are typically young. The wealthy country provides good working environments, great accommodations, and options for raising children. And then there are the world-famous hotels and shopping malls.

Still, the culture is dramatically different from the West. Islamic traditions and ideals make the country very conservative, with strict rules for public conduct. The language is difficult for many expats, who have trouble making local friends and integrating into the community, though that area is apparently improving.

13. Qatar

Qatar ranked high for economics but scored low in some quality of life subcategories like quality of accommodation, entertainment, local shops and markets, and making local friends.

While Qatar is the world's richest country per capita, it is a country in transition. Many residents enjoy amenities like housemaids and five-star airlines, but infrastructure is lacking and there's a big gap between the rich and poor.

Qatar also ranked 21st in HSBC's report for raising children abroad. Indeed, The Telegraph points out that many expats educate their children at home.

12. Australia

'Australia offers expats such a great quality of life that they don't want to leave,' HSBC observes.

The big country down under scores high in assimilation, food, entertainment, weather, and other experiential aspects. These more than make up for the decent economic scores and a few other downsides, like bad public transportation and the quality of childcare.

10. Hong Kong

Despite the recent protests, Hong Kong is fairly independent from mainland China and maintains its own currency and set of laws. Expats tend to have high salaries and large amounts of disposable income. In addition, there's a thriving social scene for expats, and many expats travel around the region.

Expats may have to get used to less space than they had at home, however, as it is one of the most expensive and densely populated cities in the world. Apparently, expats work very hard here, with a very low score for work-life balance.

8. Taiwan

HSBC sums it up succinctly: 'A thriving healthcare system, affordable lifestyle, and lively local culture make Taiwan a fantastic option for expats.'

Taiwan stands out for how well expats integrate into local life and how much they enjoy the local culture, including celebrations such as Lunar New Year and the Ghost Festival. Food is a big benefit, too. Eighty-five per cent of expats like the local food, and the country is famous for its night markets with numerous local specialties.

Expats were most unhappy with the country's work-life balance, accommodations, and childcare.

7. Thailand

Thailand is undoubtedly a beautiful place to live, and it shows in the rankings. Thailand ranks highly for its overall experience, weather, and accommodations.

Expats report having a high amount of disposable income, which comes in handy with tons of opportunity to spend it. Local food ranks highly, and the country has no shortage of world-class shopping centres or local markets. Travel in the area is also affordable and accessible, with 79% of expats saying it is simple to travel locally.

'Take time to learn the culture, enjoy the beaches in Phuket, and visit the surrounding islands,' an expat recommends.

6. New Zealand

New Zealand has a relatively low crime rate, according to the US State Department, and it ranks first on HSBC's report for better quality of life for children, named as the best place for bringing up confident and well-rounded kids.

New Zealand's government seems eager to recruit expats, with a snazzy website for people thinking about moving to the country.

It's not all good, though, as New Zealand ranked low for expat disposable income, bringing its ranking down in the economics section.

5. Bahrain

Unlike other countries in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain does not rely upon oil. The country is instead heavily invested in the banking and tourism sectors, which makes it a great destination for expats looking to integrate into the culture.

'The locals respect and accept expats in a very friendly way,' an expat told HSBC.

Bahrain has a second-place ranking in experience and a respectable 11th in economics. Most expats report that they make more in Bahrain than they would at home, but that doesn't necessarily translate to more disposable income, because of high accommodation and grocery costs.

3. China

While there are certainly downsides to living in this communist country -- like bad weather and mediocre healthcare -- the positive factors are overwhelming.

China's booming economy ranks first in the world for expat economics. As one expat notes, there are 'good employment opportunities with less competition.'

Expat social life ranks third, with a friendly local culture and huge opportunities for sport. There are tons of great places to explore in the country, not to mention the easily accessible Asia-Pacific region. Expats have time to have fun, too, with a fairly high score for work-life balance, and 49% of expats say this aspect is getting better.

2. Singapore

'For expats looking for an improved quality of life and greater economic opportunities, Singapore is the place to go,' HSBC observes.

Singapore ranked third in economic measures and experience. The country is especially good for raising children thanks to great childcare and education -- even if it is expensive. Notably, British education minister Michael Gove has suggested Britain adopt a similar system to Singapore's.

But to make it in Singapore you really do have to be career-driven, with the country scoring low for work-life balance and with 53% of expats saying they worry about job security.

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