On the Move

Expats Rank, from Best to Worst

HSBC’s 2014 Expat Explorer Survey was released last month, and the results reveal that Asia remains the top destination for expatriates.

Six of the top 10 locales are in the Asia region, with Singapore and China coming in at #2 and #3, respectively.


Switzerland averaged the top spot in the overall category, and notably, the United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom placed horribly at the bottom. Although I’m not too surprised about the United Kingdom with its dreary weather, and the United States with its even drearier police state, I am somewhat taken aback that Brazil—with its beautiful beaches and even more beautiful women—ranks so close to the bottom. I mean, below Saudi Arabia and Kuwait… really? (Granted, I’m certain this might have something to do with the money.)

HSBC has run this survey for seven consecutive years, and it is now one of the largest (and longest-running) global expatriate surveys in the world.

It certainly is large, too. The 67-page report is filled with rankings and individual in-depth analysis from most of the 34 countries on the list.

The survey compiled the results from 9,288 expats from over 100 countries through an online questionnaire in April and May 2014.

Some key findings from the report:

  • Asia is home to the highest-earning expats, who are almost three times more likely to earn over $250,000 per annum than their counterparts in Europe.
  • Adventurous expats choose to head to Asia. Over two-fifths (44%) say that they moved to Asia because they wanted to have a new challenge.
  • Japan is a safe place to raise a family abroad. More than nine in 10 expats (94%) in Japan say that their children’s safety has improved since moving.
  • Expats rate Taiwanese healthcare as one of the best in the world in terms of affordability and quality. Nearly three times as many expats say they are spending less on healthcare than they used to (67% compared with the global average of 27%) and almost two-thirds (64%) say they enjoy the higher quality of healthcare available in Taiwan.

As an expat living in Asia, I don’t find any of this information too remarkable, especially the fact that many expats come to Asia looking for a “new challenge.”

That said, I just hope that they understand that when they go to places like China, Singapore, and Malaysia that one of those challenges may be just finding air that is breathable. China is infamous for having dirty air, but little do people realize how shockingly bad Singapore and Malaysia get in the summers from all the agriculture burnings. (Actually, “shockingly bad” doesn’t even come close to stressing how horrible it truly gets.)

So if your next destination is Asia, without a doubt you’ll most likely enjoy it. But if you end up in one of these countries with little to no regard for clean air, you may want to bookmark this, and maybe pack some face masks just in case, because waking up with both nose and throat filled with carbon is never pleasant.

  • The Spot Market Guy

    Mike, while working the FX desk in HK , I was always amazed at the view we had from our floor (64) over Victoria Harbour during the CNY. The rest of the time you could barely see past Mongkok. The pollution can’t be good for you. In Tokyo, the air seems a lot more clearer most of the time. From my office you can see Fuji-san more days than you can’t. I am getting posted to KL from April. What should I expect in terms of air quality? Love your work, too.