Seeking good friends and financial security, and don’t mind being close to palm trees and white-sand beaches? Thailand might be just the place you’re looking for.
The Southeast Asian country topped the latest HSBC Expat survey for best overall expat experience, particularly when it comes to setting up, integrating and finding friends. China, Singapore, India and Taiwan all emerged in the top 10, with Malaysia (No. 20), Indonesia (No. 31) and Vietnam (No. 32) still among the top 50.
The ranking, now in its sixth year, compiles surveys from among more than 7,000 expatriates from nearly 100 countries across the globe.
When it comes to economics, Thailand (No. 4), Indonesia (No. 6) and Singapore (No. 9) ranked among the best places to live for expats. Lower living costs and higher earnings potential, however, made Thailand the most cost-effective place for foreigners, while Vietnam and Indonesia ranked highly for presenting the best career opportunities.
Not always seen as the most friendly places to live given the lack of infrastructure and confusing regulations, those countries are also seen as becoming better places to live.
Of course, that may owe a lot to better relocation packages and high household earnings – Asia is home to the highest paid expats in the world, according to the survey, with the highest proportion of expats earning more than $250,000 located in Indonesia (22%), Japan (13%) and China (10%).
In recent years Asia has seen some of the world’s strongest economic growth, and many emerging economies in Southeast Asia have drawn in an increasing number of foreign workers seeking better career opportunities with growth in their own economies remaining sluggish.
“Over the years, we have seen expat wealth gradually heading east, with emergent, and now indeed fully emerged, regions like the Middle East and Asia becoming more and more popular with expats,” said Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat.
In addition to providing financial stability, Asia is proving a preferred destination for improved quality of living.
Thailand topped the chart for being a good place to make friends and enjoy an active social life. Respondents said it was easy for them to embrace local food and culture, with 60% saying life in Thailand allowed them a healthier diet.
It also ranked highly for expats looking for improved financial status. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they had seen their disposable incomes improve since moving to the country.
“From Thailand’s countless tropical beaches and islands, to the world-class restaurants and modern infrastructure, the cultural attractions, and a still relatively attractive overall cost of living, it’s really hard for any country to top,” said 46-year-old Neal McCarthy, who relocated to Thailand from the U.S. 12 years ago. “I don’t regret for a second having made the decision to come here.”
The one area where Asia underperformed was ease of family living.Expats with children voted Germany as the top place to bring up children abroad. France, Belgium and Spain also made the list for having a good mix of cost-efficient schooling and high-quality childcare.
Nevertheless, the expat survey pointed out that children of Asia-based expats are among those most likely to learn a new language, with Singapore praised as the safest place in the world to raise children abroad.