Best Expat Countries
If you’re unsure about where exactly you’d like to emigrate to, it can feel like a nightmare trying to decide. On the one hand, you might be inspired by a country’s culture and history; on the other hand, you might want hard facts about expenses.
What makes a ‘best expat country’ can differ depending on what you’re looking for, and wherever you go you’re guaranteed at least a few traffic jams or rainstorms! However, some of the most popular expat destinations have a variety of reputations such as reliable healthcare or the number of expat communities. So it’s a good idea to have a look at where other expats have headed to before you make your decision.
While Vietnam ranks well for economics, expats can really benefit from a large amount of disposable income due to the low cost of living. According to the country database Numbedo, on average 27.1% of income is likely to be spent on Rent per Month, and 17.8% on Transportation, so you’re likely to have some money to spare for exploring the rich culture and history of the country, including the plentiful healthy (and unusual) foods.
Where To Live
Ho Chi Minh City – Previously known as Saigon, this is the largest city in Vietnam and the financial capital. That being said, the accommodation and groceries are cheap and whilst some Western items are a little more expensive, they are readily available. You’ll need a little knowledge of Vietnamese to negotiate the infamous traffic, but it’s worth it. Once you get out and about, Ho Chi Minh City has got a bustling mixture of ancient temples, tasty food markets and luxury shopping malls.
Goi Cuon – One of the most famous dishes in the country, Goi Cuon is made up of transparent spring rolls filled with salad and combinations of pork or shrimp, sometimes served alongside a bowl of dipping sauce. Some southern variations can be made using pork with green banana and star fruit.
Pho – A staple of every Vietnamese diet (both expat and local). This is a noodle soup, made from a chicken or beef broth with rice noodles, spring onions and meat, and flavoured with ginger and coriander.
Canada’s reputation for friendly integration is true. According to HSBC, 66% of expats said their quality of living was better than in their home country, and 75% said they could easily integrate into the culture.
As well as having a history of encouraging diversity, such as legalising gay marriage in 2005, Canada offers a reasonable cost of living, despite high taxes. The benefit of those taxes means that the Canadian healthcare system and insurance cover is excellent and free education at public schools if you have a residency permit.
Where To Live
Richmond, British Columbia (BC) – Many say that Richmond is essentially part of Vancouver, and yes the city is twenty odd minutes away from downtown Vancouver. There’s a good mixture of urban and rural areas in Richmond, as well as heavy investment in affordable housing and a healthy market rate for rented properties. Expat foodies will also be happy to get a good price on fresh fish.
Poutine – A sumptuous pile of French fries with cheese curds and gravy; it acts as a standalone or side dish. The origins of poutine have been argued over, but it’s generally believed to have come from Quebec. However, you’ll find poutine in nearly all Canadian diners, including McDonald’s.
Nanaimo bar – Nobody’s quite sure how the Nanaimo bar came to be invented, but nobody disputes where it came from; namely the city of Nanaimo, BC. Love for this delicious version of a chocolate brownie meant that in 1986, the Mayor of Nanaimo called for a contest for the ultimate Nanaimo Bar. There are many varieties but some of the best include wafer, almonds, coconut, cream and, of course, lots of chocolate!
Taiwan has greatly increased in popularity among expats. Not only was Taiwan ranked 8th in HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, in 2015 US magazine Presscave ranked it as the world’s second safest country, with low exposure to robbery and violence.
Education is excellent but comes at a price; Taiwan has excellent English-education schools although they do come with high fees. However, this is balanced by the country’s healthcare system which is advanced and comes at a low cost. Citizens will be put on the National Insurance, which gives you the same benefits as the locals.
Where To Live
Tainan – If you’re not a fan of the high pressured atmosphere of a city, Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan, is the laid back alternative. It’s not a particularly large city – you can drive across it in half an hour – and has lower living costs than the more well-known cities, as well as a great reputation for food.
Mochi – A traditional snack made from sticky rice with various flavourings including sesame or peanuts.
Duck Tongue – No, it’s not a quirky name! Duck tongues can be found in many a night market stall, usually in a seasoned soup or occasionally stir-fried.
Malta is widely considered to be an expat’s dream: a sunny climate, a low tax jurisdiction and English is widely spoken. If you’re wanting a warm relaxing expat experience, Malta is a great option. As well as decent accommodation for a low price – generally a lower price than the major European countries, including the UK – Malta has a large expat community, so you’re sure to find friends from a variety of cultures while enjoying prehistoric sights and harbour-side dining.
Where To Live
Valletta – Arguably one of the most beautiful capital cities, Valletta is officially marked as a World Heritage Site. If you’re not too busy admiring the view from the Grand Harbour, there’s the Opera House, the National Archaeology Museum and St John’s Cathedral to feast your eyes on. Being the capital, Valletta is also the best place to be for business and transport, and still enjoy a good quality of living.
Pastizzi – These savoury pastries are the favourite Maltese snack. They are traditionally filled with ricotta or mushy peas and look deceptively like croissants. They can be found in nearly every food shop.
Gaghaq tal-ghasel – Usually found during Carnival or Christmas periods, these treacle or honey ringed pastries date as far back as the 15th century, and are always thought to be best served with a glass of wine.
In spite of expensive housing, Switzerland has remained one of the most popular expat destinations for some time. In HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, Switzerland scored very high for being a safe and economically stable country.
As well as excellent public transport, the country has a well-earned reputation for first class healthcare. Health insurance is compulsory, but because it is not funded by the government or employer-sponsored, insurance providers generally won’t be able to refuse anyone coverage – plus the waiting times are short. If that wasn’t enough, you might have heard of the famous Swiss chocolate.
Where To Live
Lausanne – Lausanne is one of the best places not only as an expat, but for moving with your family. Accommodation is slightly cheaper than Geneva, and Lausanne still has great public transport, including a city metro, buses, and a commuter train to Geneva.
Despite only being the fourth largest city in Switzerland, Lausanne has plenty to offer any expat family, including museums, a range of activities to take up on the lake which the city overlooks, and two highly regarded universities.
Älplermagronen – Known as the Swiss Mac ‘n Cheese, this is a creamy pasta dish, with layers of potato and cheese (Swiss cheese, naturally) and served with apple sauce. There are plenty of varieties to be found all over Switzerland.
Fondue – This is a dish influenced by the French side of Switzerland. The main event is a communal pot of hot melted cheese which people dip bread into. It’s popular in the winter months and usually includes Gruyère and Emmental.
Unsurprisingly, Germany came first in the HSBC survey for economic confidence and second for job security. Unlike other European expat destinations, Germany’s economy has remained relatively stable in recent months.
Healthcare meets international standards with the benefit of a healthy supply of specialist facilities. Added to this, the educational standard is extremely high and accommodates students’ different abilities. Whilst the standard of living can be high in Germany, you’re unlikely to need to rely on a car due to the famously efficient public transport.
Where To Live
Munich – This city mixes the traditional well-clad art lovers with street cafes and high-tech industry. It’s also one of the greenest cities in Germany. Music lovers and the culturally curious can also look forward to Oktoberfest festival in autumn. Bring a beer mug.
Bratwurst – The classic food of Germany, Bratwurst is a sausage traditionally made from pork, beef or occasionally veal. It can be found fried or grilled and encased in a bread roll. Before the hot dog, there was the Bratwurst, made better, supposedly, with mustard.
Stollen – God rest ye merry Germans, with the gift of stollen. This is a sweet type of bread and contains varieties of marzipan, almonds, cinnamon and sometimes candied fruit. Believe it or not, there is a Stollenfest annually held in Dresden.
Ultimately, it’s your decision what aspects of a country are most important to you, and certain destinations will be better suited to your needs, whether it’s a particular type of diet, climate, or social atmosphere. Remember to have a look at different countries, so that when you make your choice you know that it’s definitely the right one!