What are the Best Expat Living Destinations?

‘Tis the season for comparing the best expat living destinations, or so it would appear. Hot on the heels of downloading InterNations 197 page Expat Report, I ran across  10 of the Best Places to Live Abroad in the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post article was slightly more interesting than the other because it compared an HSBC survey with the InterNations survey.

Neither survey divided their list into rich and poor expat destinations, so I’ll quickly give you the rundown on those.

Best Expat Living for People with Money

In order of popularity, these were the top 5 expat destinations for people who have plenty of disposable income. The numbers in parentheses are their rankings according to InterNations (IN) and HSBC:

  1. Switzerland (IN-4 HSBC-1)
  2. Singapore (IN-6 HSBC-2)
  3. Germany (IN-12 HSBC-4)
  4. New Zealand (IN-16 HSBC-6)
  5. Hong Kong (IN-10 HSBC-10)

You either need to have a good job or a healthy passive income to live well in any of these countries, which makes me think the HSBC survey leaned towards more affluent expats.

Best Expat Living for People on a Budget

There were fewer expat destinations for people who move abroad because or partially because their income doesn’t allow them to live well in their own country.  A few were listed, though. They included:

  1. Ecuador (IN-1 HSBC-not listed)
  2. Thailand (IN-22 HSBC-7)
  3. Mexico (IN-3 HSBC-21)
  4. Spain (IN-7 HSBC-24)

Judging from the results, you might assume that the HSBC survey covered more white collar workers than the InterNations survey, but that may not be the case. 87% of respondents to their survey had university degrees and 47% of those had post graduate degrees. Of course, in our post-2008 world, a degree no longer necessarily equates with a higher income, but it still helps tip the scales.

The Huff Post article only skimmed the surface, so I relied on the InterNations PDF to glean more information. As a writer for International Living, I sometimes get a PDF copy of their magazine. Ecuador is high on their list of expat destinations, but so are Panama and Costa Rica. Panama ranked 24 in the IN listings and Costa Rica 11. Here on my side of the world, Indonesia ranked 20, Malaysia 25 and Vietnam 26.

Where is Cambodia?

I know a lot of people choose to live in Cambodia because I’m one of them, but Cambodia doesn’t even get a mention in the InterNations list. Did they forget to include it or didn’t any of their respondents like it or live here? Either way, it’s weird, because even places like Senegal and Uganda made the top 60. I can’t imagine why anybody would choose to live in Saudi Arabia, but it was 60th on their list.

I started writing for International Living after the publisher and Executive Editor paid me a visit (and shouted me dinner) a couple of years ago. They were travelling through SE Asia looking for good expat destinations and liked what they saw in Sihanoukville. Most IL articles are available to subscribers only. One of mine, Spotting the Business Potential in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, is listed as a teaser on the site. I mention it for a few reasons:

  1. The owners set up the business in 2007, the same year I came here to stay.
  2. They had been here before, in 2002, but didn’t see the potential until 2007.
  3. I had no intention of living here until I came to Sihanoukville in 2006.

Everybody thought I was crazy to come to Cambodia in 2006. Even I was just passing through on my way to Thailand and was taken totally by surprise. I loved almost everything about Cambodia. Sihanoukville was undeveloped at the time, but that was one of its attractions. I was over Bali because it felt like a theme park. The more practical side of me saw its potential and now it has everything that was lacking when I first came here. That and the fact that the magazine’s publisher took the time to visit, is probably why Cambodia finally made it to the 20th spot on International Living’s top 20 retirement destinations in 2014. Our biggest drawback is lack of medical facilities for seniors, but that’s changing, too. In time, we will have medical services to rival those in Thailand or Vietnam, but if that’s what you’re worried about, choose Malaysia, the country that got top marks in Asia.

My daughter came to visit me a few weeks ago. I think she and her boyfriend were surprised by how much they liked it here and I was surprised by the things they liked the most. You can read about it in my Sihanoukville Journal if you want to.

The moral of the story is:

me loving Cambodia in 2006
me loving Cambodia in 2006