Thailand Tops Quality of Life Poll in HSBC’s Expat Experience Survey

It appears that the events of the recent civil war in Thailand have done nothing to negatively impact the quality of life expatriates experience in this Asian country if a recent survey by HSBC is anything to go by. The 2010 Expat Experience Report has named Thailand as the best country in the world to live in terms of quality of life, followed by Bahrain, South Africa and Canada.

HSBC Quality of Life Index

HSBC’s quality of life index was based on expatriates’ opinions of several elements of their living conditions in their host country. These included accommodation, food and diet, healthcare availability, social life, commute to a place of work, sports and leisure opportunities, entertainment and culture and travel. The top 5 and bottom 5 rankings were as follows:

Top Five Countries for Best Quality of Life

  1. Thailand
  2. Bahrain
  3. South Africa
  4. Canada
  5. Bermuda

Top Five Worse Countries for Quality of Life (of 25 Ranked Countries)

  1. India
  2. Russian Federation
  3. Saudi Arabia
  4. Qatar
  5. China

Lifetime Commitments

It seems of no coincidence that the countries which featured highly on HSBC’s list of countries offering the best quality of life were are also popular retirement destinations. A significant number of expatriates living in Spain (38%), France (33%), South Africa (24%), Thailand (24%) and Canada (17%) are retirees, having specifically chosen those countries as suitable locations for their retirement years.

The HSBC survey also revealed that a large number of expatriates have chosen their host country as a permanent abode and plan to remain there for many years to come. In Thailand, 56% of expatriates surveyed had already been living in the country for five years or more and 47% of them said that they planned to remain for life. Canada also emerged as a popular long-term option for expats with 47% of those surveyed have already lived there for over five years and 42% stating that they planned to stay.

Further Bad News For the UK

Not for the first time in surveys completed this year, the United Kingdom’s quality of life emerged as poor, with the country ranking in position 23 out of the 25 countries ranked. 78% of expatriates living in Britain claimed that their quality of life had not improved, or had worsened, as a result of relocating to the UK. Furthermore, the country scored the lowest marks overall for quality of accommodation on offer and ease of commuting to a place of work and the British weather emerged as being a major impact on expat’s ability to feel at home in the UK. On a positive note, the UK scored the highest marks overall for entertainment offerings, with 69% of expatriates surveyed saying that they enjoyed the culture and leisure activities available. The UK also ranked in position number 9 of 25 in terms of ease of adjustment.

Lisa Wood, Head of Customer Propositions at HSBC Bank International, commented on the survey findings: “As we found in last year’s report, the UK offers expats the opportunity to experience great entertainment, with an interesting music scene and a great investment into the arts and culture which obviously expats moving to the country take great advantage of. In addition, expats moving here give the country a positive score for ease of integration, which shows it is also clearly a place that expats feel they can instantly become a real part of the local community.”

Settling In

As well as revealing which countries have the highest quality of life, the 2010 HSBC Experience Survey also provides an interesting insight into the factors that constitute the biggest concerns for people who are relocating for the first time. 41% of expatriates surveyed revealed that establishing social networks was their biggest concern when moving overseas and 34% exposed that they were most concerned about feeling lonely or isolated in their host country. Women were most concerned by the prospect of settling in and finding new friends with 48% of them expressing worries about social life.

Commenting on these findings, Ms Wood said:“Although moving to a new country is undoubtedly going to provide some logistical obstacles as expats look to move their worldly possessions from continent to continent, it seems these challenges do not cause expats any major concerns.

“In fact, emotive worries are the biggest concerns for expats, especially amongst women. We’ve found that many female ex-pats undertake a move as a result of their partner being posted abroad through their employment. As a result, they often have to assume full responsibility to set up their family and their partner in their new home and are often the one making the majority of the arrangements prior to the move and once they’ve arrived.”

Wealth is Moving East

A major finding of the 2010 Expat Experience report is that the wealthiest expatriates can be found in the East. Following on from HSBC’s survey findings earlier this year, it emerged that the wealthiest expats living in Russia, with 36% of people based there earning in excess of $250,000 per year, followed by Singapore at 32% and Bermuda at 27%.

“Against the backdrop of the global economic recovery, we are still finding a large proportion of expats who are indicating that the economic situation of their adopted country has deteriorated,” Lisa Wood commented. “Despite this, most aren’t considering a move home and better still, the majority of expats surveyed have higher levels of disposable income, are saving more and accumulating less debt.”

Other Major Findings

  • 57% of expatriates surveyed said that increased career opportunities and increased financial gain were their driving reasons for relocating overseas.
  • Financial gain is often at the expense of quality of life. Countries that offered the highest financial earning opportunities also offered the lowest quality of life.
  • Expatriates living in Europe were most concerned by language issues, with expats in Germany (59%), Switzerland (58%), France (57%), the Netherlands (55%), Spain (50%) and Belgium (46%) all expressing concerns about language barriers.

HSBC Expat Experience Report

HSBC Bank International’s Expat Experience report is the second part of a three-part research series, entitled the Expat Explorer Survey. The survey was conducted between April and June 2010 and involved 4,100 expatriates living in 100 countries throughout the world.