According to the Internations expat community there are an estimated 56 to 57 million expatriates worldwide. These are the people who decided to move abroad either permanently or temporarily, live outside of their home locations, adjust to a foreign environment, and balance between at least two cultures. Where do people relocate, why, and what are they satisfied or dissatisfied with? More than 12,500 expats of 166 nationalities in 188 countries answered these and other questions for the Expat Insider survey and here are some of the interesting insights from it:
What is the most satisfying expat destination?
In 2017 the top three expat destinations are Bahrain, Costa Rica and Mexico, which received the highest aggregate scores of satisfaction, based on quality of life (e.g. leisure options, safety and security), ease of settling in, work-related factors (e.g. work-life balance), family life and personal finance indexes.
Survey results suggest that if you would plan to relocate abroad for a shorter period of time Bahrain might be a great option, as it tops the ease of settling in factor and doesn’t seem to require knowledge of the local language for being comfortable and getting by with things. Costa Rica is also scoring high on the ease of settling in, moreover, it is doing better than all the other destinations in the finding friends subcategory. Indeed, contrary to the common notion of an ‘expat bubble’, in Costa Rica 19% of respondents get along mostly with locals, while 63% have a social circle, which includes both locals and other expats. Mexico is a friendly place as well (ranks second on the ease of settling in index), and seems to offer benefits in financial terms. The country ranks second in the cost of living index, and fourth in the personal finance index.
Although the nominees for the best expat destinations seem to be slightly changing each year, the bottom three are very consistent. For the third consecutive year, Nigeria, Kuwait and Greece are considered to be the worst places for expats.
Why do people move abroad and become expats?
It seems that the main pull forces for relocation are related to either to job opportunities, or personal life relationships. For example, 12% of respondents moved for a job as self-initiated expats, whereas 11% became corporate assignees. The same share of respondents moved abroad for love/relationship reasons, either to live in their partner’s home country, or because their partner got a job or education opportunity abroad.
Who do expats make friends with?
As noted earlier in the example of Costa Rica, friendly places make it easier for expats to build their social circles also outside the expat community. Yet, the survey results indicate that the ‘expat bubble’ notion might be outdated overall, as the biggest share of expats (48%) indicate having mixed social circles, and 19% are even more integrated and befriend mostly locals. Only 33% of all respondents reported being friends mostly with other expats, and the most likely locations to support such sticking together are Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. As suggested by the respondents, the high number of expats and expat colleagues in the mentioned locations may explain these findings. The reasons for sticking together with expat colleagues is also explaining the prevalence of expat friends among expats, who moved for their own job opportunities, or their partner’s career. Expats who moved for family or romance seem to be more likely to form social circles with locals.
What about expats and romantic relationships?
65% of expats in the current survey are in a relationship, and the majority of these expat couples (72%) seem to have found each other before moving abroad. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean that expat couples are of the same nationality, as 56% of respondents indicated that they are in a relationship with someone who is not from their home country, and 35% are in a relationship with someone from their current country of residence. The latter seems to happen most often in Argentina, where 56% of expats are in love with a local. The best environment for happy relationships seem to be provided in Argentina, Portugal, Bahrain, Cyprus and Mexico – the top places in terms of number of committed and satisfied relationships. 13% of expats indicated that they are in a long-distance relationship, and this relationship model is especially common in such destinations as Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Egypt, Philippines, India and Malaysia.