Europe not the most popular place for expats
British bank HSBC asked 7.000 expats about their experiences living abroad in 37 different countries, to conclude that life in China is the best.
Rounding out the top five are Germany, Singapore, the Cayman Islands and Australia. Life as an expat in the Netherlands was rated 18th overall.
The three main areas of investigation for the survey were: economics, including disposable income; experience, including food, social life and local culture; and (for 24 out of the 37) raising children, including childcare costs and quality of life.
Why is China so popular?
Asia in general is a popular destination and one very clear reason why is the money. Asia hosts some of the highest-paid expats in the world, with average expat remuneration packages at least 15 per cent higher there than the global average (55.000 euros per annum, compared to 48.000 euros elsewhere).
The lowest-paid expats live in Europe, where average yearly salaries are around 40.000 euros.
Further, Asian countries have relatively low costs of living, especially in Southeast Asia, with expats reporting that they spend far less than the global average on daily necessities.
The other big saving is tax. According to the survey, the global average tax rate is 36 per cent, whereas in the Netherlands it is 62 per cent, in Germany 58 per cent and in the UK 46 per cent. Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a maximum tax rate of 17 per cent.
China and Asia also scored very highly in the experience questions, especially for food, sports and social life. Costs of childcare and education, as well as diversity of experience for children, also rated highly.
Not happy in the Netherlands
While the Netherlands was seen as a good place overall for children, rating particularly highly in education, in economic and experience terms, expats here considered themselves far from satisfied.
While financial incentives in the Netherlands are clearly lacking in comparison to low-tax, low cost-of-living nations, it was the experience questions that rated especially low.
The Netherlands scored:
› the lowest rating out of all 37 countries for social life;
› second last for feeling welcome at work; and
› third last for making local friends, enjoying local food and fitting in with the local culture.
Areas that rated higher were work-life balance (which given that the Netherlands has the shortest work week is not altogether surprising), transport and using the language.
One area that HSBC did not ask expats to examine was anything concerning the environment.
The OECD's report on well-being showed that in the Netherlands, measurements of air pollutant particles PM10 are higher than average at 30 micrograms per cubic metre, over the average of 21 micorgrams per cubic metre.
That's far from ideal, yet expats in Beijing routinely suffer through air pollution at four times Dutch rates, and the number of lung cancer patients in Beijing has increased by 60 per cent in the last 10 years, with no matching increase in tobacco use.
An even more interesting study might be on how long expats are prepared to live in each country, because a full wallet and fun friends can only compete with good health for so long.