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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Common Expectations of Expats-to-Be

The general living standards in their host country were considered favorably by most expats before their move, while opinions differed about the climate & weather and the cost of living abroad.
  • Expectations differ according to age and gender
  • Expats moving to Switzerland raise concerns about cost of living
  • Personal health & safety considerations pre-occupy expats before moving to Nigeria
  • Geographical isolation of Australia and New Zealand not to be dismissed

The survey respondents were asked how they felt about certain factors, such as their personal safety, the healthcare standards, and the climate and weather, when considering moving to their country of residence. There were three answer options: positive (the factor was a potential benefit), neutral (they didn’t really think about this factor), and negative (the factor was a potential disadvantage).

Overall Benefits & Disadvantages

Among all survey participants, the factor that the most people thought about positively is the general living standards in their future host country, with 62% considering potential benefits and just 8% thinking of possible disadvantages. Both the climate and weather as well as the cost of living seem to lead to divided opinions. While one-fifth and even close to one in four (24%), respectively, considered these factors as potential disadvantages of their new future home, 46% and 43% also thought they were possible benefits. Also of note, 28% of respondents considered the distance to their home country negatively.

Different Ages, Different Concerns

In terms of age, the youngest and oldest age groups stand out the most. More than half of expats aged 25 or below (53%) say they considered language a potential benefit of their future move. Conversely, one-third considered the cost of living as a potential disadvantage and 22% thought negatively about taxation in their future host country.

For expats aged 51 or above, the climate and weather was considered to be a potential advantage for 57%. Similarly, over half (51%) were optimistic about the cost of living in their future country of residence.

What Men & Women Consider Differently

Women are more likely to have thought of language as a potential advantage to the move (42% vs. 34% of men). A higher percentage of women than men also say they regarded the general living standards as a potential benefit (65% vs. 59% of men). Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have thought positively about the taxation in their future home (33% vs. 23% of women).

Countries That Stand Out

Singapore is the country where expats are most likely to say they thought positively about the infrastructure (78%) and personal safety (72%) prior to their move. Seven out of ten expats in Finland also thought of personal safety as a benefit to their move. Similarly, 66% say they considered the healthcare standards as an advantage and 63% say the same about personal health.

On the other end of the scale, expats moving to India tended to have negative thoughts about the infrastructure (52%) and their personal health (42%). However, expats in Nigeria are the most likely to have considered their personal health as a potential disadvantage of the move (44%). They also weren’t thrilled when they thought about their personal safety (52% negative), the healthcare standards (57% negative), or the country’s political stability (48% negative).

Whereas expats in Malta and Costa Rica looked forward to the climate and weather (92% and 89% positive thoughts, respectively), expats in the UK and Ireland were not as pleased with their prospects in this regard (both 60% negative thoughts).

Expats moving to Ecuador are the most likely to have considered the cost of living there favorably (81%), while expats moving to Switzerland were less enthusiastic about this aspect (56% negative).

Unsurprisingly, expats moving to three countries with no income tax — Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — tended to regard taxation as a benefit of the move (70%, 64%, and 62%, respectively). On the other hand, expats in three European countries with high income taxes — Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium — are the most likely to have had negative thoughts about this factor (55%, 42%, and 40%).

Also to be expected, New Zealand and Australia are the countries where the most expats say they considered the distance to their home country as a potential disadvantage before their move (61% and 60% negative, respectively).

Results by Expat Type

Based on the results according to expat type, it is the expats who had little or no say in where they ended up, such as Foreign Assignees or Foreign Recruitees, that worried more about their personal health, healthcare standards, and general living standards.

Such expat types with children are also most likely to have thought negatively about their children’s well-being: the Foreign Assignee (13%) and the Traveling Spouse (11%). Interestingly enough, though, the Traveling Spouse is also the most likely to have considered their children’s well-being abroad in a positive light (64%). This is more expected for expat parents who freely chose their destination: the Dream Destination Expat and the Greener Pastures Expat (both 62% positive).

Romantics are the most likely to have thought negatively about the distance to their home country (39%), the language (26%), and the economy and/or labor market (19%). Dream Destination Expats (65%), Greener Pastures Expats, and Adventurers (52% each) tended to look forward to the climate and weather.

Further Reading