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Top 5 countries for expats to move to

What are the top 5 countries for expats to move to?

People are fulfilled in a myriad of ways. Some expats move overseas to seek out sheer natural beauty, while those interested in financial and career opportunities move to the cities with exciting startup scenes that are viewed as financial hubs.

In 2018 mobility has never been a bigger advantage to employees, who can choose to work anywhere in the world.

However, when it’s family life and all that entails — including childcare, financial benefits and quality of life — several countries can claim to be No. 1.

Which one is top for you depends on your specific needs.

Below, we take a look at seven individual categories and the countries that offer the best of the best to foreign and local residents alike.


Best Expat Countries: 5 Places where expats can build a great life

According to a 2018 HSBC Expat survey there are several different reasons expats can choose to pick a country.

However it is only after living there for a while do you get to know the spirit of a place, where to go for the best food, trips to places you need to explore, and if you have a family, the quality of life and time spent together it affords you.

This 2018 HSBC survey listed these countries as coming first in the overall rankings:

Singapore: Top of the list for the 4th year in a row

singapore garden bay

Singapore comes in first place and there is little wonder why. Across several of the key rankings, Singapore performed the best amongst the expats who took part in the survey.

The criteria broadly covered experiences, economics and family, and with detail around each. From the over 22,000 people surveyed, Singapore was chosen by over 45% of respondents to further their career opportunities while another 59% of expats there found they could integrate successfully into the local culture.

Singapore tends to satisfy expats no matter their age, gender, circumstances, nationality or career - which is a very high bar to set.

With one Singapore expat quoted as saying it is:


“Endlessly challenging and endlessly stimulating; wholly worth it.”


Singapore ranked in 1st place overall but in

  • 6th place for Experiences

  • 3rd place for Economics

  • 5th place for Family

A telling indicator of the appeal Singapore holds was that in the survey, 27% of Singapore expats were originally relocated to Singapore with their work but almost half (47%) have chosen to stay on.

New Zealand: Top for Experiences and leading the way for Expat Families

castle eltz germany

In the survey, New Zealand took first place for experience or the quality of life you would “experience”: how safe expats feel there, the price of property and even how easily it is to make friends there.

New Zealand took fifth place in the ranking for both healthcare and for quality of life. When compared with Singapore in 22nd place New Zealand ranking in 11th place compared with for how easily it is to make friends. With a laid back attitude and easy-going nature, for the expats surveyed it seems that in New Zealand it’s twice as easy to make friends than in Singapore.

Expats with families chose New Zealand for health reasons too  - over 60% of expats reporting that they moved to New Zealand to improve their quality of life. Not just winning in terms of the choice of experiences to avail of there, four out of five expats would choose New Zealand as a territory to move to improve their positive work/life balance and for improvements in their physical health.

However the trade-off for a move to New Zealand is your career opportunities are limited and salaries are not as high as in other countries, with it ranking in ninth place in the above table for the economic benefits of moving there.

castle eltz germany

Germany: Leading for Economic Benefits

While placing third in the overall survey results, Germany placed second for the economic benefits reported by expats living there. These include indicators like career progression, economic confidence and work life balance.

Comparing Singapore and Germany in the survey, both Germany and Singapore ranked well for the economic confidence expats had in both countries - taking second and third place for this respectively.  The attractive Disposable Income these countries afforded the expats living there ranked in fifth place for Germany and sixth place in the survey overall.

However where Germany really excels for expats was in terms of job security, taking first place in the survey for this indicator. Another appeal of living there is the work-life balance it grants you - Germany took fifth place in the survey globally, 18 places ahead of Singapore who took the 23rd spot.

For anyone thinking Germany could be their next destination, advice from one expat surveyed was:

“Try to learn the language. It is not necessary for business but helps greatly with local friends”.

Canada: A popular choice for experiences, economics and family.

bicycle in front of mural of canada flag

Why did Canada make it to the top five? Because of how highly it was rated for how well a family can experience life there and the economic benefits a move there offers all expats.

When it comes to work-life balance, Canada took a respectable 9th position globally for expats, well ahead of Singapore who ranked in 23rd place. Perhaps a contributing factor is how more integrated expats feel in Canada - rating it in  13th position globally compared with Singapore in 23rd position. Also when not in work, there seems to be a wide choice of cultural activities to enjoy for expats as Canada ranked 12th in the survey for culture.

Where Canada excelled was in its tolerance - taking first spot globally amongst all the expats surveyed indicating a country that is not only considered to be relaxed in attitude but proven to be so in reality.

Bahrain: where expat children can enjoy an improved quality of life.

child laughing in air

Although an Islamic state, Bahrain is a melting pot of cultures, with expats and migrant workers making up more than half the population, with 77% of respondents ranking the wage growth in Bahrain as the best.

Particular highlights include high disposable income, for which Bahrain took eight place, just two places behind Singapore. Bahrain also took fourth place for having an excellent work-life balance as well as a ranking of 56% reported the ease expats felt they could integrate into their new community.

From the survey results, 66% of expat parents reported their children as having a better quality of life than in their home country . Furthermore 52% said that Bahrain offered better health and wellbeing options for their children.

Overall, the attractive economic possibilities and the experience for children who move to Bahrain allowed it to make the Top 5 ranking globally.

As one expat summarised a move there,

"Challenging at times but rewarding employment. Good social life and weather."


If you are considering moving abroad we hope this article has helped you in your research. Whether moving for work, to improve your financial situation or for an overall improvement in your quality of life, there is a lot of planning required before you make the move to decide where to go.

One easy decision is to open a CurrencyFair account for when you are ready to move:

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