The best cities for expats – from all angles

18 July 2017

Here at FIDI we hear a lot of travellers’ tales and have built up a pretty good idea of which are the best places for expats to go to work. There are also a number of resources online that rank international destinations in order of preference. But Top Ten lists rarely tell the full story, so we have combined our own experience (and that of our affiliates) with data from elsewhere on the web to compile our very own list of winners in a few key categories. Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly announce the best expat cities – from all angles.

Best Expat City for Personal Safety: Luxembourg

Mercer ranked 230 cities based on internal stability, crime levels, the performance of local law enforcement and the home country’s relationship with other countries. The winner, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the largely danger-free Duchy of Luxembourg.

While there is a certain amount of organized crime and drug trafficking in Luxembourg, violence is rare, and expats can safely walk the streets at night. Nor is there any political or social unrest to speak of. There are occasional protests, but these are – much like the country itself – small and usually extremely civilised.

Best Expat City for Education: Stockholm, Sweden

Two countries keep popping up in internet reports on expat schooling: Sweden and Singapore. According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, 75% of expat families in Sweden believe the quality of early years care is higher than back home.

We frequently hear, on the other hand, that Singapore offers the best schooling for older children. Indeed, the same survey reported that the same proportion (75%) of expats thought that schooling was better in Singapore than they would experience at home. The major difference between the two is that Singaporean schools are not necessarily free of charge, so the award goes to the socially-minded Swedes for including expats in some of the most generous state-funded childcare benefits available anywhere.

Best Expat City for Transport Infrastructure: Tokyo, Japan

Forget the bullet train; in Japan it’s not about speed but efficiency and reliability. According to Internations, no expats are more impressed by their local transport infrastructure than those living and working in Japan. Eight in ten respondents rate the transport infrastructure as excellent, while globally only 29% feel the same. In fact, less than 1% give this factor a negative rating, compared to the global average of 25%.

Best Expat City for High Pay v Low Hours: Lausanne, Switzerland

When the OECD released its Taxing Wages 2017 report, it highlighted that an expat’s location made a big difference to his or her real income, when measured in terms of hours worked. In some cities, expats can enjoy higher average wages, but quality of living will be offset by an expectation that longer hours will be worked. The website ExpatFinder.com analysed the figures and concluded that Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway were the countries with the most attractive ratio. Switzerland takes the prize with an average hourly expat wage of $36.73/hour, plus a trend that the OECD observed of a generally improving tax situation which makes it very attractive for expat families. No wonder 24.3% of the working population is from overseas.

Best Expat City for Clean Air and Healthcare: Vienna, Austria

With all that Alpine air, it should be no surprise that Vienna comes out on top in this category. According to a recent survey by Internations (PDF l 8.05 MB), expats living in the Austrian capital rate the quality of the environment very highly (e.g. water, air), with 96% giving it a positive rating. Moreover, only 3% have something negative to say about it, compared to 20% globally. The quality of the medical care is rated as very good by 38% and 34% are also completely satisfied with its affordability.

Best Expat City for Internet speed: Kansas City, USA

An unusual category perhaps, but who needs decent communication more than business expats? Whether it’s file transfer, collaborating reliably with overseas colleagues, or simply Skyping the folks back home, a decent broadband connection matters. A lot. Based on data from the Nomad List, the average reported Internet speeds experienced by expats were all over 100mbps in Singapore, Seoul, Bucharest and Chattanooga – but the prize goes to Kansas City, Missouri for a blistering 150mbps. Send them a congratulatory tweet if you like; they’re probably online right now.

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