Expats rank Thailand highly in global survey

Posted on February 26, 2013

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One of the largest ‘expat living’ surveys conducted last year ranked Thailand second in terms of experience and quality of life, while ranking the Kingdom third in economics.

This pictograph highlights countries that expats had favored in a recent global expat survey. Several countries in Latin America and Asia topped the list. Photo: HSBC

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) recently published the results of its 2012 Expat Explorer Survey, which encompassed responses from more than 5,000 expats residing in thirty countries.

The same survey from 2011 ranked Thailand first in expat experience and quality of life, while 10th in economics.

Surpassing Thailand in 2012 in the categories of experience was the Cayman Islands. Meanwhile, Spain, Singapore and Malaysia also made the top-five list for this category, which took into account expats’ lifestyles – especially the ease with which expats can set up in their new country, how well they integrate into the local community, and their overall quality of life.

Of the respondents in Thailand, 83% said they had an improved quality of life after relocating to the Kingdom. This is compared to Singapore (76%) and Malaysia (72%).

One of the criteria considered in the experience ranking was “better standard of accommodation”, with 60% of Thailand expats reporting such improvements after relocating, compared to Malaysia (69%), Singapore (48%), Hong Kong (19%) and the global average (39%).

Another experience area in which Thailand topped the list for expats was the social scene, where 60% of respondents in the Kingdom agreed that their social life was more active since moving abroad. This is compared to expats in Hong Kong (52%), Singapore (43%) and Malaysia (39%).

Not surprisingly, the category of ‘commuting’ did not get a positive response from Thailand expats, with only 36% reporting a better commute since moving to the country.

While this was higher than the respective response of expats who had relocated to western countries such as Italy (30%), the UK (32%) and the USA (35%), Thailand remained leagues behind Hong Kong (72%), Singapore (57%), Malaysia (44%) and the overall global average (45%) in this category.

Late to integrate
Despite their preference for Thailand in terms of experience and economics, expats in the Kingdom reported less favorably in terms of getting acquainted, with the Land of Smiles ranked 11th in overall setting up and 10th in overall integration categories.

Despite the many positives of expat life in Asia, both financially and in terms of quality of life, it appears that a move to the region does come with some difficulties.

Expats living in Asia generally report finding it difficult to integrate into the local community. The number of expats who agreed strongly that they had integrated well in the local community in Asian countries including Malaysia (25%) Singapore (19%), Thailand (14%), and Hong Kong (11%), were much lower in comparison to many English-speaking countries such as Canada (44%), Australia (43%) and the UK (41%).

The trend is highlighted when looking at the social activity of expats in these countries, with many expats in Hong Kong (50%), Thailand (48%) and Singapore (41%) in strong agreement that they tend to socialize with other expats rather than locals.

Learning the local language is a serious barrier to integration for expats living in Asia, with more than half of expats in Hong Kong (59%), and higher than average levels in Thailand (45%) and Malaysia (25%), finding learning a local language very difficult.

As a result, while a third (33%) of expats across the world said that they try to learn the local language of their new country, these levels are much lower in Thailand (24%), Singapore (15%), Malaysia (14%) and Hong Kong (9%).

Asia makes cents
Five Asian countries made the overall top ten rankings of HSBC’s Expat Economics League Table: Singapore (1st), Thailand (3rd), Hong Kong (4th), China (7th) and Vietnam (10th).

The table looked at various economic categories, namely income, wealth oppor-tunities, healthcare costs and choices, property attainability and access to cars, yachts and other luxuries. In terms of being a ‘wealth hotspot’, the survey ranked Thailand 4th, behind Singapore, Bermuda and Hong Kong. In the category of ‘income’, Thailand ranked 6th, behind Singapore, Bermuda, Mexico, Hong Kong and China, respectively. As for ‘disposable income’, Thailand was in 4th, behind Bermuda, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Thailand did top the list for several economic categories, including ‘luxuries’, ‘domestic staff/helper’, ‘more than one property’ and ‘healthcare’.

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