A survey of expats already living abroad shows Switzerland, Singapore and China are the best places for expats to live when looking at not just finances but quality of life and raising children – but Bahrain was also a surprise entry in the top 10 worldwide.

The Expat Explorer survey, now in its seventh year, surveys almost 9,300 expats in over 100 countries on behalf of HSBC Expat.

Expat salaries

How much do expats earn by continent?

  • The average annual expat salary in Asia is $120,000 per annum
  • That’s compared with the global average of $92,000 pa.
  • Expats in the Middle East earn $84,000 pa
  • Europe-based expats earn an average of $78,000 pa.

Expats living in Europe are more likely to be retired (18 percent) than those in Asia (four percent) and the Middle East (13 percent).

The move to the Middle East is more likely to be transitory – half (52 percent) say they are making retirement provisions back in their country of origin, compared with the global average of 34 percent and 21 percent expect to move away for retirement.

Middle East expat concerns

Rental rates and volatile house prices are a big concern among expats based in the Middle East – 44 percent of expats there say fluctuations in rental prices pose a risk to their financial wellbeing and over a fifth (22 percent) say changes in house prices pose the greatest threat to their financial wellbeing

Over three-quarters (76 percent) of expats in the Middle East are in full-time employment and 70 percent believe they earn more than they would at home, compared to a global average of 53 percent.


  Overall ranking Expat economics Expat experience Raising children abroad
Switzerland 1 2 5 10
Singapore 2 3 3 5
China 3 1 26 12
Germany 4 7 10 3
Bahrain 5 11 2 9
New Zealand 6 22 1 1
Thailand 7 13 6 14
Taiwan 8 9 7 18
India 9 12 20 6
Hong Kong 10 6 17 22

How the rest of the GCC stacks up

  Overall ranking Expat economics Expat experience Raising children abroad
Qatar 13 5 28 21
Oman 14 4 19 27
UAE 15 10 21 16
Saudi Arabia 28 15 32 30
Kuwait 29 20 33 28

Bahrain was the only GCC country to make it into the top 10, perhaps because 62 percent living there said they enjoyed a good work/ life balance, compared to the global average of 40 percent.

Qatar, Oman and the UAE came in very close together at rank 13, 14 and 15 respectively – although economics pushed Oman to no.4 and Qatar to no.5 worldwide, with the UAE and Bahrain at 10 and 11. Saudi Arabia came in at no.28 overall and no.15 in economic terms and Kuwait at 29 overall and no.20 for money.