Why we want to emigrate (and where)

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TorontoAaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

If you're stuck in dreary Britain, dreaming of warmer and brighter shores, then look away now, because a new survey has revealed that expats are just as delighted with their lot in life as they ever were. The number of expats planning to eventually return to the UK has dropped, and their quality of life remains high.

So what do expats have to be so happy about, and where is the best place to live?


The NatWest International Personal Banking Quality of Life Index tracks how much expats are spending to maintain their lifestyle, how confident they are with their new life, how likely they are to come back to the UK, and how satisfied they are with their new home - and this year's figures put the UK in the shade across the board.

Tougher times

The streets aren't paved with gold. Expats are consciously managing their money more prudently. The number who are reducing their spending on luxury items has increased from 17% in the first year of the report to 44% in 2012.

Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking, comments: "The global financial crisis has failed to dampen the spirits of expats who seem to have adopted the 'keep calm, carry on' philosophy. They are indeed our ambassadors abroad which proves when the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Overall, expats' assessments of their levels of prosperity have remained consistently high, with 83% rating their prosperity between 'comfortably off' and 'quite prosperous' .

Best location

The number one country for the best quality of life experience for expats (82%) is Canada - it's the third year since the index began that the country has been voted top by expats. Almost nine in ten (88%) said that multiculturalism was a factor, with 90% rating Canada's healthcare system as key and 96% said that Canada's human rights and freedoms allow them to feel safe and secure in the country.

Dave Isley said: "It's clear that Canada remains a wonder of the world for expats and is a success story in its own right. The Quality of Life factors that contributed to its number one spot in the rankings yet again range from the culture, standard of living, sense of belonging, work/life balance, equality of opportunity to the state of the economy and financial security".

Canada has also fared considerably better than the balance of countries hit by the financial crisis. Its recession was the shortest and mildest among the countries that make up the G7, lasting only nine months as compared to a year to eighteen months in the rest of the group.

Staying away

Unsurprisingly expats aren't keen to move home. The number of expats planning to return to the UK has fallen to 17% compared to 23% in 2007. Isley said: "The fact that fewer expats say they will return to the UK in the future, compared to five years ago, proves that they are certainly living their dreams which are driven by factors such as the quality of life abroad or improvements in financial status".

Certainly many find the money is better elsewhere. Expats living in China, UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore say their financial position has 'improved dramatically' since moving to the country. Those living in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand assess their financial position as having 'improved significantly'. Those living in Western Europe, South Africa and the US are less enthusiastic about the improvement in their financial prospects and reported their financial position to have 'improved moderately'.

Europe troubled

However, there are some places where the grass isn't greener. Isley says "Those who are most likely to return home are those who retired to France, Portugal and Spain, as their disposable income diminishes and the cost of living rises." This is reflected in the fact that Portugal has fallen from third position in the quality of life table in 2007/8 to ninth position.

Where would you go?

Locations offering the best quality of life for expats

Locations offering the best quality of life for expats

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