Ecuador is the top expat destination in international survey; Cost of living, health care main reasons why

Oct 7, 2014

By Hannah Ewens and Elizabeth Roberts

A survey completed by almost 14,000 expatriates of all nationalities, which focused on topics such as quality of life, work, romance and leisure, showed Ecuador was the overall winner.

The country had the highest result of all countries for the ease of making friends. Over eight in 10 found it easy to settle down and feel at home there, according to the poll conducted by InterNations, which has 1.4 million members globally.

It’s not the first time Ecuador – population 15 million – has topped an expat life poll. Last year, expats who visit the International Living website voted it the best place to retire overseas.

Among the reasons for the popularity of the destination were the cheap cost of living, good weather and top-class yet affordable health care.

Expats qualify for health care by paying a small monthly fee, while those looking for employment will find applying for a work visa much easier than in many Western countries.

Second place overall in the poll went to Luxembourg, the small land-locked European country, primarily due to its runner-up ranking in the "working abroad" section of the survey. Two out of three expats reported career opportunities to be the most important reason for their move there.

Luxembourg may be a good place to advance your career, but it only came 50th out of 61 countries in the category "personal happiness" and expats also find it hard to make friends there, contributing to its ranking of 46th in that category.

In contrast to Luxembourg, Mexico, was a clear winner in the "ease of settling in" category, helping account for it achieving third place overall in the expat survey. Nine in 10 expats reported they were pleased with their expat life in Mexico, the same percentage as for the overall winner, Ecuador.
 
On the opposite end of the scale in the InterNations poll were Greece, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Greece came in last place in the “job and career” category and had by far the lowest score for job security, thanks to the economic crisis. Saudi Arabia ranked poorly thanks to its lack of leisure activities. But coming last was Kuwait. Expats there do not think it’s easy to settle, make friends or feel at home according to the poll.

The InterNations survey was one of several pieces of research into expat life published this week. Another was the NatWest International Personal Banking Quality of Life Index which examined British expatriate opinions and attitudes on lifestyle, employment and financial status. For the second year running Australia was listed as the top destination for Britons – with 87 per cent of those living there intending to stay for the long haul. Respondents said they found that life Down Under was happier, healthier and wealthier.

Canada came second and the UAE third – as they did last year – in the Quality of Life Index, compiled for Natwest International by the Centre for Future Studies. The index tracked a seven-year shift in country rankings since 2008. Most notably 2014 revealed the rise of the Far East with China, Singapore and Hong Kong soaring up the league table. China saw the highest increase in scoring witnessed in the index, jumping six places in the last year from 11th to fifth position. The study was carried out between May and June 2014 among 1,804 British expats.

A third poll presented a gloomier perspective. According to a survey of 1,000 Britons who had spent more than six months travelling abroad, the majority – 60 per cent – said their time overseas did not broaden their mind. Meanwhile, 14 per cent complained that their time travelling had made it harder to get a job back in the UK.

It seems former expats are not always well-received by their friends when they return from their travels either – 29 per cent polled said they were sick of hearing their friends’ travelling stories and 12 per cent felt that their friends returned with a false sense of superiority. The poll was conducted by student shipping specialist, 1StopShip.

Credit: The Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk; Graphic credit: InterNations

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