Living as an expatriate comes with perks: a better salary, killer benefits like a great apartment, moving and schooling costs (if you negotiate your package well!) and the thrill of relocating to the other side of the world.
If you’re thinking about making the move, know that not all cities are created equal: some are just better, more vibrant and more fun than others. Here are the ones that should be on top of your list.
#1 Hong Kong
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Hong Kong is Asia’s banking capital and the place to be for higher earning expats, who are more than three times more likely to earn over $250,000 a year than their counterparts in Europe (16% in Hong Kong compared with 5% in Europe) and earn on average 30% more than the average global expat salary ($120,000 in Hong Kong compared with $92,000 globally).
An overwhelming majority of expats (45%) work in banking, insurance or financial services, but job seekers in the fields of education (12%) and marketing and media (8%) as well as property and law. It is harder to find jobs outside these industries if you are a non-Cantonese speaker.
Expect to live large, burn through cash as fast as you’ve earned it, and have some fun: women are thought to be open-minded and enjoying the company of exotic wealthy business professionals. Not the most authentic experience, but a thrilling one without a doubt.
Hong Kong has lots to offer from a lifestyle point of view too. It is a great base for onward travel, a fantastic destination to go out and socialize. For Americans, it is an especially good place to network and make contacts: the expat community is small and people are open to doing business easily.
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What other city best encapsulates the eccentricities of the expat’s life better than Dubai? With an 80% foreign population, this man-made desert town is the most perfect adult Disneyland.
English is widely spoken and the nightlife scene is vibrant. Getting around is easy, the healthcare system is excellent, and Dubai has a reputation of tolerance to outsiders. Well, to some degree.
Financiers, construction workers and international commerce professionals particularly enjoy Dubai: unlike most other cities where the financial world can be stiff and closeted, in Dubai it comes with a lot more panache and yes, flash.
However, career-driven expats are more likely to move to the Middle East, especially Dubai, than anywhere else: over three quarters of expats arein full-time employment and 70% of them believe that they earn more than they would have in their home country (compared with the global average of 53%).
Living in Dubai isn’t inexpensive: the lack of natural resources requires exporting, and maintaining the local lifestyle is costly.
In spite of a rigid legal system, high rental rates and volatile house prices, expats have access to pretty much everything and anything they want, from Dubai’s famous cityscape, spectacular food to luxury venues and products, sunshine all-year-round, and (guys’) toys everywhere you look!
For an American, living in Dubai can require a bit of an adjustment. Yet, for the entrepreneurial spirit, the city offers countless business opportunities: if there is an endless list of things that are dearly needed in Dubai, the existence of specialized free-zones (e.g. Media City, HealthCare City, Knowledge Village) make it easy to get a business started.
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If you want to move outside the U.S. yet want to avoid a culture shock, London is for you.
This low-key, civilized city is perfect for foreign workers who want to dedicate their life to their work without compromising their social life. Outside regular outings at the local pub, expats particularly love the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality as well as London’s entertainment scene.
While most foreign workers work, unsurprisingly, in banking (20%), education staffers (12%) and creatives (9%) are sought-after in the job market.
For American expatriates, living in London is easy: most of them report enjoying going to the independent coffee shops where they can mingle with fellow dwellers, find it easy to integrate with locals, and many love it so much that they actually declare wanting to settle there permanently.
#4 New York City
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The Big Apple isn’t just the center of the United States: it is the center of the world.
For career-minded singles especially, working in NYC offers tremendous growth opportunities: putting NYC on a resume is a signal that you’ve made it and worked with the sharks.
It’s helpful to be there and build a network that will serve you for the rest of your professional life: after all, that’s where the big shots are!
NYC is a difficult (read, expensive) place to start and get an entry-level job, but for executives and expats, it’s the place to be.
The City That Never Sleeps welcomes all sorts of professionals, not just bankers: entertainment, media, legal, PR or fashion people as well as artists, academics and techies flock to the City for a career boost.
The perks are theoretically endless and include access to world-class entertainment, a spectacular dating and food scene (meaning, fashion models and fancy venues everywhere), 24/7 food delivery, and lifetime bragging rights (you’ve lived in NYC once in your life).
Theoretically, because you’ll quickly realize that your boss will work you like a dog and kill your social life (that is, at least until you make it).
Aside from being the most familiar, culturally similar destinations an American could possibly pick, NYC is a perfect environment to thrive in if you are a go-getter, work-hard, party-hard professional.
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For expats looking for an improved quality of life and greater economic opportunities, Singapore is the place to go.
With low cost, high quality, authentic food, premium accommodations and an active social life, the Island City of Singapore, although tiny, is the 2nd most perfect destination for expats according to an HSBC report from 2014. The survey finds that getting set up is relatively simple for expats.
Aside from offering a balanced lifestyle (you’ll still have money at the end of your contract), living in Singapore fits those with an adventurous spirit as it offers a genuine cultural challenge.
Singapore offers mainly jobs for those in the financial industry (24%), but telecom and IT (13%) as well as and construction and engineering professionals (12%) are in high demand as well, whether entry-level (36%) or senior (55%) executives.
While most expats come from the region (23% come from Malaysia, 21% India, and 17% from the U.K.), Americans will have no problem integrating: there’s a general fascination for Americans, people speak English and Singapore and the U.S. have a rich history as allies.