20 September 2018
Nearly seven in 10 expats
Nearly seven in 10 expats

The best country for expats is China

Despite all the whining about pollution, traffic, censorship, corruption and food safety, expats say China is the best place in the world to live and work.

HSBC polled over 7,000 expats based in 100 countries across the globe asking them to rank countries on various measures fitting into categories that included economics and experience.

The recent economic slowdown notwithstanding, “nearly seven in 10 expats (69 percent) moved to China to take advantage of better job opportunities, closely followed by Singapore (54 percent) and Hong Kong (41 percent)”, the report said.

The report showed Asia as whole was increasingly attractive due to high salaries, low living costs and ample opportunities for social activity.

“Asia is home to among the highest paid expats in the world, where average expat remuneration packages are at least 15 percent higher than the global average—US$74,000 per annum, compared to US$64,000 elsewhere,” it noted.

All that extra cash might explain the number of tipsy foreigners on any given night in Sanlitun, an area of Chaoyang District that some say is home to more than 60 percent of Beijing’s bars.

It’s also as good a reason as any why China’s numerous anti-prostitution campaigns never seem to work.

That’s not to say that life in China for a foreigner is a constant party, but isn’t it?

Not so, says the Guardian, which reports that 85 percent of China expats work for cold sober international firms, with the largest proportions in sales and marketing (30 percent), banking and financial services (25 percent), and engineering (15 percent).

I guess that means not every laowai (Chinese nickname for foreigner) is blonde-haired, blue-eyed, rowdy and drunk.

The HSBC poll confirms, noting that China is also valued by expat parents as a destination to bring up their families. Many expats in China believe that the quality of education available to their children is better than that at home (56 percent compared to a global average of 49 percent) and three quarters say that their children are safer in China than they were at home.

Any way you slice it, there are a lot of expats in China—exactly 1,020,145 according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, with the mainland’s majority clustered in Guangdong province, Shanghai and Beijing. (In case you’re curious, the census says there are almost 235,000 expats in Hong Kong, which fully explains the crowds in Lan Kwai Fong.)

Interestingly, it’s not just expats who think China is No. 1.

According to a Pew Research poll conducted earlier this year, 44 percent of Americans now consider China the world’s leading economic power.

China earned HSBC’s top spot, leapfrogging from the seventh position in last year’s survey and displacing Singapore—last year’s leader which slipped to the third position overall. High rankings in the economics and experience categories—second and third respectively—were behind China’s rise.

For reference, the United States, the world’s number one economy with GDP about twice China’s, placed 12th in the expat rankings for best places to live, work and raise children. Of the 37 countries ranked, Egypt placed dead last, closely followed by Oman and Vietnam.

Hong Kong, when broken out as a “country”, came in 10th. Snooty Hongkongers will be pleased to know that despite its relatively high ranking as an expat destination of choice, Hong Kong was ranked 27th for “making local friends”. I can relate.

Gweilos also said to take your cha siu baos, five-layer pork and Hong Kong-style cheeseburgers and shove it. They preferred mainline cuisine over Hong Kong’s. By a lot. (China ranked 4th, Hong Kong 12th.) No comment.

Ray Kwong is a China commentator. He writes on China for Forbes. He is also a China business development strategist and marketing consultant.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

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