Why 2019 is a great year to live abroad

Around 50 million people live outside their native countries, enticed by the many benefits of expatriation. Such an upheaval isn’t without its challenges but as we approach 2019, an expat survey* suggests there’s never been a better time to live abroad.

Why 2019 is a great year to live abroad
Photo: Anete Lūsiņa/unsplash

Moving abroad once meant sporadic contact with friends and family. But that’s no longer the case – advancements in technology like video calling and social media make it easier than ever to stay in touch with the people back home. You might even speak more than you did before the move!

It’s not the only common expat struggle that technology has eased. Simple things, like a visit to the doctor can seem insurmountable when you don’t speak the local language or understand the healthcare system. But nowadays a quick Google search can answer nearly any question and you can see a doctor online, in your own language, with virtual doctor services like the one available on some of AXA’s global health plans.   

Find out more about AXA’s global health plans

With all these advancements facilitating life abroad, it’s no wonder that expats are happier than ever. In fact, 52 percent of expats* say they have a better quality of life than they did in their home country. And of those who moved abroad for an adventure, nearly 95 percent* believed it lived up to some or all of their expectations. It seems there’s never been a better time to live overseas and the majority of people who do have found happier, more fulfilling lives.

Of course, finding happiness abroad depends on what you’re looking for. Happiness looks different to different people; for some it means more money in the bank while others are simply searching for a better quality of life.

Boost your bottom line

If you’re keen to increase your personal income then moving to a new country could boost your bottom line. The average expat income is $99,900 (€87,597), a 25 percent* increase since relocating. In fact, more than one in ten expats say their income has doubled since the big move. In Switzerland, where in 2016 the median monthly wage before taxes was 6,502 francs (€5,450), expats earn around 54 percent* more than they had at home.

Money doesn’t always mean happiness and expat life can present other opportunities. An increasingly common reason that many people up sticks is to seek better work-life balance. So it comes as no surprise that 53 percent* of expats believe they divide their time more equally between professional and personal activities in their adopted country. In France, that figure rises to 75 percent*, where three quarters of expats say that they have found a better mix of professional and personal life.

Expats in Spain also see significant improvements in their personal lives. With Spain’s milder climate, slower pace and community-driven culture, close to three-quarters* (73 percent) of expats believe that their quality of life has improved. In fact, Spain is ranked the number one country for a more active social life compared with an expat’s home country.

The great outdoors

The warmer the climate, the more likely you are to spend outdoors, right? Think again. Expats in Norway are the most likely to take part in more outdoor activity, with 59 percent* of those living in the Scandinavian country spending more time than before in the great outdoors. The benefits of being around nature are well touted so moving to Norway could mean a step in the direction of a happier life – and as the Norwegians say: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’!

City life, on the other hand, comes with many perks – expats in capitals like Berlin have plenty of opportunities to indulge their every cultural whim. At the same time, they enjoy a more affordable cost of living – 61 percent* of expats find life in Berlin cheaper than back home – while 57 percent* say a reliable and convenient public transport system makes it easier for them to get around.

It could well be that the move abroad is spurred on by wanting a better life for your family as a whole. In Sweden, where family life is highly valued, 36 percent* of expats have children compared with 29 percent* of expats overall. Expat parents in Sweden are unsurprisingly satisfied with the country’s subsidised daycare and public school system with 72 percent* saying the quality of childcare is better than it was at home.

Perhaps most tellingly, just 15 percent* of expats around the world are planning to leave their adopted country ahead of schedule and only 23 percent* have been through a repatriation process. With increased mobility, technology that enables you to speak to friends, family or even a doctor wherever you are in the world plus the financial and lifestyle benefits, 2019 is undoubtedly the year of the expat.  

Find out more about AXA’s global health plans

With AXA’s global health cover, you and your family are protected at every stage of expat life. Find out more about AXA’s international health insurance and start living the expat life you’d always hoped for.

*Reference: HSBC Expat Explorer Global Report 2017

Presented by Axa.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.


Living in Spain: Why Valencia is officially the best city in the world for foreign residents

Anyone who lives there probably already knows it to be true. But now the secret is out: Valencia has officially been declared the most desirable city to live abroad as a foreign citizen.

Living in Spain: Why Valencia is officially the best city in the world for foreign residents
Valencia tops a ranking of 66 cities in the world for expats. Photo by Giuseppe Buccola on Unsplash

The Mediterranean city in the east of Spain ranks top in the annual Expat Insider Survey published by InterNations.

More than 15,000 expats participated in the survey which analysed 66 cities around the globe during March 2020 in pre-Covid times and before the global pandemic sparked lockdowns.

The survey placed four Spanish cities in the top ten worldwide; Valencia in first place, followed by Alicante (2nd), Málaga (6th), Madrid (9th). 

Spanish cities overwhelmingly score high for the ease of settling in and quality of life indices but score less well when it comes to urban work life, because Spain can’t compete on the work opportunities front.

The city of Barcelona lags far behind in 25 place since expat life seems to be most expensive there: it ranks far behind the other Spanish cities in both the Finance & Housing and the Local Cost of Living Indices.   

So what’s so great about Valencia?

Photo by travelnow.or.crylater on Unsplash


Well, according to the survey which asked more than 15,000 expatriates representing 173 nationalities and living in 181 countries, the Spanish city scored the best in all five indices but one.

It ranked first worldwide in both the Quality of Urban Living and the Local Cost of Living Indices.

In fact, 94 percent of expats rate the local cost of living positively (compared to 46 percent globally), and 91 percent consider healthcare easily available (vs. 74 percent globally) which places the city first in the Health & Environment subcategory.

The climate is also a big draw with Valencia ranking second in that category thanks to conditions that are not too hot or too dry but with plenty of sunshine and a sea breeze that means summer temperatures usually max out at between 32-35C, far more hospitable than the over 40C found in parts of Andalucia and inland Spain.

Valencia also ranked well for its leisure options (4 in the survey) with vast stretches of beach within the city, the warm Mediterranean to enjoy swimming, watersports and sailing as well lots of parks and bikes routes and hills to explore inland.

Photo by Paul Povoroznuk on Unsplash

It’s also easy to get settled in Valencia. More than four in five expats (84 percent) find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 61 percent globally), and 91 percent say that the local residents are generally friendly (vs. 68 percent globally).

And more than four out of five expats in Valencia (82 percent) find that housing is affordable in the city, compared to 41 percent globally.

“The quality of life and the cost of living” are what makes Valencia great, according to one American expat who responded to the survey.

Where Valencia, and indeed all Spanish destinations, score badly is in the Job and Career categories.

Valencia ranks 62 out of 66 in this section with 46 percent of expats living in Valencia admitting that they are unhappy with their local career opportunities.

“Finding employment has always been difficult,” responded a French expat living in Valencia.

But all the reasons that make Valencia a favourite among expats are also found just down the coast in the region’s second city Alicante, which ranks a close number 2 on the list beating Lisbon, Panama City and Singapore.

Malaga appears at number 6 on the global list and Madrid at number 9, although Spain’s capital scores the most points globally for “leisure options”.

Barcelona however doesn’t make it into the top ten or even top 20. In fact it ranks 25th out of 66 cities in the world. Only 53 percent of expats are satisfied with the state of the local economy (vs. 63 percent globally). According to the survey 28 percent of expats in the city are dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 21 percent globally), and 67 percent find local housing unaffordable (vs. 41 percent globally).

“I do not like the working conditions, the pay is too low, and the rents are high,” remarked one German expat.