Expat Explorer Survey 2010

Expat Explorer

Each year HSBC commissions a global survey of expatriates, this year interviewing 4,127 individuals, with a view to finding out how expats are living their lives.

One of the main points of this year’s expat survey was the emergence of the BRIC nations as bona-fide expatriate hotspots.


The BRIC nations are Brazil, Russia, India and China. The BRIC countries recorded higher than average scores when it came to economic expatriate factors such as economic outlook, career development, earnings and the ability to save money.

A large portion of expats in BRIC countries boasted of higher wages than they would have earned back home- 69 percent in Brazil, 82 percent in Russia, 70 percent in India and 75 percent in China. Expats in BRIC also reported of greater career opportunities.

Expats in BRIC generally had a much brighter demeanour than their counterparts in other places around the world. Around 69 percent of all BRIC expats thought that the economy was doing better this year than last, compared to just 22 percent in the rest of the world. BRIC expats also claimed that their increased earnings enabled them to build up a healthier amount of savings, and gave them more freedom to invest.

Reasons for leaving

When HSBC asked expats about their motivations to leave their original country 57 percent of people cited money and career prospects as a contributing factor, 55 percent mentioned a search for improved life experience, 24 percent claimed they didn’t like their situation at home, 18 percent were sent by an employer, 17 percent followed a loved one, 2 percent went to look after family members and 3 percent gave no reasons at all.

Different destinations also seem to attract different mindsets, a large portion of expats venturing to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russia did so purely for financial gain, whereas European destinations like Spain and France attracted more expats seeking a retirement location.


Expats were all generally in good financial health, especially those residing in the wealth hotspots of the East. All in all 66 percent of worldwide expats were enjoying an increased amount of disposable income than in their prior life. In Bahrain this figure shot up to an all-conquering 100 percent, with Bermuda, Qatar and Saudi Arabia showing 96 percent, 92 percent and 92 percent respectively.

Generally, 61 percent of expats are saving more money than in 2009, 43 percent are spending more, 38 percent are making more investments, 20 percent are using more of their money to pay off debts and only 5 percent are finding themselves in more debt than before.

In terms of countries where expats managed to save more money, 92 percent were saving more than before in Qatar, with 89 percent in Saudi, 88 percent in Bahrain and 76 percent in Russia.

Again Europe had the least favourable results, expats working in the United Kingdom were most likely to rack up more debts, and expats in Spain and France, only 29 percent and 36 percent respectively, were saving more money than in their home countries.

The survey also examined what expats do with their money and how they invest. Interestingly it was discovered that a big chunk of expat money is being repatriated back into their home countries, with property being the most common form of investment, with equity and bonds coming up behind. In the Middle East this trend was most prevalent, with zero percent of expats choosing to invest in property in Qatar or Saudi Arabia.

Credit Crunch

As we all know the past few years have hardly been the most stable in terms of finance and economy, and expatriates, just like everybody else, have been affected by the credit crunch. Just under half, 47 percent, of all the expats who took part in the survey, thought the economic situation in their country of work was actually worse than at the beginning of 2009. This sentiment was echoed strongly in the Eurozone, where individual countries had much higher percentages of malaise. 93 percent of expats in Spain shared the belief of a dwindling economy, as did 60 percent in Belgium and France, and 67 percent in the UK. Of course this is another indication of the troubles Europe is going through, as attitudes were cheerier in other parts of the world- in Russia 45 percent agreed with the previous statement, and in India and China that figure fell drastically to just 16 percent and 9 percent.

In contrast, many expats in these nations actually believed that their economy was in a better position than at the start of 2009. Over in Russia 27 percent of expats saw an improvement in the economy, and, respectively, India and China had percentages of 50 and 61. Around one-third of the participators believed that the economy had stayed the same.

Regardless of their economic outlook, 87 percent of all the expats had no plans to re-locate.

Next time, we’ll take a look at findings for individual countries.