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.

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Bridging global barriers for love

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, author Wendy Williams looks at what it means to be one half of an expat or multicultural couple.

Bridging global barriers for love
Happy couple on a beach. Photo: Flickr

As the author of The Globalisation of Love, a book about multicultural romance and marriage, I am frequently asked for advice on “expat relationships”. But what is an expat relationship, anyway? And are multicultural couples and expat couples one and the same?

Expat is a term that is bandied about, dare I say recklessly, to describe someone who is living in a foreign country and it is often used to describe couples where one or more partners are foreign born.

Exhibit A: I am Canadian and my husband is Austrian. We live in Vienna. Often we are referred to as an “expat couple” or even “expat family” if our born-in-Austria daughter is included. Granted I have a pretty high standing as matriarch of my family of three, yet does just one ‘expat’ in the family make us an ‘expat family’?

My husband and daughter are living in the country where they were born after all. Other than a bit of English and a lot of peanut butter that I smuggle in from Canada, there is very little ‘expat’ about them.

Yet expat is a label given to anyone with any kind of international flair. So let’s get to the heart of this worldly, weighty matter. An expatriate, in my understanding, as well as that of Merriam Webster and even Wikipedia is “any person living in a different country from where he or she is a citizen”.

Expats usually start their international lives on assignment for a multinational corporation, unless they are Australian in which case they begin by bussing tables in London’s grottier pubs or teaching Dutch guests to ski in Austria.

Typically expats enjoy a long list of job perks to deal with the ‘stresses’ of life abroad so they get free rent, paid trips back to the motherland and private school for the kids. Paying income tax seems to be optional.

Expats are like visitors to a country and deal with external issues like culture, language, and religion. Usually they live from one to five years in a given location, ‘making the most of it’, exploring the region and learning about the local culture.

They always know that they will be going home at some point, even if there are more international postings along the way.

A multicultural relationship, by contrast, is one where each partner is from a different country or culture. Multicultural couples, or what I call GloLo couples in my book deal with issues like culture, language, and religion within the relationship.

GloLo couples do not usually have the job perks of expats because they work locally, so they pay their own rent, they have to pay taxes and the kids go to the local school. They may live in his country or her country, and even if they swing back and forth between the two countries every few years, there is a sense of permanence about the geography.

The imported partner is an immigrant really, even if that word has taken on some negative connotation in our live-here-work-there globalised society. Barring bureaucracy and ludicrous immigration laws (Austria, this means you), GloLo partners may even gain citizenship in the country into which they married. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I call it the globalisation of love.

So here is my point: An expat couple and a multicultural couple are not necessarily the same relationship constellation and should not be confused with one another.

An expat couple can be a GloLo couple if they have different nationalities, however a GloLo couple is not necessarily an expat couple, even if one partner is an expatriate.  It is only when a GloLo couple live in a third neutral country that they become an expat couple as well. Glad we cleared that up.

If you’re still looking for advice on dealing with the joys and the dramas of being an expat couple – a good start is try and make the most of it, explore the region and learn about the local culture.