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The HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2021

For 14 years, HSBC has commissioned Expat Explorer: one of the longest running studies examining the lives of those who relocate abroad. The 2021 survey is their broadest look at expat living to date, with expats from a record-breaking 46 countries and regions sharing their views.

Future outlook

This edition of Expat Explorer reveals growing global confidence, with nearly two thirds of expats optimistic about the next 12 months.

  • 65% of expats are feeling optimistic about the year ahead.

  • 75% of expats are optimistic 'normality' will return.

  • 4 out of 5 expats say they will continue to live in their host country for the next year at least.

Looking ahead to next year, the top three things expats are hoping to achieve are: getting to know the local area (50%), travelling more (47%), and becoming more familiar with the local culture (47%).


Ambitions and finances

In today's fast-moving world, understanding your finances is key to achieving success.

  • 63% have seen their disposable income increase since moving abroad.

  • Only 9% of expats have had help from a financial adviser.

  • Expats find their finances complex to manage, 52% of these say this is due to their tax situation.

  • 60% say that saving for retirement is one of their top 3 goals.


Expat lifestyle

The 2021 edition of Expat Explorer finds that the majority (67%) of those who live abroad believe their quality of life is better now than in their home country or region. Additionally, more than half of expats (61%) say they have experienced little change to their work situation due to Covid-19.


Of course, many expats still move abroad with their families, and moving abroad still offers a host of benefits for children. Nearly half (43%) of expat children are perceived as having more confidence and a wider skill set since relocating abroad.

The UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Bahrain, and Malaysia are countries where expat children are observed to learn openness to new cultures​. Furthermore, alongside the Philippines and South Africa, India was called out by expats as a top location for children to make friends.

South Africa ranked 33rd overall (out of a total of 46 markets) and you can view the 2021 Expat Explorer league table here.


Links to helpful tools and guides:

Country and region guides

Guide to moving abroad

Expat money guide

Retirement calculator

Expat tax guide

Opening an expat bank account



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