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Where Expats (Don’t) Have To Worry About Finances & Housing

Three Southeast Asian cities are at the top of the Finance & Housing Index in the Expat Insider survey report — while destinations in Western Europe do not do well.

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The Finance & Housing Index measures expats’ satisfaction with the availability and affordability of housing abroad, as well as their financial situation and their disposable household income in relation to living expenses. Taking a closer look at the findings offers unique insights into life abroad in various destinations.

The results are based on the annual Expat Insidersurvey by InterNations, one of the biggest surveys on life abroad. In 2021, over 12,000 expats representing 174 nationalities shared their opinions.

The Winners

Kuala Lumpur ranks first in the Finance & Housing Index 2021, continuing its winning streak: the Malaysian capital also came first in 2020 and has consistently ranked in the top 3 of the index since 2017. The vast majority (91%) agrees that it’s easy to find housing in Kuala Lumpur as an expat (vs. 60% globally) — 60% even agree completely (vs. 24% globally). Housing is also regarded as affordable by an above-average share of 74% (vs. 42% globally). Another 29% — that’s more than twice the global average of 14% — even consider housing very affordable.

Costs in general don’t seem to be a problem: 64% say their disposable household income is more than they need to cover daily expenses (vs. 52% worldwide). An impressive four in five respondents in Kuala Lumpur (80%) are also satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally).

Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, joins Kuala Lumpur on the podium, ranking second. Three in four expats (75%) agree that their disposable household income is more than enough to cover daily expenses (vs. 52% globally). Over a third (34%) also give the local cost of living the best possible rating (vs. 14% globally). Expats also praise how easy it is to find housing in Ho Chi Minh City (88% of positive answers vs. 60% globally) and how affordable it is (61% vs. 42% globally).

Like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok has always done well in the Finance & Housing Index since 2017, even landing in third place in 2021. Close to half the respondents in Thailand’s capital (49%) agree completely that it is easy for expats to find housing (vs. 24% globally). And nearly two-thirds (64%) rate its affordability positively (vs. 42% worldwide). An above-average percentage(83%) also find that their disposable household income is sufficient or even more than enough to cover their daily expenses (vs. 77% globally).

The Worst-Ranked Destinations

In comparison, the situation for expats in several Western European cities looks unfortunately rather different. Dublin ranks last in the index for the fourth year in a row. Respondents are particularly dissatisfied with the local housing situation: 79% rate the affordability of housing negatively (vs. 39% globally). More than half (52%) even say it is very bad (vs. only 12% worldwide). Housing is also hard to come by for expats: over a quarter of respondents in the Irish capital (26%) do not agree at all that it’s easy to find housing (vs. 7% globally). Dublin does somewhat better in the Finance Subcategory of the index, but it still ends up in the bottom half of the ranking (39th out of 57 cities).

In second-to-last place, Munich receives results that are quite similar to Dublin’s. In fact, it is even the worst city worldwide when it comes to expats’ ease of finding housing: 72% rate this factor negatively, and close to a quarter (24%) even find that it is very difficult (vs. a global 23%and 7%, respectively). Over four in five (83%) also rate its affordability negatively, more than double the global average of 39%. Munich’s results in the Finance Subcategory are more average: 78% agree that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to pay for everything they need (vs. 77% globally).

Milan joins Dublin and Munich in the bottom 3. However, expats in Italy’s second-largest city are mostly dissatisfied with their financial situation: Milan ranks last for both factors of the Finance Subcategory. In fact, less than two in five expats in Milan (39%) are happy with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally), and the same share says that their disposable household income is not enough to cover all expenses (vs. 23% globally).

Find out more in the complete Expat Insider 2021 report.

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