“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home,” author James Michener once noted about visiting foreign lands. Expats, then, must certainly learn to embrace it all. Luckily, that embrace is heartily returned to those living abroad in the Cayman Islands, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Those are the three nations where it’s easiest to befriend locals, learn the local language, integrate into the community and fit into the new culture, according to the results of HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, which was released earlier this month.
1. Cayman Islands
“There’s no income or payroll tax, summer all-year-round, hardly any crime, and no pollution,” notes happy Scottish expat Steve McIntosh. “Grand Cayman has all the amenities of a city with the close-knit community of a town. That’s why most people who come here for a short assignment end up staying long term.”
The Cayman Islands scored well in all those categories, putting it first on our list of the Friendliest Countries. Seventy-five percent of expat respondents living there reported that they were integrating well in the local community; in Australia it was 72% and in the U.K. 73%.
“What’s not to love?” says Glaswegian Steve McIntosh about the Cayman Islands, where he settled and founded a staffing firm for financial and IT professionals, CML Offshore Recruitment, in 2004. “There’s no income or payroll tax, summer all-year-round, hardly any crime, and no pollution. Grand Cayman has all the amenities of a city with the close-knit community of a town. That’s why most people who come here for a short assignment end up staying long-term.”
McIntosh, who met his wife, April, shortly after she relocated to Grand Cayman from Minnesota in 2011, added, “The vibrant social scene attracts young professionals; the safety, schools and short commutes appeal to families. There are not many places in the world with such broad appeal.”
HSBC surveyed 5,339 expatriates in nearly 100 countries between May and July 2012. Respondents rated their host countries on a slew of factors related to economics, raising children and overall experience.
To determine which were the friendliest, Forbes isolated the results in four categories: ability to befriend locals, success in learning the local language, capacity for integrating themselves into the community, and ease in which they fit into the new culture. All play into the ability of expats to create a new support structure.