Top Countries for Expat Families

Last Updated Dec 20, 2010 1:27 PM EST

Every year my husband pushes us to consider moving abroad. I'm not convinced this is the best time for us to take such a step. I love to travel but we have small kids and I worry about their well-being. Turns out my fears are completely unfounded. Expat children actually fare better than those living at home.

According to a recent survey by HSBC Bank International, children living abroad benefit from better education, higher safety levels and improved health and well-being. These little ones are also more likely to learn a foreign language (84%), play more sports (47%) and spend additional time with their families (53%). The downside for families is that the cost of childcare and expense of raising kids is likely to increase with a move to another country.

So where should you move if you're interested in the expat life? The key to happiness (and controlling your expenses) seems to be choosing the right location. Here is HSBC's official overall rankings of best countries for expat families:
  1. Belgium
  2. Spain
  3. France
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Germany
  6. Canada
  7. Australia
  8. Netherlands
  9. China
  10. Singapore
  11. United Arab Emirates
  12. Qatar
  13. United States
  14. Unites Kingdom
As you can see, Belgium tops the list. Eighty one percent of surveyed families agree that they've seen an increase in the standard of education compared with their native country. Sixty eight percent say the quality of childcare has improved, as well. Belgium-based expat parents also benefit from some of the cheapest childcare and 65% of participants report paying less than they did at home.

The rest of continental Europe scored close behind Belgium with Spain coming in at No. 2, France at No. 3 and Germany at No. 5.

The worst country for expats is the United Kingdom. Why? It ranks most expensive for childcare and the overall cost of raising children. Kids are also the least active among the surveyed locations in the UK.

Thinking about a move to Asia or the Middle East? If so, Hong Kong is a very attractive destination for families. Not only is childcare considered relatively inexpensive (No. 5) and of high quality (No. 2), but families also report their children as having an easy time adjusting to their new country.

If you wanted to look just at cost and quality of childcare, check out page 8 of the survey for those rankings. I think this is a pretty important chart since families may want to negotiate more money if they are asked to move to a high cost country, including the UK, Canada or Australia.

Parents will also want to check out page 11 of the survey since it shows the percentage of families who feel comfortable sending their kids to local versus international schools in each country. Not so surprisingly, those living in Australia, Canada and Belgium feel comfortable enrolling their kinder in local programs. The majority of mothers and fathers living in China, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Singapore tend to send their little ones to international schools.

As for me, I think I may now seriously consider my husband's next foreign opportunity. That is, provided it isn't in the UK.

Would you like to move your family abroad?

Stacey Bradford is the author of the The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
My Collection of Passport Stamps image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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  • Stacey Bradford

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