In many ways, Asia is one of the most exciting regions to live and work in. It's home to some of the world's most dynamic economies, and its rapid growth offers opportunities that are just as enticing as they are plentiful.
But there's more to Asia than just its economic powerhouses. The continent also boasts some of the world's most exciting cities, offering everything from exceptional urban environments to breathtaking natural attractions.
The best countries for expatriation in Asia offer a good quality of life, a low cost of living, a high standard of education, and a thriving economy. Here are our top five:
Singapore is unarguably one of the best places in the world to live and work. It's an island city-state that has achieved an incredible level of success, economically and socially.
Culture: Singapore's culture is influenced by many other countries due to its history as a trading port, with many international traders visiting the country over the years. This has resulted in a unique blend of cultures that can be seen in everything from food and fashion to art and architecture.
The official language used in Singapore is English, but there are lots of different dialects spoken by locals too, such as Malay, Hokkien, and Cantonese, just to name a few.
Cost of living: The only downside to living in Singapore is that it can get expensive for expats. Costs of living are similar to the ones you can find in Hong Kong (although Singapore is 11% cheaper than the SAR), so the costs of food, housing, transportation or personal care can mount up pretty fast.
Healthcare: The healthcare system in Singapore is among the best in Asia and the world. There are several world-class hospitals with excellent doctors who speak English fluently and provide excellent care at affordable prices.
Job opportunities: Singapore has a great reputation in the world of business, so it has attracted many foreign companies that want to set up operations in this Asian country. It also has a highly skilled workforce, which makes it attractive for multinational corporations as well as SMEs. As the city-state has attracted an increasing number of expatriates post-pandemic, note that obtaining a work visa has also become increasingly difficult.
Hong Kong is one of the most prosperous cities in the world, boasting high standards of living and quality of life for its residents. While the SAR has drawn global attention for its particularly harsh restrictions during the pandemic, it certainly remains an attractive city in terms of work opportunities and quality of life.
Culture: The culture in Hong Kong is a mix of Chinese and Western influences. The Chinese influence is evident in the food, language, and architecture. The Western influence, especially from the United Kingdom as Hong Kong used to be a British colony, can easily be noticed in the architecture, street names, and the plethora of international restaurants, galleries and other venues. The local population is extremely friendly and welcoming toward visitors from all around the world, making it easy for expats to integrate into their new home.
Cost of living: Hong Kong is considered to be the most expensive city in the world for expats. The cost of living in Hong Kong is among the highest in Asia, with prices comparable to cities like London, Geneva or New York.
Healthcare: Hong Kong's healthcare system is famous for its efficiency and high quality. It boasts the world's highest life expectancy in 2021, according to Worldometers, and was ranked the second most efficient healthcare system in the world in 2020 by Bloomberg. A unique feature of Hong Kong's healthcare system is that it has both excellent public and private facilities.
Job opportunities: The job market in Hong Kong is highly competitive. The city is home to many multinational corporations, and its high living costs mean that wages are generally higher than in other Asian countries. This makes it an attractive proposition for expats wanting to relocate there. The most popular industries for foreigners include finance, engineering, IT, and logistics.
Thailand has a lot to offer for expats. From the tropical island of Phuket and the bustling capital, Bangkok, to the highlands of Chiang Mai and the beaches of Koh Samui, there are plenty of places to choose from. Thailand's expat community is dispersed over a large area of the country, but most are found in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya.
Culture: Thai people are generally friendly and helpful towards foreigners. The most obvious difference between living in Thailand and other countries is the language. Not all Thai people can speak English, so you would have to master some basic Thai to get around in your everyday life. If you want to learn Thai, there are plenty of resources available online as well as at language schools in Bangkok.
Cost of living: The cost of living in Thailand is relatively low compared to other developed countries. Accommodation costs are among the lowest in the world, while food and drink are also relatively cheap by international standards.
Healthcare: Numerous expat websites and magazines have praised Thailand as one of the best places to retire and start a new life as an expatriate. They highlight its excellent healthcare system, which is known for its affordability and high quality. For medical care, some of the best hospitals in Bangkok are Bangkok Hospital, Samitivej Hospital, Phyathai Sriracha, BNH Hospital, or Bumrungrad International Hospital
Job opportunities: Thailand has a strong economy with an abundance of job opportunities across all industries. As well as being a popular retirement destination, Thailand also attracts young professionals who come to work in its many industries, such as technology, manufacturing, and tourism.
The United Arab Emirates: zoom on Dubai
Situated in the Middle East and southwest Asia, Dubai is a popular expat destination due to its tax-free salary packages, international lifestyle, and proximity to Europe and Asia. It attracts expats from all over the world looking for a better quality of life.
Culture: Dubai has been described as one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with expats from all walks of life making up its population. This means there are plenty of opportunities for cultural exchange and learning about other people's beliefs, customs, and traditions.
The UAE is a Muslim country, so it's important to understand some basic Islamic traditions before you arrive in Dubai. You'll find halal food on every street corner, and prayer times are strictly observed.
Cost of living: While salaries in Dubai tend to be higher than in other parts of the Middle East, so too are living costs. Rental prices vary depending on the area of Dubai, but generally speaking, the most expensive areas are Downtown Dubai, Business Bay and Emirates Hills. Rents tend to be cheaper in International City and Discovery Gardens.
Healthcare: Dubai's healthcare is as world-class as you would expect from a city that has been voted the most livable city in the MENA region for 2022, together with Abu Dhabi. The city offers a range of excellent health care options for expats and residents alike, from private clinics to government hospitals.
Job opportunities: The city is known as a hub for international business, commerce, finance, and tourism. It is also a major transport hub with one of the busiest airports in the world.
Japan is a country that has a lot to offer expats. It’s a safe country with low crime rates, it has low unemployment, and it’s one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
Culture: The culture in Japan is unique and different from the rest of the world. It's not just about food and language; it's about the way people think and act. For example, Japanese people are known for their polite and formal behaviour. They tend to keep a distance from each other in public places, but this doesn't mean they don't like to talk—just that they prefer not to get too close. This can be confusing for some expats who come from more open societies where people interact freely with each other regardless of gender or age.
Cost of living: The prices of real estate, healthcare, and food are all higher than in most Western countries. However, most expats find that they are earning more than they did in their home countries, and it is possible to live comfortably on a single income.
But if you live outside of these major cities, you can save money on rent and food. Many expats choose to live in smaller towns like Takayama or Matsumoto. These towns have a lot of charm and offer great hiking opportunities for expats who are looking for an outdoor adventure.
Healthcare: Japan is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to healthcare. The country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world and a very low infant mortality rate. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that Japan is at the forefront of medical research and technology.
Job opportunities: Japan has a very low unemployment rate and has a high-quality working environment with a strong sense of corporate culture and a large pool of highly skilled workers. Expats looking for job opportunities in Japan will be pleased to learn that there are plenty of options out there. From teaching positions to managerial roles, there are many different careers that expats can pursue in Japan.
Asia is a continent with a wealth of unique experiences and opportunities to offer. It's also home to some beautiful cities and friendly people, making it one of the best destinations for expatriates looking to work or live abroad.
In fact, its dynamism and potential make it one of the hottest areas in the world today. If you're thinking about making the move overseas but haven't yet selected a destination, then no doubt you'll find plenty here to consider.
If you are planning to relocate to Asia, APRIL International offers international health insurance plans in most locations. Don’t hesitate to talk to one of our advisors – they will be happy to help you understand how the healthcare system works in your new country of destination and create an insurance plan to suit your needs and budget.