Best Expat Locations for Kids

Man pulling kids on snow sleigh

Hannah Beecham  Monday, March 1 2010 10.18

Yes, But Will the Kids Like It?

Read on to discover the where in the world is best to raise a family.

HSBC Bank International undertook the largest global study of expatriate living and can reveal Spain, France and Germany are the best locations to raise a family.

Top survey revelations

  • The UAE and the UK are the lowest-rated destinations for expatriate children.
  • Expat children speak more languages and spend more time outdoors than in their country of origin.
  • UK ranks as unhealthiest country to raise children.
  • Finance centres are the most expensive places to raise a family.

This survey tells us three European locations - Spain, France and Germany - are perceived by expats to be the best locations to raise children. The findings from the survey entitled Offshore Offspring questioned 2,155 expatriates across four continents and focussed on the challenges experienced by families raising children while living and working abroad.

Expat parents were asked to rate their host country in five areas:

  • time their children spent outdoors
  • time their children spent studying
  • cost of raising children
  • number of languages spoken by their children
  • whether their children would remain in the country.

Where not to raise a family

The UK and UAE were the lowest-rated destinations amongst the expats polled. Furthermore, when asked specifically about children’s health, the UK was judged to be the worst location health-wise to raise children, scoring poorly across all categories - playing sports, eating junk food, playing computer games and watching TV. India was judged to be the healthiest country with Australia ranked a close second.

Cost of raising children

Spain, India and China are the cheapest countries in which to raise children, with half (55%, 50% and 50% respectively) of expats living in these countries reporting they experienced reduced costs for their children compared to their country of origin.

Where's really expensive

The survey also revealed that finance capitals are the most expensive countries in which to raise children – over four-fifths (85%) of expats living in the UK said they found it more expensive to raise their children, followed by more than three quarters (79%) of parents in the UAE, and two-thirds (64%) of parents in Hong Kong.

Active lifestyle

Generally, expats experience a more active lifestyle away from home and this is reflected in the experiences of their children. Almost half (44%) of expats reported that their children spent more time outdoors in their adopted countries. The Mediterranean and countries with wide open spaces scored highly in this category – Australia came top of the table, where more than three-quarters (80%) of parents reported that their children spent more time outdoors, followed by Spain (59%) and France (57%).

The three Rs

A third of parents overall said that their children study more since becoming an expat, with more than half (56%) reporting that it remained about the same. Expatriate children in India topped the table, with two-thirds (67%) studying more so now than before, followed by children in France (57%) and Singapore (42%). Only 10% of expats reported a decrease in study time.

Bi- and tri-lingual kids

Children living in European countries learn the greatest number of languages. Spain had the highest percentages of expat children speaking languages, with almost all (94%) speaking two or more languages. Germany and France also ranked highly, with 87% of expat children also speaking two or more languages. In contrast, just over one-fifth (21%) of expat children in Singapore and Hong Kong (22%) picked up a new language. Overall, almost two-thirds (63%) of expat children speak two or more languages.

Adopting the new country

Canada scored highly when parents were asked to nominate where their children would live once they had grown up. One-third of expats currently living in Canada believe their children will remain there and Canadian expats themselves also have the highest percentage (43%) of countrymen who expect their children to return to their country of origin. Australian and New Zealand expats are also fonder of their homeland, with 42% and 38% of expats respectively believing their children are more likely to return home. Conversely, close to half (42%) of expats living in China believe their children will return to their individual countries of origin.

“The expat community is so diverse and there are many factors that come into play when deciding to relocate to another country,” says Aaron le Cornu, Deputy Chief Executive Officer. “We have seen through this report that there are very different reasons behind a single expat’s choice to move when compared to those who have families to think about."