Living for an extended period of time away from their home country can be an incredibly valuable learning experience for everyone in the family. Kids exposed to other cultures and diverse populations tend to have better empathy, and social and critical thinking skills, while adults can experience significant improvement in their career prospects and network. Here are four of the best countries for the whole family to live as expats.
Surprisingly, Finland tops the list of favorable expat locations for families. While it can be a challenging place to get a job and may require more second language skills than other locations on this list, it gets a high rating for children across health, safety, well-being, and educational quality measures. The local schools provide an excellent experience from both an academic and social perspective, and their strong emphasis on spending time in the natural world and prioritizing student health stand out as unique compared to many schools around the world. The climate and relatively challenging work visa system make this less of an attractive proposition for the adults in a family, however, if that is not a prime concern Finland is capable of providing a first-class quality of life for all family members.
Hong Kong’s appeal is multifaceted; a vibrant urban culture offers endless amusements and diversions with easy access to nature right on the doorstep. Inexpensive, accessible transport makes it easy for the entire family to get around the city and enjoy all it has to offer. Hong Kong’s bustling international business community provides an opportunity to grow your career and build a broad network, however, it presents the greatest opportunity to those who have strong second language skills. Local schools tend to also require at least some, if not fluent, second language skills, but excellent quality international skills pick up the gap. The STEMinn program at SAIS HK offers world-class instruction in essential subjects to prepare children for further study and careers at their choice of institutions around the world.
Australia is another great choice for expat families. While there is some regional uniqueness to the language use, a shared English language makes this an easier transition for adults and children. Local schools offer a generally high quality of education comparable to the US, and an active outdoorsy culture with many family-friendly activities makes it a fun and healthy choice for kids. Some families may find the unusually high number of venomous creatures and arid climate a challenge, and the location isn’t ideal for out of country travel.
Singapore is a leading choice for expats, with high safety ratings, urban amenities, and accessibility scores that appeal to many. It offers good quality education and is rated well for family and children’s safety but tends to come in at the more expensive end of the scale for childcare. English is one of the four official languages, making it easy to live and work in the country. The strong international business environment and wealth of culture and entertainment options makes this a great choice for adults, but you need to be doing well in your career to balance the high cost of childcare.
In general, Nordic and Southeast Asian cities tend to rank the highest for expat families. Finland and surrounding countries offer generally good quality of life and excellent educational experiences, with a more challenging work environment for outsiders, while Australia is appealing to dedicated English speakers, and Singapore and Hong Kong lead on the urban experience and career development opportunities.