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Expats Find It Easier To Integrate In Germany, Canada And Spain

by Phillip Morton, Investors

11 December 2008

HSBC Bank International revealed on Wednesday that Germany, Canada and Spain are perceived to be the easiest countries to settle in, according to the findings of the bank's 'Expat Experience' report.

HSBC Bank International said that its report, the third and final study in its 'Expat Explorer' survey, is the largest ever independent survey of expatriates, questioning 2,155 expats across four continents. The report examines the integration challenges faced by expats relocating to a new country by looking at the cultural and social differences experienced.

Expats were asked to rate their host country in four areas: whether they made friends with people from the local population; if they joined a local community group, such as a religious or sports group; whether or not they learned the local language; and if they bought property in their host country.

Among the most difficult countries in which to integrate were Australia, the United Arab Emirates and China. Australia ranked poorly on the number of expats who joined community groups; expats in the UAE found it difficult to make friends; and China scored relatively low for the number of expats who bought property.

Martin Spurling, Chief Executive Officer for HSBC Bank International and Head of HSBC Global Offshore, said: “We commissioned this independent survey to take a look into the lives and experiences of our customers who live across the globe and the transitional challenges they encounter from country to country.”

He added: “This final report in our Expat Explorer series focuses on something that is incredibly important to all expats – their ability to fit in to their new home. This is often the aspect that is most daunting, with many concerned about whether or not they will be able to make friends or feel like they belong in their adopted country. Through this survey we have been provided with a fascinating insight into our customers’ lives which will help us also to best adapt to their offshore finance needs.”

According to the survey, Canada is the most welcoming country to expats, with almost all (95%) of respondents claiming that they found it easy to make friends with the locals. This was followed by Germany (92%) and Australia (91%).

The United Arab Emirates was revealed to be the hardest country in which to make friends with the local population, with only half of expats living there (54% - the lowest score in the survey) advising that they found it easy to make local friends. Singapore also ranked lower, with 68% of respondents indicating that they found it possible to make local friends.

HSBC's survey found that almost half (45%) of all respondents said that they had joined a local community group as expatriates. Expats living in Germany were most likely to join a community group (65% of respondents), followed by around half of expats living in Hong Kong (53%), Singapore (50%), Canada (50%) and the US (50%).

Australia, despite scoring highly for making friends with local people, came last in the category, with just 38% of expats saying that they had joined one of these groups.

Expats living in Europe were most likely to learn the local language, the survey revealed. Germany came top in this category with three-quarters of expats learning the German language, followed by expats in Spain (70%) and Belgium (70%) who were also likely to adopt the language of their country of residence. Conversely, only one-fifth of expats in Singapore and Hong Kong (20%) learned the language of their new homeland.

France came out as a property hotspot, ranking highest in the category of expats buying property, with almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents stating that they had purchased a property in the country. Expats in Asia are the least likely to buy a home with India (6%), China (12%) and Singapore (24%) ranking lowest for purchasing a property.

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