Why Expats Are Heading For The Tiger States


From engineers to finance specialists, the “Asian Tiger” states – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – are turning the heads of expats. So, what is it about these four nations that makes them so attractive to expats, especially when compared to Europe?

 Cost of living

According to The Economist’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Asia is currently home to five out of the six most expensive cities in the world. In contrast, Europe, which had eight out of 10 a decade ago, has been reduced to four. This shift is indicative of the growth, success, and current strength of industry in Asia compared to Europe.

While a high cost of living might seem like a potential issue for expats, this might not in fact be the case. While the South Korean capital, Seoul, was ranked by Numbeo’s 2017 Quality of life index as the 34th most expensive city to live, the city is still more affordable than many other major cities including London (24th), New York (4th) and Geneva (1st).

Similarly, a lower rate of income tax in Singapore, for instance, compared to the UK (22% compared to 45%) could see expats on average £14,000 better off after tax. In addition, many expats are hired with an employment package that may help to reduce the financial burden of relocation, accommodation, health, transport, or education.

With the potential for higher take home pay, living in a major Asian city could see British expats reaping the benefit from higher salaries. Prudent expats will no doubt also be delighted to know there are many ways to save money and manage it more efficiently when living in an expensive city.


 As well as financial opportunities and the chance to experience new cultures, another important factor for expats is the environment. When seeking a location to move to, 60% of expats in Britain regard the weather as the number one disadvantage. It is fair to say that UK expats are likely to be keen to leave behind long spells of inclement weather, making Asia an ideal location.

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Taiwan’s newfound popularity with expats is not just financial. With beautiful countryside and scenic landscapes, expats used to London’s concrete jungle may be delighted to explore the hiking trails and views of the mountains in the warmer south of the country. With average temperatures ranging from 33 degrees Celsius in the summer, to 19 degrees Celsius in winter, and even snow at high altitudes, Taiwan offers a diverse climate for expats to enjoy and explore.

Known as “the garden city”, natural landscapes complement Singapore’s tropical climate. The average temperature is over 30 degrees Celsius and combined with very high humidity year-round. So, while heavy rain is a common occurrence, expats are unlikely to endure cold, grey days synonymous with a “British summer” and many more days ideal for exploring the country or simply visiting the beach.


 Health in the Asian Tiger states is well regarded among expats, with all four nations ranking in the Expat Explorer Survey’s top 15 for “experience of healthcare” – Taiwan (2nd), Hong Kong (6th), South Korea (14th) and Singapore (15th) – and above major European nations like Spain (21st), Germany (22nd) and France (24th).

South Korea’s healthcare system follows the British model with a compulsory social insurance system. This is a modern and effective system, but some procedures outside day-to-day appointments, such as dental care, or emergencies are not covered. These treatments may require private healthcare, which can become costly. As most doctors speak some English in urban areas, expats aren’t likely to face too many challenges while accessing healthcare.

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Rather than using a model like the UK’s state-funded system Singapore operates a hybrid healthcare system which combines government funding and patient payments to offer high quality care at a low cost. The result is one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

While having such effective healthcare available is a boost for expats moving to the region, Asia is vast and coverage may not be consistent across the region. For this reason, expats might want to consider having personal health cover in place to ensure they have access to the right level of healthcare for their needs.


Asia is well-known for the economic power of nations like India, China, Japan, and Singapore. The combined result is that Asia accounts for 40 percent of the global economy and by 2020 is projected to deliver almost two-thirds of the world’s financial growth.

Expats in Hong Kong and Singapore agree, as both rank their “experience of finances” in their respective countries’ higher than the UK (24th), with Singapore ranking at third and Hong Kong at fifth.

This is also reflected in South Korea’s continued economic development. Between 1964 and 2014 the economy has grown by an average of seven percent annually, making it richer than major nations such as New Zealand and Spain.

In contrast with the economic and political changes taking place in the Western world, Asia’s major financial centers have remained positive and continued to grow consistently for the past 25 years.

 Quality of Life

Economic strength has been key to the evolution of the Asian Tiger States and the result has been marked improvement in education, health and living standards in these regions, boosting the quality of life for expats in the region.

Natwest’s Quality of Life Index saw Taiwan leap to the head of the pack ahead of many more traditional expat locations in the region like Japan, Spain and Costa Rica. Singapore also reached the top 10, ahead of Germany and Switzerland.

Hong Kong features in the top five, with expats citing the booming economy and improved standard of living as reasons for moving to there ahead of more obvious destinations like Australia, Canada and America.

It also revealed that Singapore was the top choice for British expats. The Singapore government’s welcoming attitude towards immigrants combined with warm weather and the environment have made this a popular choice for those looking to leave the UK.


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