The Cayman Islands tops this year's list of friendliest countries for ex-pats. (Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/GettyI …
The Cayman Islands, Australia and the United Kingdom: Those are the three nations where it’s easiest to befriend locals, learn the local language, integrate into the community and fit into the new culture, according to the results of HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, which was released earlier this month
The Cayman Islands scored well in all those categories, putting it first on our list of the Friendliest Countries. Seventy-five percent of expat respondents living there reported that they were integrating well in the local community; in Australia it was 72 percent and in the U.K. 73 percent.
HSBC surveyed 5,339 expatriates in nearly 100 countries between May and July 2012. Respondents rated their host countries on a slew of factors related to economics, raising children and overall experience. (Because countries with fewer than 30 respondents were deemed statistically insignificant, its final rankings include only 30 countries.)
To determine which were the friendliest, Forbes isolated the results in four categories: ability to befriend locals, success in learning the local language, capacity for integrating themselves into the community, and ease in which they fit into the new culture.
1. Cayman Islands
“There’s no income or payroll tax, summer all-year-round, hardly any crime, and no pollution,” notes happy Scottish expat Steve McIntosh. “Grand Cayman has all the amenities of a city with the close-knit community of a town. That’s why most people who come here for a short assignment end up staying long term.”
Expats living Down Under had much to praise about their new country—from the pleasant climate and easy social integration to friendly locals (including at work, where 73% said they felt welcome) and a better work-life balance than in their previous country.
3. United Kingdom
Despite low economic confidence among expats here, 71% are looking to settle here long term, with the same percentage agreeing they have integrated well into the local community.
This country ranked as the top destination for raising children in this year’s survey, but also received top scores for its friendliness of locals (praised by 62%) and social integration (felt by 70%).
5. New Zealand
Though it’s fallen from its top spot in last year’s list of friendliest countries, this country still gets high marks for its work culture, friendliness, weather and ability to organize local finances.
Despite 92% of expats in Spain being troubled by the economy, none are actively seeking relocation, and 71% say they have actively tried learning the local language (a key factor to integration), while 71% say their diet has improved since settling here.
7. United States
Since their relocation here, 63% of expats feel their quality of life has improved. In addition, 57% appreciated the climate and scenery, 49% said they found it easy to make friends and 74% say they’d like to stay here for good.
This country scored particularly well on quality-of-life issues, such as the ability to have a high disposable income, or to own a boat or yacht, as well as great weather and easy commutes.
9. South Africa
Ranking ninth overall out of 30 countries, South Africa gets praised by expats in a range of areas: great work-life balance, ease in organizing accommodation and healthcare, great weather and the ability to integrate well into the culture (as agreed upon by 67%).
Better quality of life, a satisfying social life, easy local travel and better housing than in their home country helped put Malaysia in fifth place overall—though many reported difficulty integrating into the local community (often because of a language barrier).
Read more about the World's Friendliest Countries