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Popular Destination Cities For Expatriates

July 13th, 2017

5 Popular Destination Cities For Expatriates

Never before have so many people lived, worked, and built a life for themselves outside their country of origin. There are some 250 million1 people in the world today that are living away from home. And while they are scattered all around the world, there are some cities that they automatically gravitate towards.

These cities have something in common. They have vibrant economies that unlock employment opportunities. They might be well-connected transit hubs, or at the very least serve as gateways to bigger markets. And they offer good quality of life, paired with other attractions. Without further ado, here is Xpress Money’s list of 5 of the world’s most popular expatriate destinations.


Taking the top slot in Mercer’s Quality of Life Ranking in 20172 for the eighth year in a row, Vienna in Austria keeps its crown as a vibrant expatriate destination. Mercer had also found the city to offer expatriates the best quality of life in 2016 – where the city comprehensively beat out stalwarts such as Dubai, London and New York.

Popular residential areas include the hip Bezirke belt where night outs and Sunday brunches are on the doorstep. Alternatively, expats head to laid-back districts with soul – such as 3rd (Landstraße, 1030), 4th (Wieden, 1040), where camaraderie is on offer as you thread your way from the local bakery to your home.


It’s not intuitively the first expat destination you might think of, but this populous New Zealand city ranks 3rd on the Mercer list for expat Quality of Life in both 2016 and 2017. Auckland attracts expats for its technology and knowledge-intensive industries that employ thousands of STEM workers. It is also a powerhouse of trade-related industries that create goods and services for international markets3.

Expatriates can head to a new home in Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD), which is where all the city’s best bars, clubs and tourist attractions are clustered. The district also houses many of Auckland’s prominent businesses – which means work can be just a walk away4. For a somewhat more laid-back bohemian appeal, expatriates can head to Ponsonby, with its restored villas, relaxed vibe, art and street cafes.

New York

It may not rank at the top of quality of life listings, but the Big Apple is one of the world’s most iconic cities – and a favourite destination for expatriates. With its inimitable landmarks and world-famous grid of streets, the New York life attracts thousands of new people every year. In fact, there are more foreign-born people living in New York than there are people in Chicago5.

A list of New York’s attractions and landmarks would run to pages. Suffice it to say, the view from the Brooklyn Bridge, the neon glow of Times Square, the gritty coolness of the Lower East Side, the splendour of the Upper West Side and bohemia of Greenwich Village have all been immortalised in popular culture time and again.

Hong Kong

It’s not so much a city as a specially administered area, but its importance still sees it make it onto our list. Hong Kong’s population is around 7.2 million6, of which 4.6% is composed of expatriates – the majority of whom hail from Indonesia and the Philippines. The area serves as a gateway to the vast Chinese marketplace, making it one of the Far East’s most exciting business destinations.

Despite its small size, Hong Kong punches well above its weight when it comes to attractions. There’s obviously Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Peak Tram and Tower, and the Ngong Ping Cable Car ride on Lantau Island. The nightlife is legendary, but Hong Kong also has strong cultural credentials. From the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts to the Heritage Museum and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Hong Kong has something for everyone.


It’s been named the top Middle Eastern city for expatriates on more than one occasion by Mercer’s Quality of Life Index7. Its population of 2.789 million is 90% composed of expatriates – giving it the world’s highest expatriate to local citizen ratio of anywhere in the world8.

People from the world over are drawn to this vibrant city for its booming trade, service, hospitality and tourism industries. A series of freezones have cultivated hubs of expertise that serve larger markets across the MENA region. Meanwhile, a high quality of life, and the availability of first-world amenities and infrastructure make Dubai a perennially popular destination for immigrants.

From five-star hotels to historic souks, malls to museums, and even its very own Opera House, Dubai is investing in attracting the best talent from the world over – and it shows.



1. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1199807908806/4549025-1450455807487/Factbookpart1.pdf

2. https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/quality-of-living-rankings

3. https://www.aucklandnz.com/business-and-investment/economy-and-sectors

4. https://www.bournesmoves.com/international-moves/blog/international-moves/6-places-to-live-in-auckland

5. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/new-york-city-immigrants_n_4475197.html

6. https://www.go-globe.hk/blog/hong-kong-expats/

7. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/dubai/dubai-ranked-as-best-city-for-expats-in-middle-east

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriates_in_the_United_Arab_Emirates