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Cost of living would prompt a fifth of expats to return home

PUBLISHED: 12 March 2020 | LAST UPDATED: 17 May 2022

Research reveals that many expats find life abroad to be surprisingly expensive.

Independent research by AXA – Global Healthcare has shown that many expats find life abroad to be surprisingly expensive, with one-in-six (17%) saying that the cost of living is the thing they miss most from their home country and one-in-five (21%) going so far as to say that it would prompt them to return. This is despite three-in-five (58%) saying that they actually enjoy a higher salary since moving abroad.

The greatest source of pressure on expats’ wallets was found to be rent and housing, with more than half (51%) of expats saying this was surprisingly expensive in their new home country. Two-fifths (40%) of those surveyed also said that higher education was more costly than expected, while one-in-three (35%) found that childcare costs put pressure on their purse strings.

Having spoken with people in a number of popular expat destinations, AXA found that life is most expensive for those living in the United Arab Emirates. Almost three-quarters of expats in the UAE said that rent and house prices (71%) and higher education (72%) are surprisingly costly, while two thirds (65%) found schooling to be more expensive than expected.

Tom Wilkinson, CEO, AXA – Global Healthcare commented: “The cost of living varies massively around the world, and even across different regions in the same country, so it’s important on any international secondment to be aware of your spending and manage your finances appropriately. If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources online – and even apps available – that could help make managing your money a little easier.”

An expense that expats seem to be particularly concerned about is healthcare, with a quarter (24%) of those living abroad worried about the cost of treatment locally. A fifth (18%) of expats said that they would even travel to another country to receive healthcare because the cost of treatment in their new home is too high.

Tom Wilkinson concluded: “The key to being prepared for healthcare costs abroad – especially if you have a pre-existing condition – is to ensure that you have a good grasp of the services and facilities available in your new home. The standard and cost of healthcare will vary around the world, so it’s important to prepare yourself for the different circumstances you might come across. In countries where certain treatments are difficult to come by or particularly expensive, it may even be worth considering how international health insurance could help you to manage your healthcare needs.”

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.