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Sunday November 3, 2013

Spain tops expat charts for integration and childcare

I’m always suspicious of expat surveys. Who are all these anonymous beings that dutifully fill in online questionnaires citing the good, the bad and the ugly about their host countries? I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever been tempted to participate in such a faceless, mass event and am never really sure what these surveys really prove anyway.

Still, cynicism aside, I was pleased to discover in the latest HSBC Expat Explorer Survey which drew from 7000 respondents that Spain topped 37 countries for quality and cost of childcare and came in second for integration, just behind Brazil. Somewhat puzzlingly it only came tenth for healthy diet – even China beat it – and scored 19th on work and life balance. What about the benefits of the Spanish Mediterranean diet and when it comes to juggling work and play, surely the Spanish gain brownie points for all those fiestas and public holidays?

Dismally Spain ranked only 34th under economics and 29th when it came to expat satisfaction with the local economy. Given Spain’s current financial woes and the sharp rise in the cost of living, it’s probably not that surprising. Despite scoring lamentably on all issues connected to financial wealth and security at least Spain found itself up the ranks for healthcare, quality of entertainment, local shops and markets and overall expat experience.

The survey also showed that in Spain adults and children found it easy to make friends, learn the language and fit into the local culture. By comparison the UK seemed to score poorly on many fronts, embarrassingly coming bottom of the league for healthy diet, performing abysmally on economics in 32nd place – only marginally better than Spain – and receiving the same score for disposable income while Spain took 29th position.

Of an overall league table of 24 countries – the other 13 were excluded for failing to provide sufficient date on raising children abroad – China curiously came first, Spain 20th, the UK 22nd and Ireland 24th. So although Spain might be in the doldrums economically, it’s still stolen a march on the UK in terms of expat satisfaction.

All the same, shouldn’t surveys of this kind be taken with a pinch of salt? So much of an expat’s view is based on subjective experiences and his or her own attitude towards new people and cultures. Much as I freely acknowledge that Spain is far from perfect (and how boring that would be anyway) I can’t think of another country where I’d rather live. Surveys can state what they like, but Spain will always be number one for me.

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