New survey reveals home truths about expat cost of living

A fifth of globally mobile employees says unexpectedly high cost of living in their host country would make them return home, according to a new report by AXA – Global Healthcare.

Image of till receipt and various currencies in coin form
The research into the experience of 1,352 assignees globally highlights how many expats find life abroad to be surprisingly expensive. It underlines the need for research and up-to-date advice for people considering a move abroad, with preparation key – especially considering exchange rate fluctuations.

Expat accommodation and education ‘more costly’

While 58% earn more on their assignment than in their home country, 17% report the cost of living is what they miss most. A fifth (21%) add that the higher cost of living would prompt them to return.Rent and housing put the most pressure on expats’ expenditure. Over half (51%) of expats say this is surprisingly expensive in their new home country.Four in ten also said that higher education was more costly than expected, with 35% finding childcare costs a more significant outgoing.

Resources to help manage your budget

Those in the United Arab Emirates found this to be particularly the case. Almost three-quarters of expats in the UAE said rent and house prices (71%) and higher education (72%) are pricier, 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.”

Health and finances

Healthcare is another concern for the expats surveyed. A quarter (24%) of those living abroad worried about the cost of treatment locally. A fifth (18%) of expats also said they would consider 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.” 

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