Which city is best for expat lifestyle and culture?

Culture and lifestyle continue to draw expats around the world, in their latest Expat Explorer survey, HSBC expat, rates cities for their lifestyle and cultural attraction.

Berlin city Christmas market
Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, New York and Paris are the world’s top cultural hotspots, according to HSBC’s latest Expat Explorer survey. But expats looking for a healthier lifestyle or a better quality of life, favour Sydney, Vancouver and Madrid.

Berlin is the world’s culture hotspot

Home to more than 700 art galleries by day and a world-famous techno music scene by night, expat Berliners of all backgrounds can find something to love in the city. An impressive 70 per cent of expats living in Berlin say it has a vibrant cultural scene. The once-divided city is now among the most open with more than half (55 per cent) of expats saying Berlin welcomes diversity, the third highest-scoring city in Europe (after Stockholm and Lisbon). 

Buenos Aires' diverse and rich culture

Second in the cultural hotspot rankings is the ‘Paris of South America’, Buenos Aires. Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital city is known around the world for its stately 19th century buildings and rich history.Expats living Buenos Aires relish these cultural opportunities, with 45 per cent rating its rich and diverse sightseeing and 67 per cent appreciating the vibrant cultural scene including the Teatro Colón and the modern MALBA museum.They also enjoy the culture through its culinary scene, notably the Argentine love of asado barbecues, with 44 per cent citing its great restaurants and quality of food, outscoring Spain’s food capital Barcelona (42 per cent) and Hong Kong (35 per cent).
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Hotspots for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture

All famous cities for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture, London, Paris and New York round out the top five expat culture hotspots. Across all three cities (62 per cent of expats in London and 61 per cent of expats in Paris and New York), expats appreciate the vibrant culture.Paris comes top for sightseeing, with 62 per cent of expats there praising the richness and diversity of its sights, compared to just 36 per cent in New York. The Parisian experience beats Barcelona (5th), London (9th) and Mexico City (11th).

Expats seeking a challenge 

But expats are looking for more than just the opportunity to get their fill of world-beating culture and cuisine. Worldwide, expats move to a new country primarily to take on a new challenge (38 per cent) and improve their quality of life (34 per cent). So for expats looking to boost their health and lifestyle, three cities stand out: 

Sydney – the active Aussie city

Home to more than a hundred Instagram-worthy beaches, Sydney is renowned for the active lifestyle and leisure facilities it offers its citizens.Indeed expats credit the city for improving their physical wellbeing, with 62 per cent being more physically active since making the move. Furthermore, 90 per cent claim their physical health has improved or stayed the same since moving.

Vancouver – fun-filled city for hobbies

Expats don’t need warm weather for an active, healthy lifestyle abroad. Home to beautiful Stanley Park and near to the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, ski resort Whistler Blackcomb, 37 per cent of expats in Vancouver rank the city as having great leisure facilities (second only to Sydney).In fact 49 per cent of expats in Vancouver moved there for a better quality of life and they are not disappointed: a staggering 91 per cent of expats in the city say their physical health is better or the same since moving. 

Madrid – Spain’s health hotspot

Expats in Madrid are both healthier and happier than before in their new life in the Spanish capital. Although the famous Spanish siesta might be declining in popularity, it still plays a major part in the working day, allowing expats to enjoy a more relaxed lunchtime routine than in their home countries. In fact, 54 per cent of Madrid-based expats feel happier (compared to 40 per cent worldwide) and 50 per cent report a more positive outlook on life since their move (compared to 41 per cent worldwide). Expats in Madrid are also more physically active than before (45 per cent), no doubt helped by the city’s many parks and 97 days of sunshine per year.Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC expat, comments, “There is a stereotype that expats move purely for their careers and for greater financial opportunities, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact it’s the thirst for a new challenge, whether getting to grips with a new culture or living a healthier lifestyle, that attracts expats abroad.“The world’s cities are filled with life-changing opportunities. Our survey reveals that expats are integrating with locals, learning the language and exchanging cultures, skills and ideas – making the most of the city they live in and becoming part of their new society.”
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