Smog, so what? For expats, China has most to offer

John Phillips | Digital Editor for
Expats prefer China: HSBC survey

Despite concerns about pollution and slowing economic growth, China offers expatriates the best overall experience, according to a HSBC survey.

The bank's annual Expat Explorer Survey polled over 7,000 expats based in 100 countries across the globe and ranked countries on various measures which fit into three categories: economics, experience and raising children abroad.

China topped the list in 2013, leapfrogging from the seventh position in last year's survey and displacing Singapore – last year's leader – which slipped to the third position overall. High rankings in the economics and experience categories – second and third respectively – were behind China's ascent.

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"Despite the recent slowdown of China's wider economy, nearly seven in ten expats (69 percent) moved to China to take advantage of better job opportunities, closely followed by Singapore (54 percent) and Hong Kong (41 percent)," the report said.

The report showed Asia as whole was increasingly attractive due to high salaries, low living costs and ample opportunities for social activity.

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"Asia is home to among the highest paid expats in the world, where average expat remuneration packages are at least 15 percent higher than the global average - $74,000 per annum, compared to $64,000 elsewhere," it noted.

Southeast Asian countries, meanwhile, were the "most cost effective countries for expats to live in," which coupled with Asia's higher salaries underscored the region's allure.

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Thailand ranked first in terms of experience due to its "buzzing city life, shimmering beaches and mouth-watering cuisine," according to HSBC. In addition to the food and landscape, ease of assimilation also played a big role: "Thailand-based expats seem to have the best of both local and expat culture with more than seven in ten expats (76 percent) saying they found integrating into the local community easy," the report said.

In the economic category, Europe had its pull, with Switzerland leading the pack , edging past China with its high incomes and economic satisfaction.

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"[A] mixture of strong economies, higher earnings and better financial statuses allow nearly seven in ten (69 percent) expats in Switzerland to have more disposable income - the highest among all European countries covered in this year's report," HSBC said.

When it comes to raising children abroad, Germany offered expat families the most in terms of nurture. High rankings on education, quality of childcare and health saw Germany take the top position, while Singapore ran a close second based on safety, health and well-being.

— By's John Phillips; Follow him on Twitter @J_Phillips_CNBC