Spain Explained

Which country should you choose?

Last updated on September 13th, 2019 at 09:08 am.

The HSBC survey aims to give people an opportunity to see how others rate the country they’ve moved to. In this article we look at the overall results and summarise opinions on Spain.

If you live in Spain but are of a different nationality, what made you choose this country and not another one? For the majority of those moving here, weather is a key factor in their choice. The Spanish climate, proximity to the home country and the ease of making the transition feature in many discussions between foreigners.  

Many people who choose to live in Spain began by purchasing a holiday home. They got to know the area and the people and it was only a hop rather than a leap in order to make the move. Your reasons will vary enormously depending upon the stage of life you have reached and, of course, what matters most to you.

The HSBC survey aims to help people choose which country they would prefer to live in. The Expat Explorer: Achieving ambitions abroad, Global Report, HSBC  is the ninth edition of the annual survey and has been compiled from the results of surveying nearly 27,000 expats from 190 countries.

The majority of respondents to the survey fall within the 35 to 54 year old age group. This is not a survey of pensioners but one in which many younger people who have chosen to move abroad have participated:

18 – 34 year olds – 31%

35 – 54 year olds – 44%

55 +   age group  – 25%

The report is made up of league tables that focus on the categories of:

  • Economics
  • Experience
  • Family

It produces overall results as well as more detailed information into different aspects of each of these headings. The report is an easy read and along with the visually attractive website, it is worth browsing or perusing in depth. In the meantime we summarise some of the main conclusions and then focus on Spain’s place in the table.

The overall winners

For the second year running, Singapore comes out at the top of the table overall. It is ranked as the best place to live, work and raise a family abroad.  

The top 10 out of the 45 countries include:

  1. Singapore
  2. New Zealand
  3. Canada
  4. Czech Republic
  5. Switzerland
  6. Norway
  7. Austria
  8. Sweden
  9. Bahrain
  10. Germany

The top country for experience was New Zealand, the top country for family was Sweden and at the top of the table for economics was Switzerland.

Spain’s rankings

Overall, Spain was 16th in the rankings. It’s big downfall was its rating for economics which saw it coming in at 42nd. Anyone who has worked in Spain knows that it is renowned for its low salaries and this evidently extends to foreigners working there too.

On the flip side, Spain came second for the experience of living there and 7th for moving there with a family. Both very decent rankings when you look at the competition.

If we examine these statistics a little further we can see that there are very different outcomes within these results too. Under each heading there is a tale to tell.


It is very much the remuneration that is the problem in Spain and work/ life balance comes out well:

            Overall – 42nd

           Job security – 42nd

           Work/ life balance – 11th

           Career progression – 45th

           Politics – 35th

           Entrepreneurship – 42nd

           Economic confidence – 37th

           Wage growth – 45th

           Disposable income – 38th

It is a sad reflection on the job market here and the salaries that jobs command that hard working people can expect little financial recompense. That Spain comes bottom of the 45 countries for career progression and wage growth is sad but not surprising.

Many people here must have more than one job to give themselves a reasonable income. Professional development is almost unheard of and most people do not have any career ladder to climb.  


Experience of living in Spain is a completely different picture. Spain is second overall, tops the league when it comes to health and can be proud of its ranking for quality of life. Surprisingly the results were not so good for healthcare, but difficulties with finance come as no surprise:

          Overall – 2nd

          Property – 8th

          Healthcare – 21st

          Finance – 20th

          Safety – 15th

          Integration – 9th

          Making friends – 5th

          Health – 1st

         Culture – 5th

         Quality of life –  2nd

The survey found that 56% of respondents indicated that they moved to Spain to improve their quality of life compared to 32% of expats globally. It looks as though the majority achieved their ambition with 74% saying that their quality of life had improved in comparison with a global average of 52%.

For these expats at least, integrating in Spain did not seem to be a hurdle with 73% indicating that they enjoyed immersing themselves in Spanish culture. This is higher than the global average of 61%.


The final category, family, also sees Spain holding its ground against the rest of the world. It comes in at 7th overall and can be proud of its second place for social life.  

        Tolerance – 16th

        Social life – 2nd

        Closeness with partner – 23rd

        School quality – 24th

        Childcare quality – 18th

        Overall cost of children – 10th

        Quality of life – 8th

        Health – 12th

        Integration – 8th

If you go to the website, it enables you to compare countries with some very interesting results. If you compare Spain with the UK you can see that if you do choose Spain you trade in economic wellbeing for experience and family life. Tellingly, the UK does better on every economic indicator other than work/ life balance. Here Spain came 11th against the UK’s poor showing ranked at 31.

Against family and experience rankings, Spain takes the lead in almost every category. However, school quality and healthcare are given a higher ranking by those moving to the UK.

In the end, it is good to see Spain doing so well overall. It is the economic issues for people living there that are the main blight. You do not move to Spain to make a fortune and most people now know that. However, you do move to Spain if you are looking for a better quality of life for both you and your family.

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