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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The USA: Great Careers at the Cost of a Good Work-Life Balance?

Expats in the USA appreciate the great job opportunities and digital life. It is also easy to make friends, but safety and security leave room for improvement.

Top Findings

  • 65% of expats are happy with the local career opportunities (vs. 45% globally).
  • Over seven in ten (71%) find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally).
  • The USA comes in last worldwide in the Health & Well-Being subcategory (59th).
  • Only one in five expats (20%) is satisfied with the affordability of healthcare (vs. 61% globally).
  • 95% of expats find it easy to pay without cash (vs. 83% globally).

Good Career Opportunities

Coming in 34th out of 59 destinations in the Expat Insider 2021 survey, the United States performs best in the Ease of Settling In and Working Abroad Indices (26th for both). In fact, 65% of expats are happy with the local career opportunities, compared to just 45% globally — placing the country second worldwide not only for this factor but also in the Career Prospects & Satisfaction subcategory, just behind Ireland (1st). An Italian expat shares:

There are good job opportunities, higher income levels that allow for complete financial independence, and the ability to meet people from all over the world.

Around seven in ten expats are overall satisfied with their job (71% vs. 68% globally) and rate the state of the local economy positively (68% vs. 62% globally). On the other hand, a quarter of expats (25%) are dissatisfied with their job security (vs. 20% globally), and 29% are unhappy with the work-life balance (vs. 17% globally). Similarly, 23% of expats rate their working hours negatively (vs. 16% globally), even though working expats in a full-time position in the USA spend only slightly longer hours at work (440 hours a week vs. 43.2 hours worldwide).

Easy to Find Local Friends

In terms of settling in, the USA lands in 27th place in the Feeling at Home subcategory, with 71% of expats finding it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally). What is more, 66% find it easy to settle down in the USA (vs. 62% globally), and 70% consider the locals generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 67% globally). A similar share (72%) is satisfied with the general friendliness of the population (vs. 69% globally). A Taiwanese expat points out “the career opportunities and the easiness to settle in” as highlights of life abroad in the USA.

While 37% of expats find it difficult to make new friends in the United States (vs. 32% globally), 47% at least consider it easy to make friends with the locals (vs. 44% globally). In fact, more than half the expats in the USA (53%) describe their friends and acquaintances as a fairly mixed group of expats and locals (vs. 48% globally) and more than a quarter (26%) are mostly friends with locals (vs. 20% globally). Just 21% mostly socialize with other expats (vs. 32% globally).

Excellent Digital Life but Horrible Healthcare System

The USA performs worst in the Quality of Life Index (44th), coming in last worldwide in the Health & Well-Being subcategory (59th). Only 20% of expats are satisfied with the affordability of healthcare, which is less than a third of the global average (61%). And 19% of expats rate the quality of medical care negatively (vs. 14% globally). “The healthcare is expensive, and we are overcharged for almost anything,” shares a Belgian expat. It adds to the low quality of life that just over half of expats (56%) find living in the USA peaceful, compared to 80% globally. Another 37% rate the political stability within the country negatively (vs. 16% globally), and 15% do not feel safe in the USA (vs. 8% globally), landing the USA in a dissatisfying 54th place out of 59 destinations in the Safety & Security subcategory.

The healthcare is expensive.

On the upside, the USA ranks ninth in the Digital Life subcategory, with the majority of expats finding it easy to get high-speed internet access at home (90% vs. 79% globally) as well as to pay without cash (95% vs. 83% globally). A French expat points out the “ease of accessing WiFi” in particular. Furthermore, 92% of expats are satisfied with the unrestricted access to online services (vs. 84% globally). With a seventh place, the USA also ranks in the top 10 for the local leisure options, with 80% of expats satisfied with this factor (vs. 72% globally).

The Impact of COVID-19 on Expat Life

While the pandemic has changed the relocation plans of 37% of survey respondents on a global scale, it has had an impact on only 31% of those in the USA. Next to its effect on expat stays, the pandemic has mostly impacted expats in the USA in terms of their personal travel (28% vs. 28% globally), social life (27% vs. 24% globally), and their work or business (15% vs. 15% globally). Few see the biggest personal impact of the pandemic on their (or their children’s) education (1% vs. 2% globally), general health (2% vs. 2% globally), or business travel (5% vs. 6% globally).

More than half the expats in the USA (57%) use local news as a source of information on COVID-19 and related regulations, which is ten percentage points more than the global average (47%), followed by official government channels (50% vs. 48% globally). A lower-than-average share (35%) stays up to date through social media (vs. 40% globally). However, just half the respondents in the USA (50%) are satisfied with the official communication regarding COVID-19, which is 16 percentage points below the global average (vs. 66% globally).

Further Reading