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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The USA Offers Great Career Opportunities for Expats — At a Price

Expats in the USA value the job market and their personal career opportunities, but they struggle to access and afford healthcare and do not feel safe.

The USA comes 30th out of 53 destinations in the Expat Insider 2023 survey. It ranks best in the Expat Essentials (13th) and Working Abroad (16th) Indices, even coming 1st worldwide for both the local job market and personal career opportunities. However, it performs poorly in the Personal Finance Index (42nd), where expats are particularly unhappy with the general cost of living (44th). The USA also lands among the bottom 10 worldwide in the Quality of Life Index (44th). Overall, 72% of expats are happy with their life in the USA, which matches the global average.

Questionable Public Transportation & Safety  

With the USA ranking 44th out of 53 destinations, the Quality of Life Index is its weakest point. The country ends up in the bottom 10 of this index for the first time in ten years. Expats are particularly unhappy with the availability (50th) and affordability (51st) of public transportation. For example, one in four expats (25%) rates the affordability negatively, compared to 15% globally.

Additionally, 29% find it difficult and unsafe to get around on foot and/or by bicycle (vs. 13% globally). Safety is not only an issue for expats who enjoy walking or cycling: close to one in five respondents (18%) feel unsafe in general, more than twice the global average (8%).

“You need a car to comfortably commute. Parking is hard to find and almost always costs something.” – Russian expat 

It’s Best Not to Get Sick

In the Healthcare Subcategory (52nd), the USA ranks second to last, only ahead of Ireland (53rd). More than a quarter of expats (26%) state that it is hard to access all the healthcare services they need (vs. 19% globally). Another 64% find medical care unaffordable, more than triple the global average (19%). The USA has unfortunately always ranked among the worst-rated destinations worldwide for the affordability of healthcare. It has even claimed last place every single year since 2018.

Not Enough Money for a Comfortable Life

Like healthcare, respondents are also unhappy with the affordability of housing (41st): 59% rate this factor negatively (vs. 42% globally). In fact, an expat from Mexico lists “high healthcare costs, high housing prices, and high rents” as some of the things she dislikes most about life in the United States. Luckily, housing is at least not too hard to find for expats (54% happy vs. 49% globally).

When it comes to the cost of living, more than half (51%) consider it too high (vs. 35% globally). This is one of the country’s worst results in years for this factor (44th out of 53). Another 31% say that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 27% globally).

A Digital Utopia

Despite the high costs for housing, the US ranks 13th in the Expat Essentials Index. This is mainly due to its performance in the Language (8th) and Digital Life (9th) Subcategories. The country has done consistently well in the latter category ever since it was introduced back in 2018. Expats are happy with the unrestricted access to online services (92% happy vs. 84% globally), find it easy to pay without cash (95% happy vs. 84% globally), and to get high-speed internet access at home (90% happy vs. 80% globally).

The Place to Advance Your Career

In the Working Abroad Index (16th), the USA ranks 1st in the Career Prospects Subcategory. Expats are happy with the local job market (64% happy vs. 47% globally) and their personal career opportunities (71% happy vs. 57% globally). More than seven in ten (71%) agree that moving to the States has improved their career prospects (vs. 59% globally) — 45% even say that they have improved a lot (vs. 32% globally).

“There are numerous ways here to advance one's professional career and become more creative and competitive.” – Canadian expat

Thinking Outside of the Box

In addition to giving their career a boost, expats also value many aspects of US work culture. They agree that the local business culture encourages creativity (73% happy vs. 51% globally), promotes independent work and/or flat hierarchies (65% happy vs. 46% globally), and supports flexibility (74% happy vs. 60% globally). Overall, the USA ranks 7th in the Work Culture & Satisfaction Subcategory.

Dismal Work-Life Balance & Job Security

But working life also has its downsides. The US ranks 47th in the Work & Leisure Subcategory. Expats are dissatisfied with both their working hours (20% unhappy vs. 16% globally) and their work-life balance (22% unhappy vs. 17% globally). Additionally, the hire-and-fire culture leaves its mark: 25% of expats rate their job security negatively (vs. 19% globally), with the US coming 46th for this factor.

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