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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Balancing Careers amid Financial Challenges in the USA

Expats find that the American Dream comes at a steep cost, with expensive housing, healthcare, and transportation.

Out of 53 destinations, the USA lands in 35th place in the Expat Insider 2024 survey. Despite shining in certain areas of the Expat Essentials (14th) and Working Abroad (22nd) Indices — clinching top 5 positions for both the local job market (5th) and improved career prospects for expats (4th) — the Personal Finance Index (41st) poses a challenge, with more than half of expats (52%) expressing dissatisfaction with the overall cost of living (vs. 39% globally).

How Expats Rate Life in the USA

Disappointing Quality of Life

Expats rank the USA 46th out of 53 countries when it comes to Quality of Life. Expensive healthcare (53rd) and safety concerns (48th) impact expats’ overall well-being. In fact, only 19% rate the affordability of healthcare as good (vs. 58% globally).

“Healthcare is not only expensive but also complicated to use.”  – Brazilian expat

Navigating public transportation in the USA can be tricky too: the country ranks 44th for Travel & Transit — with both affordability (48th) and availability (51st) of public transportation ranking low. Owning a car is often a necessity, especially in sprawling cities.

Settling In Can Be Bumpy

Regarding the Ease of Settling In Index, the USA has been falling in rank — from 19th place in 2022 to 24th in 2023 and now 28th in 2024. The Finding Friends Subcategory (31st) shows the worst results in this index, suggesting that the biggest challenge to settling in is social life (34th). Only 47% of expats are happy with their social life (vs. 52% globally), and a mere 38% find making local friends easy (vs. 38% globally).

Nevertheless, expats rate Local Friendliness (27th) mostly favorably. Around two-thirds of respondents (66%) agree that locals are generally friendly towards foreigners (vs. 61% globally). A similar share (65%) agree that it’s easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 59% globally).

“The people are very friendly, and the country itself is beautiful.” – Swiss expat

Shining Career Prospects

The USA receives some of its best results in the Working Abroad Index (22nd). A top-3 rank for Career Prospects (3rd) reflects the opportunities and growth potential available for expats. The Work Culture & Satisfaction Subcategory also performs well in 11th place: two-thirds of respondents (67%) agree that the local business culture supports flexibility (vs. 56% globally), while 65% are happy in their job (vs. 60% globally).

“I like the opportunities for growth, safety, and good accessibility to basic needs.” – Peruvian expat

However, long working hours — the weekly US average for full-time positions is 43.7 hours (vs. 42.5 globally) — and limited vacation time1 are factors that leave expats less enthusiastic regarding Work & Leisure (40th).

Efficiency in a Digital World

The USA holds the 8th spot for Digital Life, highlighting the country’s developed digital infrastructure. More than nine in ten expats (92%) agree that cashless payments are easy (vs. 83% globally). High-speed internet access isn't a problem, either (6th).

Even though the USA ranks 16th for Admin Topics, only 38% agree that it is easy to get a visa to move there (vs. 53% globally), suggesting room for improvement. Luckily, 45% find that dealing with local bureaucracy is otherwise easy (vs. 36% globally).

These factors place the USA 14th in the Expat Essentials Index.

The American Dream at a Cost

The USA ranks 33rd in the Housing Subcategory, highlighting the challenges associated with housing affordability (36th) and finding accommodation (25th). Around half of respondents (49%) agree that it’s easy to find housing (vs. 45% globally) — but 53% regard it as expensive (vs. 47% globally).

Speaking of affordability, the general cost of living in the USA lands on the lower end of the ranking (40th). Only 31% are happy with their living expenses (vs. 40% globally), while 54% are satisfied with their financial situation — same as the global average. Overall, expats rank the USA 37th when it comes to being able to live a comfortable life based on their disposable income.

“I dislike the decreasing affordability; housing is becoming extremely expensive and cost of living is outpacing average earnings.” – German expat

The Typical Expat in the USA

Further Reading

External References

  1. Forbes: Average PTO In The US & Other PTO Statistics (2024)