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Wanderlust: Expat Dream Destinations

If you could choose any place in the world, where would you go? The Expat Insider survey tries to answer that question and reveals the locations expats are dreaming of. Find out which pulsating metropolis everyone is longing for…

If you could just up and leave, without financial issues or practical considerations standing in your way, where in the world would you choose to live? Perhaps you already have a secret answer to this question — just in case you ever win the lottery or discover that a long-lost great-uncle has bequeathed you an Australian gold mine.

When gathering data for the Expat Insider 2015 survey, the InterNations team also wanted to find out more about expatriates’ dream destinations. Which global cities are they secretly dreaming of? The metropolises on the overall top ten list aren’t all that unexpected, but a closer look at the responses from more than 14,000 participants yields some intriguing results.

The Ten Most Popular Cities among Expatriates

  • New York
  • London
  • Barcelona
  • Sydney
  • San Francisco
  • Paris
  • Singapore
  • Dubai
  • Amsterdam
  • Rome

New York, New York! Unsurprisingly, the list of dream destinations for expatriates is headed by "the city that never sleeps" and the vibrant UK capital.

Though the survey population indeed includes participants from 170 countries, the top ten replies are clearly dominated by metropolises across the United States, Western and Southern Europe. With Sydney (#4), Singapore (#7), and Dubai (#8), three cities also represent the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in the French capital, it might come as a bit of a shock to see Paris ranking so high on a list of dream destinations. However, the survey was conducted long before the "City of Lights" went through some of its darkest hours. For the respondents, Paris was a tourist attraction full of charm and romance rather than a capital in a state of emergency.

Men Want to Move to Singapore — Women Relocate to Rome

Although New York City is the most popular destination among expats in general, responses may vary widely according to such factors as gender, age group, and nationality. Both men and women prefer the "Big Apple" to all other places worldwide, but the lower ranks of their respective top ten are by no means the same.

While women would pack their bags and move to Rome (#7 for female respondents), Berlin (#9) or Cape Town (#10) if they could, these three cities are missing from the ten favorites among the male participants. For the latter, Singapore (#5), Dubai (#7), and Vancouver (#9) turn out to be more desirable destinations of choice.

Study in Tokyo, Retire in Thailand?

Age also plays an important part in determining a city’s popularity: everybody’s darling NYC is especially beloved among expatriates in their late 20s. The youngest survey respondents — aged 25 or below — show a marked preference for Tokyo, which does far better among this age group than among older participants.

Mature expatriates, on the other hand, are longing for the sunny tropics rather than the nightlife and neon lights of Shinjuku: compared to the total survey population, the 50+ set is particularly fond of Bangkok and Honolulu as the dream destinations for best agers.

Homesickness vs. a New Home Abroad

Once the survey results are segmented by nationality, rather than age or gender, one can’t help wondering if most expats aren’t at least a little bit homesick. Quite a few nationalities seem to be dreaming of home instead of exotic destinations.

Among the Canadian respondents, the city of their dreams is actually … Vancouver, with Toronto following not far behind on fifth place. Next to NYC (#1), Sydney and Melbourne rank second and third, respectively, among Australian expats, and Amsterdam is the third-favorite city of Dutch expatriates, right after the ubiquitous New York (#1) and Singapore (#2).

Other respondents would simply prefer to move within their adopted country: those living in the US, for instance, call San Francisco their dream destination #1. Expats in Australia would opt for a life in Sydney first while expatriates in Italy, il bel paese, can’t resist the manifold charms of Rome.

Berlin Beats Munich by a Wide Margin

Last but not least: how do German cities fare in this poll? None of them has made the top ten, though on 15th place, Berlin does rank among the twenty expat dream destinations worldwide. Munich (#31) misses even the global top 25, and other German cities such as Hamburg, Frankfurt, or Duesseldorf are barely a blip on anyone’s radar.

However, Berlin has clearly won the heart of many an expat woman: the German capital is listed among the ten favorite destinations of the female survey respondents. It is also somewhat more popular among expats in their 20s than among the total survey population.

Munich, its perennial rival in the south, doesn’t show any special trends with regard to respondents’ age or gender — but it features disproportionately among Russian and Austrian expatriates. At least, the latter wouldn’t be far from their beloved Alps!

Can't find your city among the top 10? Check out all 50 Expat Dream Destinations!

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