Moving to an unfamiliar place can be quite daunting for anyone, especially if it is their first time away from home. As a continent, Asia is vast and diverse, and is drastically different from Europe, North America, and Australia in many ways, be it culture, climate, lifestyle, infrastructure, safety, healthcare, or people.
In spite of the challenge of adjusting to these differences, the whole experience of relocating to Asia may just be the best thing to happen to you as well as your family.There are many advantages to living in this region, due to which people from Europe, Australia, and the Americas are voluntarily giving up their Western lifestyles to settle down here. So what exactly makes Asia a place worth living in?
First of all, your dollar can go a lot further in the majority Asian countries compared to other places. In general, people who move to Asia tend to lead a better quality of life, even if they move to the more expensive places such as Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. At best, you are likely to save a considerable amount of money on most expenses like rent, utilities, food, traveling, healthcare, and leisure. At worst, you may spend the same amount of money that you did back home, but you will definitely get a lot more for it. While education in the leading Asian countries is almost on par with that in the Western world, people tend to pay much less for their school and tuition fees here. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this, such as places with a high population of tourists and expats.
The second upside to living in Asia is the people themselves. With a few exceptions, Asians tend to be very respectful, warm, and hospitable people. They are usually very welcoming of foreigners, and eager to help them to integrate into local society. Many countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong already have huge expat populations, and being in regular contact with other foreigners can help make the transition easier.
You are also likely to get a high-paid job quite easily in many Asian nations today, as long as you have your paperwork in place, since there is a huge demand for foreigners with professional degrees or experience across the continent. Many people from the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia take up independent jobs teaching English to Asian students, as they require no certification and minimal experience. On the other hand, you will require specific qualifications to teach in a school, university, or recognized educational institute.
However, before you get close to packing your bags and heading for this diverse and exciting continent, it is important to figure out exactly what you’re looking for and to realize that even within a single country or region, things can vary drastically from one city or town to another. The popular expat locations in Asia have a lot going for them, but they tend to be more expensive, densely populated and polluted, and are often grappling with other issues too. If you’re looking for less well known options, here are ten places you might want to move to in Asia but probably haven’t heard of.
Malaysia is a melting pot of different cultures, beliefs, religions, values and people. The local population is made up of not just Malays but Indians and Chinese too. You’ll also find many expats from Europe and the US settled in this country. While this former British colony is still regarded as a developing nation, there is no doubt that it has been growing by leaps and bounds for the last few years, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Most expats in Malaysia choose to settle down in the capital, Kuala Lumpur (KL), as it is one of the main travel and business hubs for Asia. However, if you would prefer living away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, Penang may be a better option for you.
This tiny island, situated on the West Coast of Malaysia, can be easily accessed from the mainland by a 6-lane bridge. It has a smaller expat population compared to the capital, but some of the factors that attract foreigners to Penang include the cost of living, modern accommodations, the pace of life, and the cuisine. Moreover, there are a number of good international schools here, which is an added bonus for families with children.
Other less popular but great places for expats in Malaysia include Melaka, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching.
Thailand is popular as an exotic holiday destination for vacationers from around the world, and many foreigners are also now choosing to live in this country for a variety of reasons. Most of the well-paying job opportunities are available in the capital city of Bangkok. However, if you prefer a more moderately paced life, you may want to consider moving to one of the smaller towns like Chiang Mai instead.
Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is often regarded as the expat oasis of the country. This is probably why it offers several Western amenities and products. Chiang Mai has a distinct blend of historic charm and youthful culture. The relatively modest population of around 300,000 has a thriving student community. You will also come across many freelancers and consultants here, who have set up their establishments in this town. Teaching jobs are available if you have prior certification and work experience; however, these don’t usually pay well enough to sustain more than a very basic lifestyle.
For those who are adventurous, Chiang Mai is the perfect place to be, with its numerous Buddhist temples, captivating festivals, exotic food, and restaurants. Moreover, residents can often escape to the surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and lakes whenever they want to. The best way to get around is by renting a motorbike.
South Korea is steeped in ancient history, but is at the same time quite modernized. This country is very different from its neighbor, North Korea. Politically, the two nations don’t share a cordial relationship, but this does not usually affect the residents in any way. When it comes to technology, few countries are on a par with South Korea, which boasts of tech giants such as LG Electronics and Samsung. The automobile industry in this country is booming too. As a result, there is always a demand for qualified professionals from all over the world.
Predictably, the majority of the expat population live and work in Seoul, the country’s capital. However, many of them prefer settling down in Geojedo instead, the second largest Korean island. Many foreigners have been employed in this region by the DSME and Samsung shipyards.
This extraordinarily beautiful island lies off the southern coast of the Gyeongsangnam-do province. It is filled with scenic mountains, coves, bays, and beaches. The advantages of living in Geoje Island include friendly people, moderate climate, low living costs, safety, and a relaxed lifestyle.
Japan has a lot to offer to an outsider in terms of intercultural experiences, infrastructure, technology, living standards, and an education system. English-speaking foreigners take up professional contracts in this country to get a flavor of its homogenous society. Currently, it has an expat population of around 2 million.
Those who choose to live in the country’s capital, Tokyo, find themselves in a bustling metropolis, overflowing with activities, events, and opportunities. While there is plenty to see and do for people of all demographics, the city can be very expensive, even when compared to Europe and America. If you would prefer to avoid Tokyo’s crowds and traffic, you may want to consider moving to a place like Kyoto instead.
This city is unlike any other in Japan, as it brings the country’s history to life. You’ll actually experience Japan’s rich past while being able to access modern conveniences, transportation, and amenities. Kyoto has many schools, colleges, and universities, resulting in a high concentration of students in the population. Another advantage is that the cost of living in Kyoto is much lower than most other big Japanese cities. You are likely to spend at least 30% less here compared to Tokyo. Moreover, the city gives you easy access to places like Osaka, Kobe, and Nara. Other great cities for expats in Japan are Fukuoka, Osaka, and Yokohama.
Taiwan has become a very popular expat destination because of its economy, climate, people, and infrastructure. Factors like safety, entertainment, leisure, and overall convenience definitely work in favor of this sovereign state in East Asia.
While most expats prefer to reside in Taipei or New Taipei, the cost of living can be very high in these places. To avoid the crowds, traffic jams, and high bills, you may want to consider living in Tainan, one of the oldest cities in the country.
The weather in Tainan is subtropical, and it remains humid all year long. Several elements of Taiwanese culture have actually originated in Tainan, from religious practices to styles of music. There are quite a few cultural events planned throughout the year, giving residents a lot to see and do. Other interesting places for expats in Taiwan include Keelung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Hualien City.
Laos, the (not so) forgotten country, is a landlocked nation located in Southeast Asia. It occupies the north-west part of the Indo-Chinese peninsula and is surrounded by countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma. Many foreigners make this place their home for months at a time, while they work with NGOs or teach English.
While Vientiane (Viangchan) is the capital of Laos, it may actually be better for foreigners to settle down in the city of Luang Prabant, which has a unique mix of Asian and European architecture. The residents are known to be very friendly and welcoming, and in addition to the local people, the scenic landscape has a definite appeal for expats who want to get away from a hectic life. Another advantage to being in this city is the low cost of living.
Life in Vietnam can offer you a real taste of the East. True, it is a densely-populated country with a war-ridden past. However, in recent years, Vietnam has become a popular expat destination because of its weather, lively culture, and low living costs. The government is also making constant efforts to improve the country’s infrastructure and to support industry and tourism.
While most expats prefer to live in cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi (the capital), you may want to consider moving to Sapa instead, especially if you enjoy the idea of a quiet mountain life. Sapa has hundreds of miles of trekking trails, which are a major tourist attraction, and in general has great natural beauty and wildlife. Foreigners are often drawn to this city’s charming atmosphere, warm hospitality, and relaxed lifestyle, as well as the local cuisine.
Phnom Penh is a huge and bustling metropolis in Cambodia. It is home to a population of around 2 to 3 million people, which includes many expats.
In the last few years, many NGOs have established themselves in this city, creating numerous job opportunities for the locals as well as foreigners. This is one of the main reasons why foreigners from Europe and North America move to Cambodia.
The lifestyle in Cambodia is quite laidback and the pace of life is relatively slow. However, Phnom Penh does have a fairly decent nightlife, with its coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. In some of the establishments, local beer is actually cheaper than bottled water.
Generally, Cambodians are great people to interact with. They are warm, welcoming, polite, soft-spoken, and very down-to-earth. It is rare for them to get into any kind of confrontation, especially with foreigners. The cost of living in Phnom Penh is very low, even compared to other Asian cities. Many expats believe that they lead a better quality of life in this city and spend less on rent, utilities, travel, leisure, and entertainment.
The Philippines, also known as the Pearl of the Orient, is home to 7,107 islands in the east. The country’s economy has withstood various ups and downs, but is currently doing better than most of its neighbors. Many industries continue to grow and thrive in this nation, and there are numerous employment opportunities for locals as well as foreigners.
Manila is the capital and it has a huge expat population, which includes people from Europe, Australia, and North America. However, in the last few years, many foreigners have moved to Cebu for setting up businesses or seeking jobs.
This city has the perfect balance of urban attractions and provincial life. Cebu has all the conveniences that Manila has, such as great housing, schools, hospitals, malls, and entertainment spots, but at lower prices. In fact, healthcare in this city is said to be much better than the rest of the country. As a result, Cebu now has a growing medical tourism sector.
Some of the other great Filipino cities you could consider living in are Tagaytay, Subic, Davao, Baguio, Laguna, and Cavite.
Indonesia is a colorful and exotic archipelago, which stretches over 17,000 islands. It has the 4th largest population in the world, at a little over 250 million people. This country has a huge expat population, mainly from Australia and Europe.
The sprawling metropolis of Jakarta is home to most expats; however, living costs in this city are quite high. Surabaya has been gaining popularity as an alternative expat destination, because of its people, weather, infrastructure, and facilities. Since the population is much lower than Jakarta, you won’t have to deal with bustling crowds and traffic jams everywhere you go. However, the city is a major tourist destination, a busy port city, and is home to many offices, industries, and trading firms.
Have you lived in Asia as an expat? Where did you choose to move to? Share your thoughts in the comments!