2020’s most popular expat destinations and why

The countries with the most expats in the world are a good indicator of where the money is. Whilst it’s a good strategy to move to a country poorer than your own if you make money remotely, not everybody can. Plus, many are looking for more than just cheap living — they want to live in a place with better infrastructure, more internal opportunities and a safe environment.

The country that has the highest proportion of their population as expats is the UAE. In fact, only 11% of people living in the UAE are Emirati nationals. Dubai and the 6 other emirates are packed full of immigrants who have moved for the incredible salaries, high-life and booming modernisation.


This isn’t to say that this (UAE) is where most Brits move to, though. In fact, it’s far from the most popular choice. Australia is far and away the most common place to find British citizens, with over a million living in Australia.

Of course, this links back to political ties and having a close relationship with each other, despite being worlds apart. In fact, the culture is very similar too, which is why integration into Australian life is so seamless for Brits — once they get used to the sun of course.

Australia offers a lot of opportunities for expats. It has a growing SME economy, booming retail and construction industry, and an incredibly high wage. Of course, this is relative to the high living costs, but one can’t help feel although there’s more opportunity to save if they were to return to the UK one day.

This is actually why micro houses and van living is so popular for Australian residents, both expats and natives. Saving on living costs means you get to really leverage the high wages. Additionally, the weather and laid back culture of the country facilitates this perfectly.


Spain is of course a classic expat destination, especially for the British. Over 310,000 UK nationals live in Spain currently, over double the amount of France, which is the second highest expat destination for Brits within the EU. 

So, why Spain? Spain continues to be the laid-back, sun-soaked holiday that Brits quest for in their annual holiday. Only, moving there is incredibly easy compared to other exotic locations. This is for many reasons; reasons that will continue to exist in 2020 with or without Brexit.

First and foremost, Spain is close to the UK. To fly from London to Barcelona is a little over 2 hours. Flights are so regular that they’re cheap, and can literally be bought as and when without planning ahead. Secondly, Spain is relatively cheap. It’s not so cheap that it’s severely economically deprived, but property is cheaper, space is more plentiful and so on.

A key reason why Spain is so popular though is because the culture is extremely inviting. Sports are everywhere, so it’s a great place to retire if you love tennis, golf or football. Likewise, Spaniards on the whole speak a bit of English, though it’s clear that many Brits seek expat communities which are plentiful in Spain. Benidorm, Sotogrande and Mallorca for example feel although there’s as many Brits as Spanish there.


Vietnam is an increasingly popular place to travel to. More and more, people are adding it on their list of Southeast Asia places to travel, even over the ever-popular Thailand. For this reason, in 2020, we will likely see even more people set up shop and live there permanently.

Vietnam, like much of Southeast Asia, is very cheap. It’s an extremely peaceful country, but is yet to be overtaken by tourists unlike some communities in Thailand. Thus, prices remain low, and you get a more authentic Vietnam living experience.

Of course, wages are poor and business opportunities are not so great. Expats tend to move here when they have an online business or work remotely. This means that they’re making high western salaries, but spending it on the Vietnamese economy. 

Brexit may throw some curveballs here regarding EU expats, but ultimately it’s unlikely to affect current expats too much. Most expats will likely be offered visas or the right to stay longer as they’re already settled in. Likewise, with Brits only planning in the future about moving abroad, friction within EU immigration may not affect as many people as you would think. 

To put this in perspective, Australia has just as many British expats as the EU as a whole. Thus, when factoring in Asia and North America, the EU is only taking a modest percentage of expats. This is of course not to endorse a decoupling of European immigration policy — retaining relatively free movement will be a big part of the Brexit negotiations.

Jacquelyn Vadnais

Jacquelyn Vadnais is a global traveler, blogger, writer, author, and entrepreneur with a JD/MBA/LL.M degree. To date, she has visited 50 countries, lived in 8, and hopes to see a great deal more of the world.

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