Hired, Fired, Fled

Read Charlie Raymond's calamitous, globe-spanning memoir!

Where is it best to be an expat?

The endless debate!

This question pits Hong Kong against Singapore, Melbourne against Sydney, London against New York, Dubai against Abu Dhabi.

But it’s a subjective question. There is no ‘best’ place to all people. I prefer Singapore to Hong Kong, but many people will recoil on hearing that, bleating about HK’s culture, dynamism and blah, blah, blah… You know why I liked Singapore more than Hong Kong? It was less claustrophobic than Hong Kong. It’s more open, with a better layout, and great street food at every turn. It also has a better climate – in my opinion – and yes, IT IS CLEANER (not hard compared to HK, and something Singapore’s famous for; but it’s not clean, as in hospital clean; it’s clean, as in as clean as you’d want a city to be.)

Singapore at sunset, with the famous Marina Bay Sands floating boat hotel complex on the right (photo: CR)

And then there’s London v New York. My oh my. That’s a big one. The old world’s greatest city versus the new world’s greatest city. I’m from London, so of course I’ll say it takes poll position, but there’s more than just bias – London has everything: history, culture, business, sport, tradition, modernity, great connections to European cities, green spaces, and much more. Don’t get me wrong, New York is incredible, but London pips it. End. Of.

As I say, that’s my opinion, and that’s the point – everyone has a take on this one. But where is it best to be an expat was the initial question, not what is the greatest city…

Out of my experiences, it’s hard to beat a few years in Dubai. For starters, salaries are better than most places, and they’re tax-free. For seconds, you have a wealth of countries within a 4-6 hour flight range. Now I know that’s like saying, “I like your book because it’s on a shelf with better books near to it,” but for Dubai that is the case. You can get to India, Lebanon, Georgia, or Kenya within 4 hrs. That’s some range of nations, cultures, and climates.

Dubai's Burj Al Arab

Dubai's Burj Al Arab


And then there’s life in the city itself. There’s no better word than ‘surreal’ to describe it. Dubai is full of surprises; it’s varied, modern, and exciting, but it’s also frustrating, incomprehensible, and unquestionably segregated. It’s a strange place for many reasons, but also very welcoming, safe, and easy to adjust to.

But is it the best place to be an expat? That’s still open to debate, mostly because I haven’t lived everywhere… who has?

The only way is to open this one to the floor.

Where is best, in your opinion?

Let me know.