In the past two decades, Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines have seen a rise in their tourism numbers, thanks to cheaper flights, easy credit, and internet marketing. However, it’s not just transient travelers who are attracted to the region. The number of long-term expatriates from Western countries and East Asia has likewise increased, with more foreign nationals than ever before working and retiring in the region.
Here are just some reasons why the ASEAN expat population is experiencing its highest growth rates since the end of the colonial era.
1.) A combination of high salary jobs and low living costs
While the median salary and cost of living remains low in most Southeast Asian countries, their rapidly growing economies and the need of many businesses to attract top international talent has made salaries extremely competitive in some sectors, particularly in finance and tech.
While you do have exceptionally expensive places such as Singapore and parts of Metro Manila, in general expats can expect access to goods and services that are priced lower than they would be in Europe or North America. For both working expats and retirees, this means the money they have can go so much further than it would back home.
2.) Mild weather conditions
Southeast Asia’s location near the equator makes it a warm area, but thanks to prevailing winds and the currents of the Pacific and Indian oceans, it’s not as hot as the Middle East or North Africa. This makes the region’s weather mild by most expat’s standards, even with the occasional typhoon. Expats can leave behind their winter coats and move about in relative comfort, if they can deal with the humidity, which tends to hover between 70 and 100 percent in most areas.
3.) Well-developed infrastructure
Most of the ASEAN has increased its investment in all kinds of infrastructure, from roads and bridges, to education and healthcare. This has the cumulative effect of increasing the quality of life in the region and facilitating more commerce, something that most expats can appreciate. The added infrastructure also means a reduced risk of fatal illness, accidents, and misadventure. The added investment also tends to mean less violent street crime, overall thanks to the employment provided.
In short, ASEAN nations are safer than ever before. You may still want to invest in international health insurance from Now Health International or a similar insurance provider, as there are still definitely risks to be had when travelling to any country.
4.) Excellent cuisines for every taste and budget
Given that food is central to how most people perceive and experience their quality of life, this can be a more important factor than people expect. Southeast Asia is a melting pot of influences, with hundreds of distinct local cuisines as well as fusion cuisines based on Chinese, French, Spanish, British, and American influences. You will often find it hard to find such a selection of cuisines in most but the largest Western cities.
Every Southeast Asian country also has a vibrant street food scene in virtually every large urban center. From chilli crabs in Singapore to nasi lemak in Indonesia and Malaysia, to pho in Vietnam to kwek-kwek in the Philippines, there’s no shortage of exciting and delicious street foods for every palate – all for a reasonable price by most standards. There are street treats that everyone can enjoy and also some delicacies that the locals will probably just want to keep to themselves.
5.) Accessible beaches all-year-round
The beaches of Pattaya, Bali, Boracay, and more are accessible and enjoyable all-year-round, thanks to the mild weather we previously discussed. You certainly won’t be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder as you might in temperate and sub-arctic countries thanks to the abundance of sun, sand, and surf that expats can enjoy virtually any time they wish.
6.) Widespread English proficiency
You can get by knowing just English in any country in Southeast Asia. Countries such as Singapore, the Philippines, and Malaysia have very high English proficiency levels, and while not all locals may be able to speak it as well as they would want, you won’t have much of a problem getting yourself understood, outside perhaps for the occasional cultural misunderstanding. Even countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia have enough people with good English proficiency that expats won’t have a tough time getting around.
7.) A culture of tolerance
There unpleasant people in every country and in every culture. However, Southeast Asian countries have been a melting pot for so long (thousands of years, in fact) that accepting or at least tolerating those of different beliefs and ethnic origins is part of the general character of countries in the region. Nothing is perfect, of course, and discrimination does exist. However, even this is getting better with time, and most expats report truly enjoying their stay in the region.