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Forget FOMO: the top countries people wouldn’t dream of leaving

By April 10, 2024FinGlobal

Forget FOMO: the top countries people wouldn’t dream of leaving

April 10, 2024


Aweh, braai-loving boetjies and sjoe-sjoe sisters! Feeling that pang of “grass is greener” syndrome, but every lawn you peek at seems riddled with potholes and naysayers? Before you pack your rooibos and bid farewell to biltong, we’ve got something for you. And it’s not your average “top 10 emigration countries” story. We’re diving deep into the hidden gems, the “lekker bly” paradises, where even the most jaded South African might just say, “Nah, bru, I’m chuffed right here!” So, grab your sunblock (and maybe a dictionary, just in case), because we’re about to embark on a journey to uncover the hidden havens where South Africans are thriving, not just surviving.

Ready? Let’s go!

What are the top 10 countries people do not want to emigrate from?

It’s important to remember that the human desire to emigrate is complex and individual, and generally speaking, the rankings for most popular countries in the world can shift based on methodology and factors considered. However, based on a number of recent studies analysing emigration data, some countries consistently show lower emigration rates than others, suggesting their citizens have, in fact, decided that their grass is greener and that they have a lot going for themselves right at home:

1. United Arab Emirates:

Imagine Disneyland for adults, but with real money trees and oil pipelines instead of rollercoasters. That’s the UAE, where more people choose to stay put than a gecko on a flytrap. Think high life, beaches, and enough sunshine to make even a loadshedding schedule blush. Just don’t get caught building sandcastles in the wrong spot – they take their sandcastles seriously here (apparently, they’re made of diamonds or something?). Boasting a high quality of life, wealth, and economic opportunities, the UAE leads the charge with 99.37% of its population choosing to stay.

2. Finland:

Picture a land where happiness flows freely like free-range salmon (because, yes, they have free-range salmon) and saunas are practically national monuments. That’s Finland, where citizens are chillaxed like penguins on ice. Don’t be surprised if you find them calmly sipping glögg while watching the Northern Lights paint the sky. Just remember, talking about the weather is a social faux pas – apparently, it’s always beautiful (they must have a good PR team). Renowned for its happiness and strong social safety net, Finland attracts many and retains its citizens with a satisfying lifestyle.

3. Denmark:

Think bicycles, hygge (it’s a real thing, look it up!), and pastries that would make Marie Antoinette jealous. Denmark is where work-life balance isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a way of life. Just don’t expect everyone to be your BFF right away – they’re a bit like their pastries, flaky on the outside, but delicious once you get to know them (and learn how to pronounce “smørrebrød”). Offering high living standards, good work-life balance, and robust social programs, Denmark fosters a low emigration rate.

4. Switzerland:

Mountains, chocolate, and neutrality – what more could you ask for? Switzerland is where life is as smooth as their watches (and hopefully their banks too). Just remember, yodeling is an art form, not a casual party trick (unless you want to offend some very well-armed cheese enthusiasts). Combining stunning landscapes, economic stability, and a high quality of life, Switzerland keeps its citizens content.

5. Iceland:

Think volcanoes, glaciers, and enough geothermal pools to make a mermaid jealous. Iceland is where nature puts on a show so epic, you’ll forget about your phone (probably because there’s no signal anyway). Just don’t be surprised if you encounter some grumpy-looking trolls – they’re just protecting their turf (and their delicious puffin snacks). With its unique natural beauty, strong social welfare system, and relatively small population, Iceland offers a desirable environment.

6. Singapore:

This city-state is like a futuristic playground, with skyscrapers that make Tokyo blush and a food scene that’ll tantalise your taste buds more than a braai competition. Just remember, chewing gum is illegal (don’t ask, it’s a long story), and littering will earn you a hefty fine (enough to buy a lifetime supply of durian, which, trust me, you might not want). This economic powerhouse also provides a high quality of life, efficient infrastructure, and strong social mobility, leading to low emigration.

7. Norway:

Think fjords, Vikings, and enough seafood to make even mermaids jealous. Norway is where nature meets Nordic cool in a way that’ll make you want to ditch your car and become a lumberjack (or at least buy a really good axe). Just be prepared for the occasional polar bear encounter – they’re not known for their table manners. Famous for its natural beauty, high living standards, and strong social safety net, Norway retains much of its population.

8. Austria:

Sound of music, schnitzel, and scenery that’ll make your Instagram followers weep with envy. Austria is where history and beauty waltz hand-in-hand, creating a postcard-perfect paradise. Just don’t yodel in public (see Switzerland, lesson learned). Featuring beautiful scenery, cultural richness, and a stable economy, Austria attracts and retains its citizens.

9. Sweden:

Think IKEA gone wild, with a welfare system that would make even Bernie Sanders jealous. Sweden is where everyone gets a fair shot (and a free healthcare plan). Just be prepared for some serious small talk awkwardness – Swedes are famously reserved (but they’ll happily share their fika cookies, so there’s that). Offering a strong social safety net, high living standards, and progressive policies, Sweden fosters a low emigration rate.

10. Netherlands:

Think tulips, bicycles, and canals that make Venice look like a puddle. The Netherlands is where everyone gets around on two wheels (even the Queen!), and the pace of life is as mellow as their Gouda cheese. Just don’t be surprised if they correct your English – they’re a multilingual bunch who take their language skills seriously (almost as seriously as their stroopwafels). With a strong economy, innovative culture, and emphasis on work-life balance, the Netherlands keeps its citizens right at home where they belong.

What are the top five countries for South African expats to live in?

Determining the “top 5” emigration countries for South African expats is obviously subjective, as individual preferences and priorities vary greatly. However, based on recent trends, reports, and factors attractive to South Africans emigrating, here are our top five popular destinations with their pros and cons:

1. Australia:

Imagine endless beaches, sunshine that’ll melt even your braai tongs, and enough kangaroos to make a Springbok nervous. It’s like South Africa with a slightly different accent and (hopefully) fewer loadsheddings. Just be prepared to explain “braai” a million times and master the art of “shrimp on the barbie” (because apparently, they call prawns something else down under).

  • Pros: Strong economy, familiar language and culture, diverse landscapes, good work-life balance, large South African community.
  • Cons: High cost of living, long travel distance from South Africa, competitive job market.

2. United Kingdom:

Fancy swapping your braai tongs for a fancy accent and your bakkie for a double-decker bus? The UK might be your cuppa tea. You’ll find history around every corner, pubs with more charm than a Springbok jersey, and a love for queuing that would make even a traffic jam in Joburg jealous. Just remember, the weather is about as predictable as a politician’s promises, and the cost of living will make you miss your Ouma’s home-cooked meals (even if they are mostly pap en wors).

  • Pros: Strong historical and cultural ties, established South African community, access to European travel, diverse job market.
  • Cons: High cost of living, competitive job market, recent political and economic uncertainties, potential visa challenges.

3. New Zealand:

Picture this: mountains that make Table Mountain look like a molehill, sheep outnumbering humans, and a Lord of the Rings-worthy landscape that’ll make your inner hobbit squeal with delight. New Zealand is the ultimate escape for nature lovers, with a relaxed vibe that’ll make you forget all about Eskom’s drama. Just be prepared for the isolation (think Mordor without the orcs), and the fact that finding a decent braai stand is harder than finding a decent politician (ouch, that one hurts).

  • Pros: Beautiful natural landscapes, peaceful and safe environment, high quality of life, strong social safety net.
  • Cons: Smaller economy and job market, limited career opportunities in certain fields, relatively isolated location.

4. Portugal:

Craving beaches, sunshine, and a golden visa that lets you waltz into Europe? Portugal might be your “saudade” soulmate. You’ll find wine that’ll make you forget pinotage, pastel-coloured towns that’ll make your Instagram explode, and a laid-back vibe that’ll make you want to siesta all day (don’t worry, we won’t judge). Just remember, the language might be harder to master than a boerewors roll-up, and the pace of life can be slower than a snail on valium (but hey, what’s the rush, anyway?).

  • Pros: Golden visa program, relatively affordable cost of living, good weather, growing tech industry, friendly and welcoming culture.
  • Cons: Language barrier, lower average salaries compared to some other options, limited career opportunities in certain fields.

5. Mauritius:

Think turquoise waters, powdery beaches, and enough luxury resorts to make even a billionaire blush. Mauritius is the ultimate island paradise, with spices that’ll tantalise your taste buds and activities that’ll make you forget about your worries (except maybe the cost of everything). Just bear in mind, paradise ain’t cheap, and the island life can be a bit, well, island-y (think limited career opportunities and a distinct lack of Spur).

  • Pros: Island paradise with beautiful beaches, relaxed lifestyle, investment opportunities, growing tourism industry.
  • Cons: High cost of living for certain items, limited job market outside of tourism, potential for isolation, potential for natural disasters.

Remember, these are just starting points. Thoroughly research each country based on your individual needs, priorities, and circumstances before making any decisions. Be realistic in your research and consider factors like:

  • Visa requirements and ease of immigration: Different countries have varying visa processes and requirements.
  • Cost of living: Compare the cost of living in different countries, including housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.
  • Job market: Research job opportunities in your field and the overall economic climate of each country.
  • Language and culture: Consider the language barrier and how easily you can adapt to the local culture.
  • Personal preferences: Think about your desired lifestyle, climate, and access to amenities.

Ultimately, the best country for you to immigrate to will depend on your unique goals and priorities. Good luck with your search!

Read more:

FinGlobal: cross-border financial specialists for South African expats

While we can’t tell you which country is the best for you to relocate to, we can tell you that the best way to migrate your finances is through FinGlobal. We offer a full suite of cross-border financial services for South African expats, designed to move your money in a cost-effective, time-efficient and tax-compliant manner. From tax clearance, to tax emigration, foreign exchange and South African retirement annuity withdrawals, we’re ready to help, whatever you need.

To find out more about our convenient, secure services, leave your contact details below and one of our dedicated consultants will be in touch soon.

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