As a young professional, a career with opportunities for travelling the world can be very exciting.
Not only does it offer you a chance to experience the thrill of living in another country but it can also give you a hefty advantage over other colleagues: life experience for the CV.
Every country varies in terms of the potential for career enhancement and personal development with some places having more to offer than others.
Selecting the right location can bring some big rewards financially as well as an improvement to your quality of life, standard of living and global outlook.
In this guide we’ll be looking at the top ten countries for ambitious 20 and 30-somethings to set up home.
- 1 The Ten Best Places for Young Professionals
- 1.1 USA
- 1.2 Australia
- 1.3 Dubai (UAE)
- 1.4 Hong Kong
- 1.5 Vietnam
- 1.6 Germany
- 1.7 Brazil
- 1.8 Thailand
- 1.9 Argentina
- 1.10 Sweden
- 2 Our Verdict on the Best Countries for Young Professionals
The Ten Best Places for Young Professionals
You might not get to choose where your career takes you…
But if you do, or if opportunity presents itself, each of these locations has some tremendous advantages that will appeal to the young, hungry and ambitious.
Let’s get down to the list!
Tip: If you have already made the decision to venture overseas, remember to check out our to-do list for leaving the UK!
The land of opportunity didn’t get its name by accident. The USA offers plenty of great choices for young professionals on the move. From New York, Boston and Washington on the east coast to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle on the west, America has a thriving and diverse economy that supports both traditional conglomerates as well as start-ups and entrepreneurship.
The country is vast and the states varied in terms of culture, landscape, climate and the people so there is no doubt that there is somewhere perfect for any expat looking to further a career stateside.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in USA
Huge and diverse opportunities: America is a huge nation with some of the world’s largest companies and most innovative and exciting entrepreneurs. The US believes and invests in the ‘little guy’ making start-ups of every kind very feasible.
Easy transition: Culturally there is nowhere more similar to the UK than the US. There is a shared language, history and social movement. British expats are very welcome in the country and it is one of the easiest places to make a second home.
Variety: Again, depending upon what you are looking for, America has something to offer everyone. From the sun-kissed beaches of Florida, glamourous lights of the big cities of New York and L.A. to the verdant swathes of New England, mountainous Colorado and sultry desert of Arizona, there really is a patch of land to suit any taste.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in USA
Difficulty obtaining Green Card and work permit: The US operates one of the world’s strictest border control policies which is only likely to get tougher under the Trump Administration. Getting work permits or obtaining a Green Card if you intend to make your residency more permanent can be tough.
Small but significant cultural differences: Though we’ve stated the easy transition as an advantage, expats should be aware that there is plenty to distinguish our American cousins from the English. There are small differences, some of which we may be familiar with but can come as a shock when living up and close and personal. Americans, by and large, do not tolerate tardiness, speak directly (which can appear rude) and have a very different sense of humour to the Brits. More so than in the UK, it is best to avoid religion and politics in conversation where possible.
Cost of living: There are big differences across the USA but generally the cost of living is on a par with the UK.
With the lure of more than just financial rewards, Australia can offer a great work/life balance with the fringe benefits of stunning natural scenery, a wonderful climate and a great quality of life.
Expats from all over the world are drawn to the country for work, retirement or for personal choices like where to raise a family, escaping the cold or simply to live the dream. The country is split into five main areas, the Eastern coast with Queensland’s Brisbane, Sydney, Victoria and Melbourne in New South Wales, Adelaide in the South and Perth in the West. The Northern Territories are often ignored but also offer vibrant multicultural cities with plenty of job opportunities.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Australia
High wages: The cost of living can be higher in Australia but with wages that are around 20% higher than the UK you can generally afford a similar or better lifestyle but with all the other perks thrown in.
Climate: There are extremes in Australia which can see cold winters and dry. Arid summers; the Australian Capital Territory for instance. However, for the large part, winters are mild and summers are reliably hot. In turn, the climate makes for the perfect way to enjoy a more active and outdoorsy lifestyle.
Great healthcare: The standard of healthcare in Australia is of an excellent quality although insurance costs can be high. Most employers include premiums in their remuneration packages so be sure to include this in your budget.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Australia
Strict entry conditions: Australia has tight immigration laws with the infamous ‘points system’ determining who has a right to enter the country to work. The application process can seem daunting and there are some complex parts to the paperwork; however, with help (either by your employer or a visa specialist) and the right skillset you should be able to gain your permit to work.
Tax system: Australia has quite high income tax rates and their system can be confusing. If you budget for the taxation and enlist the help of someone who knows the system you should be able to ensure the process is straightforward and doesn’t negatively impact your disposable income.
High rental costs: Sydney is in the top ten global cities for rental prices with a further four Australian cities appearing in the top fifty. The price of renting in Sydney is on a par with Paris, New York and Geneva. Purchasing property isn’t much cheaper either.
The iconic city state of Dubai in the heart of the United Arab Emirates has long been regarded as a haven for expats looking for greater financial rewards, new challenges and the prestige of advancing their careers within the Arab world.
The UAE is comprised of seven emirate states with Dubai being the largest, most populous and the capital city.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Dubai (UAE)
Can be significant financial rewards: Not all jobs in the UAE reward highly but there are certain sectors and employers who will pay excellent remuneration packages for the right people or skillset.
Cost of living: With the exception of rent, the cost of living in Dubai is cheaper compared with London living. In fact, if you wanted the same lifestyle in Dubai as London then you would be 10% better off (including rent).
Vibrant nightlife: The city of Dubai is colourful, modern and fun-loving. There are clubs, pubs and entertainment venues across the city that cater well for Western expats as well as the locals and tourists. Despite being a middle eastern country, Dubai knows how to let its hair down. However, you should be respectful of the prevailing culture… and certainly don’t expect any Gentleman’s clubs.
Opportunities abound: Dubai is a honeypot of opportunity for entrepreneurs. There are several zones in the city that promote start-ups in almost every sector from media and advertising to finance, healthcare and finance.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Dubai (UAE)
Adjusting to cultural change: Whilst the UAE is a Muslim nation they tolerate other religions much in the same way as other countries; however, evangelism of any kind is not tolerated. Daily calls to prayer will quickly become part of your routine but can be strange at first when meetings are postponed, rescheduled and set to the priorities of faith. Likewise in the holy month of Ramadan, your colleagues who will be fasting during daylight may have less stamina than usual and you will find it harder to get lunch during the day.
Setting up a new business can have its teething problems: Owning your own business in the UAE can sometimes be problematical. If you can stomach the paperwork and the complex set-up, then you may have to put up with an Emirati sponsor owning 51% of your business. Start-ups are welcomed and promoted but the route is less than straight-forward.
Emiratisation: The UAE has a culturalism of Emiratisation which promotes the fast tracking of Emiratis over foreign nationals in the private sector.
With its historical and cultural links to the UK, Hong Kong is still a popular place for expats looking to set-up a new business, expand an existing enterprise or seek career advancement.
There is nowhere in Asia easier for a Brit to integrate into Eastern markets and culture than in Hong Kong. The appeal is obvious as British networks are well established, the economy is strong and the city is a buoyant and exciting place to live and work.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Hong Kong
Huge networking opportunities: The expat network in Hong Kong is small but very active and nowhere is it more in force than in business. Taking advantage of social gatherings will quickly lead to further opportunities. Everyone knows someone who can provide advantages. Getting in front of the right people quickly will more often than not be a result of a social event.
Great city to live: Hong Kong is a wonderful place to live and offers all the buzz of a modern city, the distinctly characterful Chinese areas, tourist hotspots and delightful islands within the archipelago each with a different feel.
Low taxes: The former British Colony is well known for its low rate of taxes.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Hong Kong
Language barrier can prove a glass ceiling: Whilst knowing the right people can lead to golden opportunities it can also only take you so far. Those that only speak English can find that certain (and influential) doors remain closed to those that cannot speak the language. Mandarin and Cantonese are the two languages that can help gain you further advantages but they are not easy to learn. A little can go a long way but the niceties won’t wash in business. A good course can cost quite a bit but will pay dividends.
Expensive flights: Whilst getting around the city itself can be cheap and easy, getting off the island is not. Networking from Hong Kong either across the region or back to Europe or beyond can be quite expensive.
High cost of living: Hong Kong isn’t a cheap place to live and groceries, consumer goods and rent can be very high. It is more expensive than the UK and you will need, on average, around 5-10% more disposable income to maintain the same standard of living as in London.
Vietnam has a diverse landscape, culture and lifestyle with mountainous borders, glorious beaches and bustling cities. The economy is developing and has experienced some rapid growth over the last few decades.
In the larger cities, such as Hanoi or Ho Cho Minh City new start-ups are growing at a promising rate whilst established businesses continue to develop as well as attracting new investment from international sources.
The country is populated by a welcoming people and expats will enjoy the traditional culture, cuisine and lifestyle in this former French colony.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Vietnam
The power of the network: The expat network in Vietnam is stable and reasonably large in the cities. As with other Asian communities, social networking can quickly establish your name and your face with influential and powerful people; it is what you know but also who you know. Business cards are often swapped at social events and, though building relationships with the locals can take time, the effort you put in to the social aspect will bring dividends.
Cost of living: Vietnam has a low cost of living and you can expect your salary to provide you with a good standard of life.
Ease of doing business: Despite the official language being Vietnamese, English is widely spoken in the workplace and you won’t be expected to be fluent. Learning some basics will gain you some brownie points but not doing so won’t necessarily hinder your career prospects. However, when dealing with public officials it is advisable to use an interpreter.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Vietnam
City life as a Westerner: Most professionals who relocate to Vietnam for work will find themselves spending a lot of time in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. As predominantly tourist areas it is common for locals to tout Westerners, charging higher prices at food stalls, shops and markets as well as general unwanted attention. The perception of the general population is that all Westerners are rich so be prepared. City life in general is chaotic with traffic, vibrant with vendors and can be an overwhelming place to be. It might suit many but for some, choosing somewhere a little less populous to live could balance the need to spend much of your working life in the cities.
Gender inequality: Though the situation continues to improve each year the general outlook for career advancement for women is poor. It is very rare for women to hold positions of power in Vietnam.
With a reputation for being punctual, private and efficient the Germans can initially come across as an austere nation yet their attitude is not as humourless as it may first appear.
Germans have a culture of work being for work and play being for play and the two don’t mix in their view. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense and enables a workforce to focus on the task at hand and enjoy social time without the headaches of the job following you.
Germans enjoy an excellent social life and the cities lend themselves well to good nights out, opportunities to experience cultural traditions and to enjoy plenty of leisure time. A beautiful country, Germany is ripe for exploration from Bavarian mountains, the picturesque old towns as well as the verdant countryside of the Rhineland.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Germany
Central European location: Situated in the heart of Europe, Germany is an ideal location to conduct local business, remain easily connected to the West as well as being just a short hop away to access the emerging Eastern European markets.
Excellent transport links: Not only does the excellent public transport system keep business moving but it reduces the stress factor of commuting. The whole country benefits from great service and getting around without a car is very easy.
Equality: The gender balance within the workplace is very fair with women well represented throughout different sectors and at all levels. The glass ceiling that exists in the UK is not in effect in the German work culture.
Working attitude: The reputation that Germans have for efficiency and formality are not just national stereotypes; they are a strong ethic which helps businesses to function well. These values enable companies to work smarter not harder allowing for plenty of positive benefits to a work/life balance. In fact, if people stay behind after hours to ‘catch up’ it can be seen as a negative reflection (i.e. you didn’t plan properly or are struggling to keep up).
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Germany
Separation of work and social life: Your German colleagues don’t tend to socialise with one another outside of work. Home and work are separated with great care and for expats can be isolating if they don’t have an extended social network. The formality of business can make working within a German company appear unfriendly as humour is particularly unwelcome but you will just need to have a work persona that you put on each morning with the suit…and quickly establish a group you can socialise with.
Language: Whilst English is spoken widely in cities and across the workplace it is not a given that your colleagues will or can speak your language. Having a good understanding of German is recommended in order to advance your career and to enjoy the real Germany.
Embracing modern city living in complete harmony with a traditional way of life, Brazil offers expats a unique and exciting place to work. The country is a rich combination of flamboyant exuberance, innovation and pulsating, cosmopolitan city living. Depending upon where you go the climate is excellent and, wherever you go, the landscapes and scenery is inspiring.
As a huge player in many sectors the opportunities in Brazil for career and personal development are plentiful.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Brazil
Buoyant economy: Brazil has the world’s 9th largest economy (the largest in Latin America) and as such offers plenty of opportunities for investment, employment and entrepreneurship.
Culturally rich and vibrant place to live: Brazil is a colourful country that enjoys its cultural traditions whilst embracing a modern lifestyle. The nation combines a strong work ethos, respects family life and encourages fun. The big cities like Rio, Sao Paolo and Brasilia are fast, energetic and heady places to live and provide great entertainment when letting your hair down outside of work.
Cost of living: Consumer prices, property and the essential costs of living are low; around 30% lower than the UK.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Brazil
Language: The official language in Brazil is Portuguese and, whilst English is widely spoken, it is expected that business meetings and official matters are conducted in Portuguese. Learning the basics is expected and becoming more fluent will stand you in good stead if you want to further your career.
Taxes: The Brazilian taxation system is very complex and even the Brazilians struggle with it. When it comes to businesses, Brazil ranks appallingly low on how easy it is for them to navigate red tape. Globally the average time a business takes to complete an annual tax return is around 270 hours but Brazil comes in worst at 2038 hours.
Gender inequality in the workplace: Machismo in the workplace is very much alive and well in much of Latin America and Brazil is no different. Women do have to work harder to get recognition and respect and are underrepresented in senior positions.
Thailand has the second largest economy in southeast Asia and is one of the area’s most popular places for tourists. The country offers an enviable way of life, attractive climate, friendly people and beautiful scenery.
For young professionals, the work/life balance is very good and there is plenty of opportunity for career development without sacrificing your leisure time.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Thailand
Variety of work available: Thailand has a diverse economy that relies heavily on tourism and exports but also thrives in many other areas. And, whilst many companies (particularly international businesses) operate exclusively from the capital city of Bangkok, many expats find themselves in smaller towns. From a more rural location it is easier to enjoy the Thai way of life and experience the benefits of living in this beautiful and peaceful nation.
The cost of living: Few salaries meet the high expectations of those who are transferred from an international corporation but the cost of living is good in Thailand meaning you should be able to support a good quality lifestyle.
Excellent social scene: Particularly obvious in the capital as well as in tourist resorts, the nightlife in Thailand is vibrant, great value and diverse. Bars and clubs open long into the night meaning unwinding after work can be most pleasant.
Climate, culture and way of life: Few people move to Thailand strictly to further their careers. Moreover, people are drawn to the obvious attractions of this colourful culture, relaxed way of life and the tropical climate.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Thailand
English language: Most Thai people speak English but not all do so very well. Learning the language can help particularly if you are outside of Bangkok.
Property can be expensive: Westerners are perceived to be rich and negotiating a rental deal with a landlord will come with built in premiums that exploit this supposition. Take a Thai local with you when you are looking at properties to ensure you get the best deals but bear in mind that accommodation in the heart of Bangkok can still come at a cost.
Argentina is a multicultural nation that bridges the Latin American world with its European colonial past. The country incorporates grasslands, arctic tundra, mountainous regions and tropical rainforests.
One of the wealthiest nations on the planet during the late 20th century, the country spectacularly defaulted on a huge national debt in 2001 which plunged the economy into crisis. Though now largely recovered there are some changes from the Argentina of twenty years ago.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Argentina
Low cost of living: Essentials, consumer goods and property prices make the cost of living around half that of the UK. A good job will give you a decent disposable income and high quality of life.
Low levels of bureaucracy: Since the economic ‘wobbles’ of the early noughties, the Argentine Government has gone to some lengths to help start-ups flourish. As a result, the country is easy to start your own business in and innovation thrives in an environment of investment. In fact, Argentina is one of the best places for entrepreneurs to establish a business.
Expat networking: Alongside the con of there being quite a lot of corruption, there is a lot to be said for knowing the right people. Socialising (which at an infamous Argentine barbecue is no trial) can help you get to know the right people.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Argentina
Fierce competition in the job market: Since the downturn of the economy in 2001, competition for jobs has been much tougher particularly for expats. Whilst the financial situation is improved the hangover of the country defaulting on its debt had a negative impact on the job market which is still recovering. Expect to compete with quality candidates for any jobs you have your eye on.
Language: Unless you are being moved to Argentina within a Western company you will be expected to speak Spanish. The only exception to this is if your skill base is so specific that few other people could do your job; in which case, a translator is likely to be provided for you.
With generous job opportunities for expats, Sweden has risen in popularity for young professionals looking to move abroad. The country has a long standing tradition for cutting edge business values and high-tech design. With a reputation for nurturing innovation combined with liberal mindedness has made the Swedes excellent bed-partners for entrepreneurships.
The country has plenty to offer in the way of career enhancement as well as a great work/life balance that will allow you to explore the best of what Sweden has to offer.
Pros for Young Professionals Living in Sweden
Ease of business practices: Sweden has a strong global reputation for its strong economy and clear business practices. Ranking 11th out of 189 countries by the World Bank for ease of doing business, Sweden is doing something right in this department.
Variety of opportunities: The country is home to some of the world’s most famous brands including Eriksson, Volvo, Ikea and Tetrapak as well as being the birthplace of hundreds of successful new start-ups each year. Employment opportunities abound and, whether you are climbing the ladder with an established global company or forging a way with an innovative new business, Sweden has plenty of employment opportunities.
Equality: Sweden has a strong global tradition of equality and is one of the biggest advocates of an egalitarian lifestyle. Gender, age and income equality are important in business and you will see examples of this wherever you work in the country.
Cons for Young Professionals Living in Sweden
Cost of living: Ranking 15th out of 123 countries on cost of living, Sweden is not the cheapest place to live and is around 7-10% more expensive than living in the UK. However, the quality of life is much better.
Work is work: Work and pleasure are rarely mixed in Sweden. Aside from the traditional pleasantries of the fika coffee breaks, work colleagues rarely socialise together. Expats may find this hard particularly if they are looking to network. It can depend on the company you work for but you are encouraged to seek out your own networks outside of the office.
Our Verdict on the Best Countries for Young Professionals
The world continues to shrink as a result of a location independent, nomadic workforce and the choice of where to base yourself is less dependent on a bricks and mortar office.
(Unless, of course, you are restricted by your company’s overseas HQ location!)
However, there are still plenty of jobs that require good face-to-face networking as well as a 9 to 5 appearance; the fact that these don’t have to be in Milton Keynes, Staines or Bradford is just the invitation you need to explore your next work destination.
All of our top ten countries are great locations for young professionals who are seeking more from their careers.
From remote freelance working to exciting positions in start-ups or global conglomerates, the choice is restricted only by your appetite for adventure and success.
What do you think is the best country for Young Professionals?
Have you lived in any of the countries above?
Let us know your thoughts, comments, and experiences below.