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What’s the reality of expat life in Europe today?

Many of Europe’s 33 million international residents have hit something of a jackpot - at least if recent research is anything to go by.

What’s the reality of expat life in Europe today?
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

From longer parental leave and better educational opportunities to bigger paychecks and career boosters, expats in Europe seem to be enjoying the many perks of living abroad.

One of the greatest appeals of relocating to Europe in particular seems to be the promise of a higher quality of life. A recent survey conducted by Vitreous World on behalf of AXA – Global Healthcare* suggests that expats in Europe are more likely to have packed their bags for better pay and more benefits than for the chance to embark on a new adventure. In France, for example, 31 percent of foreigners say that the French lifestyle is by far the best thing about living there – and about 44 percent benefit from things such as improved pay and learning a new language.

Find out more about AXA’s health insurance packages for expats

Fresh statistics from the world’s longest-running survey of expats* found that, among other things, many European expat hotspots seem to be hitting the high notes on a wide variety of criteria. In Spain, for example, more expats than in any other expat community report that more sun and a slower pace of life has led to significant improvements in both their physical and mental health.** In Switzerland, too, international residents are enthusiastic about their lifestyle upgrade, which includes reaping the benefits of the strong economy (by way of higher-than-global-average salaries) and taking care of their families without having to worry about political instability.*

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Despite digital technologies alleviating some of the problems once experienced by expats, living and working abroad does, like most things, have a flipside – or, at any rate, its own set of hurdles. As AXA – Global Healthcare’s survey indicates, these can include language barriers, making new friends, seasonal depression, and adapting to a change in climate. But if you’re aware of these challenges before you move, downloading a language app or joining an online expat community can help you to prepare yourself.

Learn more about how you can benefit from AXA’s global healthcare plans

Moreover, expats often face bureaucratic obstacles as they navigate everything from banking services to local healthcare systems. According to AXA – Global Healthcare’s survey, almost four out of five expats had concerns when seeking healthcare in their current country, with 63 percent saying they would travel back to their home country if they needed medical treatment. Fortunately, you can make use of services such as the Virtual Doctor Service – which is offered with some of AXA’s global health plans with out-patient cover. This provides a handy solution for healthcare challenges if they do arise, allowing you to speak to a doctor at short notice, in a range of languages, at any time and from anywhere in the world.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

On the whole, it does appear that for international dwellers in Europe, expat life comes with many benefits. Although over half of the expats surveyed did report that being away from friends and family made it harder to integrate, and 43 percent said that making new friends was tough, AXA – Global Healthcare’s research indicates that, overall, the majority of both European and global expats believe that their experience of living abroad has been a positive one. For example, close to a majority of expats globally attest to having a better work-life balance than in their home country, citing better leisure opportunities, an easier commute, more disposable income, and more time to spend with family as main reasons.

With AXA’s global health cover, you and your family are covered at every stage of expat life. Find out more about how AXA’s international health insurance can help you to get the most out of life abroad.

*Research conducted in February 2019 by Vitreous World on behalf of AXA. A total of 1,352 expats were surveyed (250 in the UK, France, UAE, Canada and China, and 100 in Hong Kong).

**HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2019

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

 

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HEALTH

READERS REVEAL: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

We asked our readers in Norway to share with us their experiences of the Nordic country's healthcare system.

Pictured is a stethoscope
Here's what foreign residents think of the Norwegian healthcare system. Pictured is a stethoscope. Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

Most healthcare in Norway is covered by the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme, with residents paying a small service charge for health care costs. For example, a consultation with a GP costs 160 kroner

Once you’ve paid more than 2,460 kroner in approved user fees, then you will receive an exemption card with all treatment covered by the national insurance scheme after that being free. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Overall, 46.2 percent of respondents to our straw poll said that they had bad experiences with the healthcare system, while 15 percent said they had good encounters. The same proportion, 15 percent, answered in the “neither good nor bad experiences” and “very bad experiences” categories, while seven percent said they had very good experiences. 

Among the positive aspects of the Norwegian healthcare system that readers told us about were competent GPs, excellent quality of treatment, good quality service and giving birth. 

“Doctors take the time to explain the situation and solutions. Avoiding antibiotics as much as possible is a great strategy,” George from Lysaker responded. 

Another reader who had broken their ankle praised the healthcare system and the human way in which they were treated. 

“I had an accident, and I seriously broke my ankle, the Norwegian system did the best it could. The people who treated me were polite and very human, they really cared,” the reader wrote. 

May from Ålesund praised the fact that they could get a same-day appointment with their fastlege (GP). However, this wasn’t the case for everyone (see below). 

In an earlier survey on healthcare in the country, readers also praised doctors’ bedside manner and the excellent facilities. 

While one reader praised the short waiting times for a GP, others said they had experienced the opposite. Waiting times were the biggest issue cited by readers, with one person who didn’t want to be named saying they waited a year for neurological testing. 

Anotehr reader said they had waited a long time to be assigned a doctor. 

“I moved from Oslo to Tromsø, and I am currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no slots for a doctor? Everyone has the right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø wrote.

READ MORE: Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

Sivakumar also complained about the lack of appointments. 

“It’s not possible to get an appointment. There is always a waiting time. They are also not proactive in assessment,” Sivakumar added that while identifying issues wasn’t straightforward the care received once the problem was found was exceptional. 

Others said they experienced difficulties accessing GPs.

“Having to constantly contact and chase to book appointments or change appointments, and often having ‘no diagnosis’ or being left to try things without any follow-up (is a problem),” Simon, from Oslo, responded.

What could be improved upon?

There were several things that readers thought could be made better. For example, many want dentistry included in the national insurance scheme, as well as shorter waiting times and cheaper medicines. 

“Free dental healthcare, more efficient diagnosis and treatment and lower cost of medications” were some of the things one reader told us that needed to be improved. 

Simon from Oslo wanted better aftercare. 

“Aftercare and case resolution, not having issues left unknown or untreated. If a diagnosis can’t be made, send me to a specialist and follow up,” he responded when asked what could be better. 

Sinead from Tromsø was among a number of readers who wanted to see more slots for doctors so they could be appointed a GP. 

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