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23 Apr 2024, Edition - 3206, Tuesday

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· 33% of surveyed Indians relocating abroad did not agree that they ‘feel like a local’ in their host country, while 31% are similarly unsure about their sense of belonging

· Expats in our survey take less time to settle down in India (7.4 months) than the global average of 8.3 months; while around 1 in 4 Indians relocating abroad say they feel at home almost instantly (28%).

· Geoffrey L Cohen, Stanford University Professor, and expert on psychology of belonging, supports HSBC’s new campaign – sharing his tips on how to nurture a sense of belonging in a new location

· HSBC launches the Unforeign Exchange – a new free digital community to help international citizens gather local insights that can’t be found on the web

· New community offers invaluable tips and advice from well-travelled HSBC ambassadors, including tennis star Emma Raducanu and rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll; as well as well-travelled HSBC employees

International citizens moving to India have experienced a relatively high level of ease when it comes to settling in the country, finds new HSBC research that delves into factors that enable people to settle down in a new country and feel a sense of belonging.

Of the expats who have relocated to India, 80% said they settled into the host country in less than a year – with it taking on average 7.4 months to feel like they belonged, less than the global average of 8.3 months. Of the expats surveyed, 36% felt at home almost instantly, 23% in less than 6 months, and 21% in 6 months to a year.

However, a number of Indians (i.e. those born in India) who moved abroad encountered difficulties in assimilating into their new communities. Specifically, about a third (33%) of Indians who have relocated abroad did not agree that they ‘feel like a local’ in their host country, while almost 31% were similarly unsure about their sense of belonging.
HSBC research among international citizens found that while the top motivation for moving abroad is the promise of a better lifestyle for almost a third globally (29%), the path to feeling settled, with a real sense of belonging, is not always straightforward.
The study, which surveyed over 7,000 people (“international citizens”) who have moved to live, study or work abroad, or are planning to move abroad, found it takes international citizens on average around eight months to feel like they belong in their new location abroad. But for almost a quarter (23%) of those surveyed it took over a year. The study also identifies stark differences between generations and their ability to settle in. GenZs were less likely to say they feel like they belong in their new location: just half (56%) say this is the case, compared to three in five (70%) respondents aged 35 to 64.
When respondents were asked about strategies to help them feel more at home, putting in the effort to connect with others and experience local culture comes top. Whilst learning the local language did not make the top five – suggesting it is not a barrier to belonging – it was embraced by over a fifth (22%) of the international citizens we spoke to globally. Finding a school, for example, helped expats with families settle down easier in India; 69% easily found a school for their children that suited their needs. In fact, participating in activities and events at their child/children’s school emerged as the top reason that helped expats feel settled in India, with 29% agreeing that this helped them to feel like they belonged.

The findings also explore how personal circumstances can impact the time it takes for someone relocating abroad to feel settled.
Globally, over a quarter (28%) of solo expats (travelling without partner or family) took over a year to feel at home; compared to a fifth (21%) of those travelling with partner/family to their new location. While digital nomads** tend to feel settled significantly sooner than solo expats – over half (55%) felt as such within six months (versus 45% of solo expats). This may be due to their continued connection to their support network of family and friends back home – a majority (72%) of digital nomads have this in place, versus 53% of solo expats.

Commenting on the findings, Geoffrey L Cohen, Stanford Professor and Author of Belonging – The science of creating connection and bridging divides: “Living in another country can be exciting and enriching but also daunting. A core challenge isn’t so much a practical matter as a psychological one – the task of creating a home. Home is a psychological state as much as a physical place, one defined by a sense of belonging – a feeling of being an accepted part of a larger community. It’s important for people to be patient, and not to put pressure on themselves. They can take their time to feel settled – plus with some helpful strategies this process can be more seamless. HSBC’s research highlights the emotional barriers people face when moving abroad. Feeling isolated is a key reason some people felt their experience ‘falls short’ of expectations; and on the flip side, finding a sense of belonging in their host country often motivated them to stay longer.”

When it comes to relocating – perhaps far from home – the study suggests that based on the experiences of those we spoke to, some locations are more accommodating than others. Locations where respondents felt they settled fastest include: the United Arab Emirates and India where 40% and 36% of respondents respectively felt they settled-in ‘almost instantly’. The workplace has a key role in both locations, with business networking cited as a key factor that helps international citizens to settle (36% in UAE and 22% in India).

Knowing which aspects of life impact our sense of belonging – and how it varies for different people across the globe – is important to HSBC, as it supports over six million international citizens with their banking and investing needs.

To help people feel settled faster in a new location, HSBC is launching the Unforeign Exchange, – a digital community designed to help people settle in more quickly when moving overseas. It is powered by recommendations from celebrities, influencers, and HSBC employees, all of whom have experience of moving abroad, and features local insights and tips that can’t be found through a simple online search. Join the conversation @hsbc on Instagram #UnforeignExchange

Commenting on the study, Sandeep Batra, Head, Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC India, said: “At HSBC, we understand the challenges that individuals may encounter when moving to a new country. Having spent time abroad myself, I can empathise with the feelings of displacement that can arise despite the enriching experiences and friendships gained. Drawing on the experiences of our colleagues and friends who have lived abroad for work and/or study, we were inspired to launch the ‘Unforeign Exchange’ initiative. This initiative seeks to facilitate a sense of community and belonging for those going through a similar transition by providing a platform for sharing stories on social media and seeking advice from our partners and colleagues on how to acclimate and connect with others in a new environment. We want them to feel at home, with a sense of belonging when they relocate abroad.”

Join the conversation on the Unforeign Exchange to find more free tips and content from HSBC colleagues, and a range of HSBC ambassadors, including Professional tennis star Emma Raducanu MBE, Former Irish Rugby Union legend Brian O’Driscoll, Health and wellness physiologist and former Hong Kong Netball star Stephanie Cuvelier, Former South African Rugby Union player Bryan Habana. Further content can be found on HSBC’s YouTube channel.

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