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The 7 Most Common Expat Types and Why They Move Abroad

Based on the insights of more than 18,000 expats living in 187 countries and territories in the annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations

Highlights

  • Based on the latest Expat Insider 2018 research, InterNations presents the first comprehensive expat typology.
  • The typology is based on expats’ primary motivation for moving abroad and identifies job opportunities and the search for a better life as most important reasons for expatriation.
  • The 7 most common types of expats are the Go-Getter (21%), the Optimizer (16%), the Romantic (12%), the Explorer (12%), the Foreign Assignee (10%), the Travelling Spouse (8%) and the Student (7%).

Although every expat journey is unique, there are similarities when it comes to their motivation for moving and their lifestyle abroad. While the Go-Getter and the Foreign Assignee move abroad for work-related reasons and dedicate a lot of time to their job, Optimizers simply search for a better life abroad. They value a good work-life balance and find it easy to settle in. Settling down also seems to be easy for the Explorer, while Romantics find it easy to make local friends – the two types move abroad for adventure and love, respectively. While Travelling Spouses also move abroad to be with their partners, they often struggle to feel at home abroad. Additionally, they often face poor career prospects, and many are likely to return home at some point. Lastly, Students move abroad for school or university education. They are also the most likely to speak the local language very well.

The 7 Most Common Expat Types and Why They Move Abroad

1. The Go-Getter (21%)

Reasons for moving abroad• found a job abroad on their own: 58%   • recruited by a local company: 31%   • started a business abroad: 10%
Life abroad• speak the local language very well: 22%  • mostly friends with locals: 14%  • likely to stay abroad forever: 30%

Go-Getters are highly educated expats who move abroad for job-related reasons. While they are happy with their career prospects, their personal life often suffers a bit.
2. The Optimizer

Reasons for moving abroad• better quality of life: 60%  • financial reasons: 28%  • political, religious or safety reasons: 12%
Life abroad• speak the local language very well: 23%  • mostly friends with locals: 16%   • likely to stay abroad forever: 55%

Optimizers see many potential benefits in their move abroad, and usually they are not disappointed. They value a good work-life balance and do not have trouble settling in abroad.

3. The Romantic (12%)

Reason for moving abroad• for love/to live in their partner’s home  • country: 100%

 Life abroad
• speak the local language very well: 35% • mostly friends with locals: 38% • likely to stay abroad forever: 43%

Romantics move abroad to be with their partner and do their best to fit in (e.g. by learning the local language). While they find it easy to make local friends, their job situation is often unfavourable.

4. The Explorer (12%)

Reasons for moving abroad
• looking for an adventure: 47%  • want to live in this particular city/country: 28%  • simply enjoy living abroad: 25%
Life abroad• speak the local language very well: 32% • mostly friends with locals: 20% • likely to stay abroad forever: 41%
Explorers move abroad for a personal challenge and seem to master it very well. While they find it easy to make friends and appreciate the options for socializing abroad, they are not always happy with their career prospects.
5. The Foreign Assignee (10%)

Reason for moving abroad• sent abroad by their employer: 100%
Life abroad• speak the local language very well: 22%  • mostly friends with locals: 13% •  likely to stay abroad forever: 25%
Being sent abroad by their employers, most Foreign Assignees are extremely satisfied with their job and career. However, they struggle to feel at home abroad, and most of them already have plans to return home.
6. The Travelling Spouse (8%)
Reason for moving abroad• for their partner’s job or education: 100%
Life abroad• speak the local language very well: 19% • mostly friends with locals: 12% • likely to stay abroad forever: 29%
Moving abroad for their partner’s job, Travelling Spouses often face an unsatisfying life abroad. They struggle with low career prospects, find it hard to make friends, and many want to return home at some point.

7. The Student (7%)
Reasons for moving abroad 
• applying for school or university: 90% • improving their language skills: 10%
Life abroad
• speak the local language very well: 36% • mostly friends with locals: 13% • likely to stay abroad forever: 31%
Students move abroad for their education and are very eager to learn the local language. While they are highly educated and satisfied with their career prospects, their financial situation does not seem too bright.

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