How many reasons are there for moving abroad? Perhaps as many as 57,000,000! That astounding eight-digit figure is the estimated number of expatriates in the world. Their specific backgrounds and reasons for making the big move are just as multifaceted as the globe itself.
Thanks to our Expat Insider study, based on over 14,000 respondents from around the world, we have identified a variety of “expat types”: each has their particular reasons for relocating. Some were simply practical and others were profoundly emotional.
Unsurprisingly, the prospect of great employment opportunities motivates a large percentage of expatriates. Other reasons for moving abroad include the desire for a better quality of life, a comfortable salary, promising career options, as well as an international education.
Which Type of Expat Do You Identify With?
The foreign assignee is the “classic” expat — a corporate employee, often in a senior or management position, who was sent abroad by their company. There are also those who go abroad on their own initiative, to study and gain some intercultural experience — and simply stay on after getting their degree. Others are headhunted by a foreign employer for their professional skills, or their entrepreneurial spirit prompts them to open their own business in another country.
Of course, expat life isn’t all about new and exciting career opportunities or a top-notch degree. For one in four expatriates, it’s actually about love or family.
The romantics tend to follow their heart across oceans and borders to build a new life with the person they love. Similarly, traveling spouses choose to relocate for the sake of their partner’s career, while some expats simply long to be closer to other family members, like adult children or aging parents.
Last but not least, it’s an incurable case of wanderlust that drives the adventurous type to leave hearth and home behind. They see moving abroad as a personal challenge, a journey of self-discovery: along the way, they explore other countries and cultures, travel the world, or even settle in their dream destination.
What’s Your Story?
But there’s much more to expat living than abstract types and statistics! To celebrate reaching 1 million likes on Facebook— sadly, we haven’t reached 57 million quite yet — we asked our followers why exactly they packed their suitcase and set out for the unknown. You can hear some of their individual stories in our video, from running Dubai’s very first ice-cream van to meeting the love of their life on vacation in Mexico. A heart-felt thank you to everyone who shared their personal expat story with us!
And what’s yours? Can you identify with their motivations from our video, or would you like to add your unique reason? 1 million and counting…!
(Video credit: InterNations; image credit: iStockphoto)
I moved abroad to be challenged and to grow exponentially. I feel that stepping out of my country is stepping out of my comfort zone where I have full ownership of the culture, the language, and the space. Once I stepped into another country, everything about me that was known to others in my home culture was unknown to people in this new reality. Everything from the language I speak in my home country to the universities I attended there needs to be explained when living abroad, while if I were in my country, the universities I attended or my address in a resume, for instance, would already say a lot about me. In sum, being out of the known reality of my home country, I need to become strongly aware of my values and who I am so that I can “translate” myself to people and, consequently, exist in that reality. Existing and being in the sunlight is an achievement when in a foreign culture, not a given or taken for granted state of existence.
Thank you for sharing your experience with life abroad! I completely agree that moving to another country is always a step out of your comfort zone and a bit of a challenge — but a great opportunity as well!
henry wyman says
I don’t feel like I moved abroad. We all live on this little planet called earth. From space there are “no countries no religions too…”
I’m retired, been in many places and I like Thailand the best…
People, food, more gental society, less guns, and more care for the people. Public transport for example. (In USA it’s less, support fo public transport, more dependency on the car, and sitting in traffic jam.
Sure it happens in BK too, but more public transport is being build, and expended. Including more water transport….
Thailand seems to be pretty popular! I think your comment isn’t the first in praise of this destination. It sounds like such a lovely place to be.
I moved to London for my graduate degree and fell in love. Unfortubately I was unable to stay after graduation in 2012 but I travel there every year. I have plans to travel for about three months next year and hopefully find a new place to call home!
Good luck with your plans! I hope you’ll find a nice new place to settle down soon.
Gerard Julen says
I have been traveling during all my working life in banking. And during my holidays in 89 different countries so far, to discover them and to meet new people. For my early retirement I chose to live in Thaïland, at the seaside, because this country offers me the best report between quality of life and cost of living, acording to my wishes, for happyness. I stay here, and travel around, like in Paradise, 9 months every year, now since 17 years, and go back to Switzerland to Geneva 3 months every year, in the summer, to see my friends and family. For me as an adventurous globe-trotter this is the best I can imagine now for a happy retirement life.
You’ve seen 89 countries? This is truly an impressive record! And Thailand does sound like a lovely place to spend one’s well-deserved retirement.
My home country has for years been sunk in corruption and instability. I moved abroad searching for better quality of life – somewhere I’d be able to work and afford a place of my own with my salary, where I’d have affordable access to good healthcare, and where I wouldn’t be scared to walk alone in the streets. Luckily, I’ve found everything I was looking for in Scotland.
That’s wonderful to hear that things have worked out so well for you. And Scotland has some truly amazing scenery, too (if one doesn’t mind the weather ;)…).
Paul Sexton says
I was recruited by a Zambian company to work overseas in 1977,originally I signed for only 2 years, as the security situation was fragile there(there was a war going on in Rhodesia),after 2 years I decided to stay for another 3 years, after which I decided to move to the newly independent Zimbabwe, where they were looking for people with my skill, I am still in Zimbabwe 35 years later.
35 years instead of a two-year assignment? I suppose life sometimes works out really differently than planned, doesn’t it?
Tom Shaughnessy says
Well, in my case, I moved to Spain partly because my wife is from Alicante and was tired of the weather in Ireland, and secondly, for my health. In 2011, I went to a yoga class and then next day, started having trouble with my back. I don´t think I should really have tried that karate kid move! Anyway, after lots of physio in Dublin, my Spanish doctor advised me to get treatment in Alicante as I was told that the waiting lists to see a specialist were too long and that if I went to Alicante, I would be seen far quicker. Later on that year, while on a holiday to Spain, I suffered severe pain in my lower back and could not walk. I knew then that this had to be treated quickly. Spain saved my back and gave me a new sense of energy!
That’s great to hear that you are feeling healthier and full of energy now. That way, you can finally make the most of Spain’s wonderful weather. 🙂
Janet Kaye says
I am a very new member and enjoy reading all your messages. I am a permanent expat, I left my home country at the age of 22 years to work in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). It was an amazing first experience. I am now 80 yrs old, having lived in Singapore, Penang Hong Kong, Zurich, Berne and now Portugal.
I am very happy with my decision to retire in the sunny Algarve in my later years. This is a perfect place for me as I am a photographer, what could be more wonderful than the chance to make photo books of the amazing coastline, the flowers, birds and brilliantly clear light.
I hold a licentiate with the Royal Photographic Society, UK.
I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying your InterNations membership so far. And retiring to follow your passion in a place as beautiful as the Algarve sounds like a dream come true to me. (Personally I’m a bit rubbish at photography, but one of my best friends is an avid nature and wildlife photographer, so I can just imagine the great opportunities that your new home provides.)
I moved to Brighton in England to learn the language in live. I was unemployed in my country at that moment and I decided to start this adventure of the language. The reason is because the English language give you new opportunities in the labour market. It is for me a challenge.
Best of luck with your English language studies!
Purnima Singh says
I want to stay in dubai because of safety and security and non corrupted government officers, very friendly local residents
Thank you for letting us know about your reason for moving abroad! I hope you’ll continue to enjoy your new life in Dubai.
The best place in the world where is your hart is happy .
What a lovely quote — there’s probably no better reason for living anywhere in the world!
Chaitanya Kalevar says
I moved because I asked my Engineer boss in India at Trombay Nuclear Station (Atomic Energy of India) “What are you going to do with Nuclear waste?” in June 1963. His answer was there are smart engineers in North America & they will have an answer in 5-10 years. I could not see “How?” that could be!
Curious, I applied & got a scholarship from University of Waterloo in Canada. I came to Canada but never met that smart engineer & so stayed on looking for him & as Pickering Nuclear station was opening in 1971, I got convinced that one is not around. I became an Anti-nuclear activist & got involved in all kind of International & environmental issues.
I attended many international events & UN conferences: Earth summits – 1992 & 2012; Global Greens-2017 to name a few.
I walked from Hague to Brussels (May-1999) to protest NATO’s first strike capability. I biked from Toronto to Ottawa with Seirra Youth Club “Pedal for planet- September 2009” asking for more bike paths. I walked from Rimouski to Montreal – 2011 protesting FRACKING in St Lawrence valley. Later Province of Quebec closed its only Nuclear station & banned FRACKING.
I authored “Climate Change in the Nuclear Age” in 2014.
Now I am a spoken word artist & would be glad to perform at Internations functions my environmental poetry etc.
Learning & need help in building my website. Can anyone good at building websites help out? Thanks
I did not know I have a million friends out there in a world of over 7Billion +.
Thanks for this opening, I know I am not alone!? Or am I?
That’s definitely among the most uncommon reasons for moving abroad that we have received so far. But it’s very impressive how you’ve been following your dream of a better world for decades!