With over 4.5 million Brits living abroad, there is clearly some appeal for prospective expats to up sticks and begin a new life abroad. But, for so many, what is the primary motivation to move abroad? Is it a unique set of circumstances or are there underlying themes for what really drives the ultimate decision to take action and relocate overseas?
Well, we need wonder no more! Thanks to InterNation’s recent survey, in which over 18,000 expats across 187 counties were surveyed, just 7 distinct expat types emerged which represented around 80% of those surveyed. These types were based on the respondent’s primary motivation for moving abroad. The remaining participants gave other explanations for their decision to relocate.
If you’ve dreamt of moving abroad or you’ve finally made the decision to follow through, which category, if any, do you fit into?
Representing just 7 percent of those surveyed, at the bottom of the list are the students. For the British expats out there, only 2 percent fall into this category which is the lowest proportion among all the 7 types.
This expat type’s primary motivation for moving overseas is…you’ve guessed it…to further their education! More than half of the student expat type are single which is not surprising given the average age is around 32 years, which is youngest across the 7 types.
The students also seem to find it easy to learn the local language with 36 percent claiming to speak nearly fluently. Yet this doesn’t appear to help them to integrate into the culture as 41 percent find it difficult to make friends and 35 percent state their friends are mainly other expats.
Despite expressing satisfaction with their future career prospects, the students are by far the least financially secure of all the expat types, with three in ten showing concern for being able to cover their cost of living.
The Travelling Spouse
The travelling spouse expat type represented just 8 percent of those surveyed. Of those British expats surveyed, just 7 percent fell into this category.
Travelling spouse’s primary motivation for moving abroad was due to their partner needing to relocate for their career, job or education. 39 percent of travelling spouses advised their decision to relocate for work was initiated by their employer and 31 percent stated they moved of their own volition and sort their own employment overseas.
The responses also clearly demonstrated a large gender difference, with a massive 86 percent of travelling spouses being female and typically taking the role of primary carer for their children.
Furthermore, it would appear a large proportion of travelling spouses struggle to settle in and feel at home in their new country, which is the highest amongst the expat types.
The Foreign Assignee
On the flip-side of the travelling spouse are those who moved overseas due to being send there by their existing employer. Of the 10 percent representing this category globally (6 percent for British expats), more than 42 percent work in managerial position and the industries most depicted in the foreign assignee expat type were manufacturing and engineering (14 percent), finance (13 percent) and IT (11 percent).
Whilst 73 percent of the foreign assignee types expressed experiencing high job satisfaction, they also typically didn’t feel at home in their new countries, with 29 percent stating they found it difficult to make friends and settle in to the culture. This could be in part due to 49 percent of foreign assignees admitting to knowing only a little of the local language. As a result, 58 percent saw their move abroad only as a temporary lifestyle choice and already had plans to return home in the near future.
This expat type represents around 12 percent of the expat types. Over 47 percent expressed their primary motivation for moving overseas was to seek out adventure, whilst 28 percent wanted to live in a particular country and 25 percent simply enjoy living overseas.
A huge number (73 percent) of the explorer type stated they found it extremely easy to settle in, make new friends and feel at home in their new country.
Moreover, 76 percent conveyed a great sense of contentment with their social and leisure activities and 68 percent were very satisfied with their work-life balance, something we know many individuals in the UK struggle to achieve.
However, it would appear, compared with the foreign assignee; the explored types are much less satisfied with their overall career and job prospects.
This category denotes 12 percent of those surveyed and it would appear that of the nationalities represented, British expats make up 15 percent.
As you might have already guessed, the romantic expat type depicts those expats who have moved abroad for love and to be their partner and whilst the majority (88 percent) expressed that they are very satisfied in their relationship, there are those who moved and it didn’t work out, with 12 percent now stating they are single.
On the whole the romantic expat type makes huge efforts to adjust to their new lifestyle, with 35 percent speaking the local language very well. And as you can imagine, this expat type shows the highest amongst all of the expat types for socialising with local residence and fully immersing themselves into the culture.
Yet, much like the explorer type, the romantic struggle in their careers, with 34 percent who are employed with job satisfaction and 41 percent stated their income was lower than back home in a similar role.
For this type of expat, the reason for moving to foreign shores was all about searching for a better life. The expats in this category made up 16 percent and for British expats, not surprisingly, the figure is slightly higher at 24 percent.
Some 60 percent claimed their move was to improve their quality of life, with climate and personal health listed as important reasons, followed by 28 percent for financial motivation.
Thankfully, most (74 percent) of the optimizer expat type expressed being satisfied with the weather and climate and almost 9 in 10 said they felt safe in their new residence.
In the career department, around74 percent communicated that they’re happy with their financial situation and three in five believe their income is higher than the equivalent job back home.
And finally, settling in seems to be a breeze for the optimizers with 72 percent claiming to feel at home in their new environment.
The Go Getter
Of the seven total expat types, the go getter represents the largest proportion with over 21 percent coming under this category. For British expats, it’s slightly lower at 18 percent.
The go getter expat type cites their motivation to move abroad was solely for enhancing their career prospects. And it would appear overall this expat type is very happy with this decision, with over 59 percent stating they’re happy in their career and believe they earn more than they would back home in a similar role.
However, whilst the sole driver for moving was career prospects, the go-getter expat type seem to fall down when it comes to their romantic relationships, with nearly one in ten expressing discontentment in their relationships and one-quarter state their partner does not live in the same country. In the platonic friends department, of all the expat types, go-getters struggle the most to make friends with the locals, with 42 percent cited as having mostly other expats as friends.
Furthermore, 25 percent in this category don’t feel settled and quite at home yet in their new country and some 18 percent are doubtful that this feeling will change with time.