Why People Around the World Become Expats

Reasons to emigrate are as diverse as would-be expats themselves, even although the results of dozens of annual expat surveys would lead the average reader to believe it’s all about the money and the individual’s career prospects.

Not all expats are professionals in desirable industry sectors, and relatively few are enjoying the elite, top-salaried lifestyles suggested by many expat-related websites.

For the majority, the wish to leave the home country, perhaps for ever, can often be based simply on disenchantment and the need to get away before it’s too late. Other reasons include a thirst for adventure, the fascination of a new culture or even the freedom of freelancing or starting a small business.

One recent survey at least attempted to quantify the reasons for expatriation by questioning respondents and arriving at a percentage for each expat style. The resulting number-crunching identified respondents’ countries of residence and classified them, also in percentage terms.

For example, retirees, described as the ‘greener pastures expats’, made up 14 per cent of the total number surveyed, and mentioned financial reasons as another motivation. Typical hotpots included Malta, Ecuador, Portugal, Costa Rica and Cyprus, totally leaving out Spain and France, two of the most popular destinations for UK retirees even although the study stated 28 per cent of respondents in this sector were retirees.

The ‘career expat’ sector also represented 14 per cent of replies to the survey, some of which mentioned the wish to start a small business and others who’d simply found a job they liked.

The countries represented were Luxembourg and four Arab states including Kuwait. No mention was made of the Arab States’ desires to drastically cut down on the huge number of expat workers and the difficulties encountered by foreigners starting businesses.

The ‘romantic expat’ and the ‘trailing spouse’ together accounted for 22 per cent of respondents, with love as the main reason for both sectors’ expatriation.

‘Adventurous expats’ made up just 10 per cent of the totals but were more than happy in countries such as China, Vietnam and Turkey, with 60 per cent having lived overseas before.

‘Foreign assignee expats’ relocated overseas by their employers represented 11 per cent of respondents, ending up in countries such as Myanmar, Poland, Kenya and Nigeria. The lucky ones headed for Singapore with its luxury lifestyle and salaries to match.


‘Family expats’ made up just three per cent of respondents, with one third earning less in Greece, Canada, Chile and Israel than at home, although almost 80 per cent said they felt welcome in their new countries.

‘Dream destination’ expats chose their destinations and are comfortable with the choice, whether it’s Italy, Spain, Thailand or Cambodia, but only represented four per cent of the totals.

‘Ex-student expats’ emigrated to a particular university rather than a chosen country, with half still studying, and ‘foreign recruitee expats’ headhunted for their job skills ended up in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Kazakhstan, presumably on high salaries.

Source: Emigrate.co.uk

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