The Main Types of Expats: Which One Are You? (Part 1)

Moving abroad takes courage. It’s not easy to pack up your life and venture thousands of miles away to a foreign land, with a different culture, possibly a new language, and to go from being a comfortable insider to being a voluntary outside. Who would do such a thing?!

Those who have been bit by the travel bug know that the compulsion to see the world and step outside one’s comfort zone is an impossible force to suppress. There are many reasons to make that leap of faith into the world of international living, and the sources of motivation are as varied and colorful as the destinations themselves.

While every traveler brings with them a unique perspective on what it means to live internationally, it’s important to highlight a few of the most common categories of expats in order to better understand what you may be looking for in a life overseas.


The Adventurous Retiree

One of the most common expat groups is the adventurous retiree. This person spent decades in their home country working hard, raising a family, and preparing for a retirement full of sun, sand, and margaritas. Or maybe they want to spend their golden years basking in the shadows of gothic architecture in France or the green rolling hills of Ireland. Either way, they are ambitious, motivated, and unafraid of stepping outside of their comfort zones.

They aren’t interested in following the herd down to Florida or Arizona. They’re looking for something unique, something that makes them feel as though their retirement is a rewarding next chapter, not a pasture to wither away.

The expat retiree is wise enough to realize 1) They’ve saved enough money to live out their eccentric travel dreams abroad, or 2) That they haven’t saved enough money to realize their dreams in their home country, and they know can live a far higher (even luxurious) lifestyle on the same nest egg in another country.

What they’re looking for:

  • An atmosphere that satisfies a lifelong ideal.
  • A place with convenient travel access to family and friends back home.
  • Proximity and access to first-world medical care.
  • A favorable cost of living with a social community.
  • Retiree-specific residency options.

The Digital Nomad

The digital nomad is perhaps the fastest growing expat group today, due to the rise in web-based job opportunities. The digital nomad is usually a 20-to-30-something who values experience over possessions and adventure over traditional societal roles.Consumer Resource Guide

With the advancement of technology and the downswing in corporate 9-5 job opportunities, young adults have taken to the skies in search of a different life than what their parents had. Gone is the business hierarchy, the white picket fence home, and Friday afternoon happy hour at the country club. The digital nomad would rather make less, spend less, and own less…all in pursuit of invaluable experiences and mind-opening cultural epiphanies.   

To be a digital nomad, you only need a few basic essentials: the ability to make money remotely (usually in such online sectors as freelance writing, graphic design, website development, or the arts), financial liquidity, and the desire to always chase what’s around the next corner.

What they’re looking for:

  • Economic freedom, ease of travel within the region.
  • Practical public transportation, inexpensive housing options (budget hotels, co-ops, hostels).
  • Social working environments to meet like-minded people and network, such as co-working spaces and internet cafes.
  • Culture above comfort.

Click here to read Part 2 of this article, where we’ll cover the remaining categories that most expats fall into.

Don’t see a category that fits you? Contact us below and tell us your story! Every expat is different, and many are a combination of the different expat types.

Need more help deciding if you’re ready to live overseas? Take our free quiz here.

Once you’ve submitted your answers, further analyze your international needs with our survey: Will I Be Happy When I Get There?

This will help to give both us and you a better understanding of what it takes to make sure a life abroad is sustainable and enjoyable for many years.

Author Bio:

Tyler Sorce is an American writer and chef currently based in New York City. He has previously worked in Rome, Paris, and Lisbon, documenting local cuisine and culture through words and photos. Follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram.

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