Friday, 16 July 2010

Why do people become expats?

What is it that makes someone decide that they want to become an expat? Is it purely about monetary gain? Is it about the search for something new? Is it about the lifestyle or is it because the power of a relationship is enough to make you up sticks and leave home?

There are a huge number of expats out in the world. The UN puts the figure of international migrant stock at over 200 million worldwide – some will be on short-time work secondments, some will constantly move from one location to another every few years and then there will be those who choose to instead relocate permanently, adopting their new country as their home.Each one of these groups has a difference reason for becoming an expat in the first place. Traditionally, the view has been that the key driver is monetary gain and the prospect of developing one’s career exponentially by getting international experience. The interesting question is, however, how long does it actually take to (a) decide you want to move abroad and (b) then actually make the move.

It’s a big decision and one that can’t be taken lightly. Lucky individuals will benefit from being transferred with their existing company. In this case, it’s often the company that will organise everything for the expat when it comes to relocation, so this in itself can wipe off a significant amount of time when it comes to making the decision to move and the departure itself.

For those expats that don’t benefit from this, however, what are the things to think about when relocating? What are the pros and cons about moving and also what are some of the other aspects that people may not think of until they move, thereby making the first stage of establishing a new life that much trickier. The general rule is that the more you can set up ahead of time the better. The list includes a few of the following:

· Getting the right Visa sorted

· Setting up a bank account

· Setting up medical insurance

· Understanding the general cost of living including accommodation, food and public transportation

· Which location to live in: where can you get the best expat experience but also where will be suitable for work etc

· Cultural differences: what you need to know in your new home

· What sort of clubs to join in order to hit the ground running when it comes to establishing a social life

Often, the best way of finding out the above is speaking to someone else who is living or has lived in the country you are going to. Their inside knowledge will be invaluable to you as you’ll be getting the facts first-hand from someone who has tried and tested them. If you don’t have one of these sources, try sites like Just Landed which can be great sources of information for would be – and existing – expats around the world.

Whilst there is a lot to sort out, the potential rewards are endless. If you have any tips to share with prospective expats about things that they should be thinking about, please let us know here. I’m sure there would be many that would be grateful for the help!


  1. Here in Holland, you have to have a BSN (Burger Service Nummer) in order to get anything. You have to register at your local town hall wherever you are residing. There is a LOT of bureaucracy involved.

  2. Research, setting up as much as you can before hand and speaking to someone who has lived there beforehand are all musts. The only way you can truly know if you'll enjoy the relocation is by doing it! There is nothing more beneficial than real-life experience. Note that it never gets easier. No matter how many relocation's you've been to there is always stress associated. A relocation service can be a great benefit in this process as they will shoulder most of the headache.


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