It is next to impossible to describe the average expat. They can be laid back or highly driven, family-orientated or footloose singletons, old or young – the list goes on. That’s because becoming an expat says more about who you want to be than it does about who you already are.
Relocating your life, even for a short period, is a bold statement and one of the most popular reasons people become an expat is to challenge themselves. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or a parent, a serial expat or a first timer – according to our 2014 survey around a third of expats globally say they moved not in spite of the challenge but because of it.
Moving abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent yourself but once the plane touches down, losing the timid shackles of the old you is harder than it sounds. Take heed then from those who have gone before you:
“Become integrated into the country where you now live, make friends, serve the community. Learn and use English and get to know the country's history, geography, literature and customs” - An Austrian living in the UK
Herry Lawford / Creative Commons
Learning the local language is on the wish list of just about every new expat, with 53% of the expats in our 2014 survey saying they were trying to pick it up, but the locals in your new home will love nothing more than to hear you recite the details of their history and culture. Four in five (83%) expats say they enjoy getting to grips with the local culture so get stuck in and become the history buff you always knew you could be.
“Be sure and confident and don't let the setbacks keep you down”- A New Zealander living in Australia
Expats need confidence in spades, but luckily the experience of living and working abroad has a habit of giving even the shyest individual a self-assured confidence. Whether it’s an early experience of haggling over your rent using only a phrase book and the art of expressive body language or the experience of creating a friendship network from scratch whilst falling foul of the local faux pas, you’d be surprised just how confident you can be.
“When you work hard everyone will appreciate you” – An Indonesian living in Singapore
Our 2014 survey found that the number one reason expats give for moving abroad is to pursue their career but even in the office you can reinvent yourself. Swedish businesses embrace ‘lagom’ the art of doing things just right – not too much and not too little. With shorter chains of command and a devotion to taking regular ‘fika’s (breaks) the Swedish bound expat can learn the art of subtlety and teamwork. Expats moving to Japan, will be faced with a very different challenge, however. Whilst expats are often not expected to work quite as long as the locals, there is no doubt that expats in Japan quickly learn commitment.