What kinds of people leave hearth and home for life in another country?
Here are a few categories I’ve come up with. I’m sure that many expats fit into more than one. I know I do! Let me know if you have a category I’ve missed.
Expats By Necessity
We won’t dwell on the first group — their reasons for expatriating are obvious.
- Military Personnel sent abroad
- Workers whose employers assign them to overseas positions
- Ambassadors and similar government employees sent to represent their country in another
The next group includes those who move to another country for what I think of as cultural reasons.
- Missionaries. In this category I include, not just religious missionaries, but anyone with a “mission.” This would include Peace Corps volunteers, people who start orphanages, and the literacy volunteers who try to teach indigenous peoples how to communicate with others around them.
- Students. The student category includes the hordes of college juniors who elect to take part or all of their year abroad as part of their school’s curriculum. It also includes those who wish to immerse themselves in another language or culture. Painters, musicians, writers and other artists who travel for inspiration or to learn how other cultures view the world would also be included in the student category.
Next we find the escapists group. These are expats characterized more by what they are getting away from than by what they are moving toward.
- Geographic escapists. These folks want to escape from cold weather to the sunny tropics, from the mountains to the ocean, or from the farms to the cities.
- Social escapists want to break loose from uncomfortable family or social ties at home (or a lack thereof!) to create a new social network elsewhere.
- Economic escapists want to leave a more expensive country for a cheaper one. Many of these are retirees who, like myself, simply can’t afford to retire comfortably in their native land and don’t want to work until they drop. There are also many economic escapists who are still of working age, but want to pursue a career or vocation they might not be able to live on at home, but could afford in a less expensive country. Idealistists who work for non-profit organizations might fit into this category. So would those who believe there is more to life than work, and who feel they can better raise a family and have time for important activities outside of work, in a country where the cost of living is lower and the pace of life is slower.
Although the highest peaks have already been scaled, the Amazon has been explored by westerners, and the deserts have been mapped, there are still many who move abroad because it’s an adventure. While I think there’s a bit of the adventurer in anyone who willingly pursues an expat life, there are some for whom it is the primary reason they leave their home countries.
And, of course, there are always opportunists in any group.
- Business people who see a need they can fill, and/or a fantastic opportunity to make huge amounts of money in another country.
- Investors in real estate, businesses or farmland.
- Tax avoiders or evaders.
- Law dodgers, people who for legal reasons leave their home country to hang out in somebody else’s and hope they won’t be caught and extradited.