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The 10 Types of Expats (Reasons Why People Move Abroad)

Expats Everywhere

Ever wonder why people move abroad? It's easy to think of workers and retirees, but what about the rest of us? What are the different types of expats?

Expat types

10 Types of Expats

In this detailed infographic (by Internations), you'll learn about the ten types of expats. (See the full inforgraphic below.)

Here is the full breakdown of ten types of expats.

10 Reasons People Move Abroad

  1. The Foreign Assignee: Typically sent to a specific country (often India, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Nigeria) by their employers and works a solid 46+ hours per week.
  2. The Career Expat: Often move to countries such as Bahrain, Belgium, Kenya, Luxembourg, or Oman with work contracts they found on their own.
  3. The Foreign Recruitee: Recruited by local employers from countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman or Bahrain, these expats see their income improve more than other foreign workers.
  4. The (Ex-)Student: These expats generally speak the local language better than other types of expats. They often live in countries such as Greece, Sweden, Argentina, Ireland or Norway.
  5. The Traveling Spouse: Primarily women, this group of expats follow their partner's job or education and often live in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Switzerland or Kazakhstan.
  6. The Romantic: Moving for love to Greece, Sweden, Argentina, Ireland or Norway.
  7. The Family Expat: Us! We moved to enjoy life abroad and see a new way of life. We are coming up on six years as a happy expat family. Of course, this can also include moving to be closer to your spouses family. These expats often live in countries such as Greece, Kuwait, Canada or New Zealand. See also #9.
  8. The “Single Destination” Expat: This type of expat chooses a country and builds a new life there. They are quite likely to settle into the local culture.
  9. The “Greener Pastures” Expat: Many expats move for a better life. There are hundreds of these expats here in Ecuador. (We are some of them.) Sometimes the better life comes from lower cost of living – but other times it's just the different culture and way of life. Among the countries mentioned, Ecuador, Thailand, and Costa Rica are mentioned.
  10. The Globetrotter: Many of these expats are just slow-moving world-travelers. And I can see the attraction. Backpacking the world is one thing – but staying a few months/years in each place sounds much better. You could really get a taste of the place.

So there you have it: 10 Types of Expats. Am I missing any? Please share your thoughts in the comments below the infographic.

Planning a move abroad as a family? Check out our book: The Happy Expat Family (on Amazon).

>> Click on the image to enlarge infographic <<


Infographic courtesy of Internations


Your Turn

What type of expat are you? Please join the conversation in the comments below.

Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is co-editor of - and is working to make it the best resource for current and future expats. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of GringosAbroad (Find Your Next Adventure in Ecuador) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

28 comments… add one
  • Richard A Mageau Feb 15, 2015, 10:19 am

    My parents moved to Ottawa from Alberta when I was four tears old, in 1940. I believe that I caught a bug then, the travel bug. I have lived and worked as a teacher in the Ivory Coast, the Belgian Congo, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. My wife of 45 years and I have been very fortunate in being able to travel the world during summer holidays. We spent a couple of months in Ecuador last year, and the bug bit us badly. So here we are for the first time in South America. We had no choice in the matter, the travel bug is very powerful and it is quite unwise to try to ignore it. Are we a different type of expat?

  • Rob Hertzenberg Feb 15, 2015, 10:21 am

    I wanted an adventure in retirement filled with new learning experiences and travel. I scouted out Ecuador 2 1/2 years ago, visiting Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja and Vilcabamba and settled on Cuenca as the place to which I’d like to retire. I flew down to Ecuador at the end of January this year and have been spending a month in Salinas on the coast before I head to Cuenca. One of my brothers and my sister spent to weeks with me here and we had such a good time! I’m very much looking forward to making new friends, exploring all Ecuador has to offer and traveling. I think it’s the perfect fit for me!

  • Ellen Feb 15, 2015, 10:26 am

    Well, we moved to Vilcabamba in 2012 for several reasons.
    1. because the US had become a very toxic place to live. Between GMOs, pesticides, pollution, chemtrails, basically everything, cancer had skyrocketed (even to me) and we wanted to bail.
    2. freedoms were being attacked and it was no longer the land we grew up in. with the apparent outcome of the election, we realized nothing was about to change, again, we wanted out.
    3. The US weather is too cold and we had had enough of that, too.
    4. Because here basically all the expats understood our way of thinking, whereas in the US, everyone thought we were nuts.
    5. We could no longer afford to live in the US. The economy had us headed for abject poverty.
    6. For spiritual reasons, we believe the US is in big trouble and headed for judgment.

    • Janet LeBlanc Feb 15, 2015, 2:12 pm

      I am a little of 7, 8, 9, and 10!

  • Jim Feb 15, 2015, 10:37 am

    It looks like #7 and #9 would be us. Onward to Mexico.

  • Arlene Feb 15, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Another type of expat is being born to roam. My Dad was in the Navy and we moved all the time. When I grew up I continued to roam and have ended up in Ecuador.

  • rich Feb 15, 2015, 1:43 pm

    I still live here in USA.Would like too move abroad within the next 5-7 years.4 me IT’s between Merida Mexico and Cuenca Ecuador,at this point I’m leaning more towards Ecuador,but time will tell.4 me some of the reasons I want to leave the USA is as follows.
    1.US Politics
    2.Begin a new life
    4.Cost of living
    5.Not having 2 worry about someone trying 2 sue me for any little thing.
    6.Change of Culture
    7.Want 2 live a simple and clean life
    8.Tired of the rat race
    10.I can paint my house any color I want without complains from the neighborhood or HOA. (yard also)

  • Chuck Feb 15, 2015, 2:14 pm

    My reasons for relocating in the near future are retirement, something new in life and very disappointed in the United States. We have been there twice for a total of about a month and the people and living style (walking and busses or cabs, no heating or air conditioning, and the nicest people I’ve ever met) are just what we’re looking for.

  • Jeff Schinsky Feb 15, 2015, 2:36 pm

    I guess I’m a hybrid “Single-Destination / Greener Pasteurs” expat in Cuenca, Ecuador. Due to a bad auto crash, working at my old profession became rather difficult. I had retirement and disability income coming in, but it wasn’t even close to what I needed to survive in Coloado. Then I watched the Haynes’ family espisod of House Hunters International, and the seed took root. I spend some time doing research, then came down in Dec 2013 to “scope things out,” then I was back off to Colroado to sell all of my stuff and move down here. I’m learning the language, meeting both SA and NA friends, and I’m especially enjoying not having to work for a living. I just celebrated the 1st anniversary of my move here, and I have no intentions of leaving. (Or in other words, the grass *was* greener).

  • Paul Acee Feb 15, 2015, 2:47 pm

    Number #9 mostly, and I don’t believe in “chemtrails” 🙂

  • Larry Feb 15, 2015, 3:50 pm

    We are contemplating a move to Salinas for all the reasons that Ellen listed. Looks like we might fit in.

  • Juan Morales Feb 15, 2015, 6:11 pm

    My partner and I relocated to Cuenca, Ecuador in 5/13 to get away from the rat race in Florida. We simply love our new country and on 3/14 started A thriving business that started as an idea. We are early fifties and wanted to live life on our terms! The people, culture, architecture, weather and expat community is amazing.

  • Mona Whitfield Feb 16, 2015, 5:03 am

    If fleeing a corrupt government which is increasingly becoming a police state, yet protects criminals a ‘greener pasture’ expat. I guess that is as close as I can get. I do think you need another category of expat however, One that is not as simple as ‘greener pastures.’ More like those who are fleeing their country because it is no longer a safe place to have a VOICE or to raise a child.

  • Survivor Feb 16, 2015, 10:01 am

    You neglected to include the unwilling expats, those that have decided to remain with his or her deported spouse. It was never their intent to become expats, but for their family, they have. With immigration reform as it is, the number of members in this group has been growing in leaps and bounds. Fortunately, for most, they have found that the grass is indeed greener in their new country.

  • John Worsell Feb 16, 2015, 2:37 pm

    i am now a 9 having spent the last 4 years looking for a better place to live. I Checked out several European countries, parts of Asia, New Zealand , and parts of the USA, Traveled the several SA countries and all of the Central America. I also went to 3 International Living Fast Track meetings.

    In April 2014, I bought a condo in Salinas, Ecuador after traveling all over the country. The area seems just what i was looking for. Great people, great weather and lots to do.

    I was a 10 and spent years traveling the world on my sailboat before returning to Canada which I thought would be my final home. Things have chanced in the last 15 years since I returned:
    1, increased government intervention in everyday life,
    2. taxes at every level increasing with less services.
    3. Cost of living is out of control. eg. Canada produces oil and natural gas but we pay top prices for oil and gas products, mainly due to taxes.
    4. As I got older I wanted better year round weather!!

  • Bob Weisenberg Feb 17, 2015, 4:23 am

    Globetrotters. We sold or gave away everything we owned, rented our house (now unfurnished) in Milwaukee and headed for Pallanza, Italy for six months. In the fall we’ll be in Cuenca, summer in Cusco, Peru, fall in Malaga, Spain, winter (summer there) in Patagonia (Argentina or Chile), spring back to Pallanza, summer in Norway, then…we have no idea. All subject to change according to our whims and new experiences, of course.

  • Laura Lynch Feb 17, 2015, 3:00 pm

    We’re about to become a Foreign Assignee and Traveling Spouse as my husband takes on a new role in his company. I’m really looking forward to a new way of life, a new perspective on life, and hopefully a million new memories that can’t be had when you just live in your native country your whole life. There’s so much more out there to see!

  • cate Feb 18, 2015, 4:45 pm

    I’m still working but beginning to seriously explore possible retirement havens as there is no way I will ever be able to “retire” if I stay in the USA. I will have a social security check, a small pension, and hopefully will be allowed to work part-time in the foreign home of my eventual choice. Central and South America are looking pretty good to me as I like the culture, climate, and much lower cost of living than the US! I am concerned about learning Spanish, finding a safe, affordable rental in a small city or big town that has a low crime rate and is welcoming to older, single women. A move is probably at least 2 years away, however, I do plan to take some exploratory trips to places like Ecuador to see if it feels right for a new home. thanks, Cate

  • Karen Feb 18, 2015, 6:30 pm

    I’m a lil bit of #8 & a lil bit of #9! atleast i’m on my way to fulfilling that dream…

  • Heidi Wagoner Feb 19, 2015, 10:03 am

    We are a mixture of several. 🙂 Just loving life and traveling as much as we can.

  • Bill Feb 22, 2015, 11:20 am

    For us, although we still live in the states, it is family in Cuenca, and just a desire for change (better weather too) to be honest, plus I love Cuenca. and have a house there too.. When people start bashing the US I defend the US, most could not have the opportunity to be an expat if not for their careers and opportunity provided by their home country. But for me at least, ready to change it up, been to Cuenca 8 times I think we know what we are getting ourselves into.

  • John Scherber Mar 1, 2015, 3:53 pm

    We are definitely #8, the Single Destination Expat. We chose San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, eight years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its people. I became interested in the process of becoming an expat and wrote a book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. For anyone thinking of settling on the beach, or in one of the colonial cities of the interior, this is an essential conversation. It’s called San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart, and there is no other book like it. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my website:

  • Max Sand Mar 6, 2015, 8:07 pm

    Definitely 8&9 for me. After visiting Costa Rica in 2013 I came to Ecuador in Sept last year to learn Spanish for 3 months. Fell in love with the mountains around Banos and decided not to go back to Canada.

  • Bill Mar 7, 2015, 2:24 pm

    so for the US bashers, guess what, every government has its problems and corruption, and do not for one second think Ecuador is immune, high tarrifs, selling out to China, dependence on the now falling oil prices that will hurt, dependence on mining, and not creation of intelligence based jobs,, lack of freedom of speech, should I keep going, I love Ecuador but my motive is not to escape my home country, thank you very much

  • Nina Apr 22, 2015, 6:36 am

    I am confuse with the term of expat and immigrant, could once change their title from an “expat” to an “immigrant”? What category do you call it when one move to another country to look for a job, not necessarily fall into the ‘The “Single Destination” Expat’ category but nearly there, like those who looks for jobs in Western Europe from Eastern Europe, as labourers; working in construction site leaving their family in their home country and yet living on the cheap. What are they? expat or immigrant?

  • Orla May 5, 2015, 11:48 am

    Xi xi I’m part of the family expat – we’re moving for the sake of the adventures, to try something new, to see different places and cultures! Greetings, Man With Van St Johns Wood Ltd.

  • Rey Waters Jun 17, 2016, 7:33 pm

    The majority of expats living in Japan came here to teach English and never left. The public and private school system have English national assistant teachers in almost all language classes. With the aging population there will be more opportunities for work visas in all types of occupations. I ended up here as a result of marrying my wonderful Japanese wife. I also looked to this move as an adventure and now I do not plan on leaving.

  • atheisticallyyours88 May 8, 2017, 1:52 pm

    How about retirees? There is an estimated 1 MILLION Americans LIVING IN MEXICO, who RETIRED, and appreciate the lower cost of living!

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