Expatriates (or expats) give many reasons why they choose to leave the comfort and familiarity of their home countries. Some expats go abroad for family reasons, while others seek out opportunities like teaching English, providing technical expertise, or managing corporate operations in far-flung territories.
Compensation for working expats ranges from rates barely above the local population’s rate of pay, to a full benefits package offering the overseas corporate warrior a single-family home in a gated community, with private school tuition for the children included.
Many expats choose residence in a new country for financial reasons
Perhaps financial regulations in their new home allow maximization of the amount of retained income. For others, the attraction of living abroad is simply a lower and more affordable cost of living. Countries with very low costs of living include Algeria and Tunisia in Northern Africa. Paraguay and Bulgaria are two more of the many choices on the bottom half of the affordability scale.
Expats often go abroad for a combination of personal and financial reasons; the challenge, the opportunity for self-actualization, and a chance to experience a new language and culture, can be coupled with the ability to participate in expanding and growing economies.
For example, Christopher Roy Garland of Botswana chose to become an expat in Africa out of a mix of both personal reasons and the business opportunities he saw there. On his decision to remain and call Africa home, Garland says, “I soon couldn’t see myself leaving, and looking back on it, I can’t imagine taking any other path.”
While new and opening markets in the developing world may beckon to some, others choose life abroad in more developed nations, especially those which enable residents to maximize the amount of income they and their corporate entities can retain. Monaco, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands are among the sixteen countries which currently have no income tax, attracting expats on that basis.
Opportunities to teach the world’s language abroad remain abundant, with hundreds of job opportunities listed at any one particular time.
The best way to secure a position teaching English overseas is to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a year or two of teaching experience in one’s home country. Many countries also require teachers to have a TEFL or TESOL certificate.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from teaching at elite overseas institutions like the IB schools, there are countries that don’t even require a certificate, or even a college degree, to teach English. These include Costa Rica, Poland and Laos.
Culture Map founder Shing taught English in China without a degree, also going there, in part, to renew herself. She says, “I was selling my soul for a bit of lousy commission. I had to get out of England.”
The Backpack Has a Laptop
In recent years, backpackers and others who travel light have taken advantage of the work-from-home trend, using laptops to do everything from software coding or web development, to sales and marketing, from the comfort of their keyboard.
The term digital nomad has come to characterize those who have realized “home is where the laptop is.” Around 50 nations are now offering special digital nomad visas, among them: South Africa, Mexico, Thailand and Germany.
Cultural Immersion and Making a Difference
Some expats go abroad because they want to make a difference. One can be a member of the diplomatic corps and have an impact at a government and corporate level. Many religious denominations and nonprofit organizations support volunteers as well.
Giving as well as receiving is part of the equation. As Lucy Kleinerman of Colibri Art said of her time volunteering in Costa Rica, “I was looking for inspiration, interest and to being curious again.” While her time abroad was temporary, some choose a lifetime of volunteering and helping others in their adopted homeland.
When all is said and done, everyone will have their own combination of reasons to become expats, be it for ten weeks, ten months, a decade, or a lifetime. There are many countries welcoming retirees, investors, teachers, volunteers, digital nomads and others who want to share in a nation’s culture and life. So when you’re ready to become an expat, your future home awaits.
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