How To Be An Expat

What is an expat? And what is a migrant? When is an expat an immigrant?

Expat, it conjures up an image many of us will agree looks the same. Middle class white person with a decent career and expendable income. Just as the terms immigrant and migrant bring a different set of assumptions. It's a hot button issue at the moment, with brexit and recent travel bans being issued the conversation needs to be had.

With these major events happening, fears surrounding job security, concerns over immigration and basic human travel conditions are the spark that lights the flame of this discussion. Ultimately, Who falls into which category? A key part of this dialogue is how exactly we define different people who move abroad to work.

Clarity and breadth

Let's be honest, this is very much a class issue, most people who consider themselves ‘expats’ are moving away for the experience or to improve the quality of life, however migrants often leave their country of origin to escape poverty. However we should not be viewing migrants in this way, migrants, by definition are people who intend to go and live in a county for a period of time. They then leave the country to go home when they’ve completed their allotted time.

We should not see someone as an expat or immigrant based on origin, skin colour or how much money they have, it’s about the reasoning behind their decision to move abroad to work.

The truth is, we are becoming less divided in regards where we choose to live and travel, thus the more different people from different places we come into contact with. The globalisation of world populus is a good thing, our travel behaviours change and so do our working habits. Were seeing working nomads in which the world is their office, beaches their workstations and bars their watering holes. A more free-flowing, borderless style which should be embraced.

Defining the impact

These new nomads bring change, and that change must be a positive one, there’s still a large divide in the working conditions for instance, a banker in Singapore and a construction worker in Qatar are VASTLY different! The countries working conditions of those building World Cup stadiums for example have been heavily criticized and rightly so.

What we must do is continue to speak up about abuse of this system, help those that are victims of it and help them aspire to a better standard of living. We must also embrace these nomads within our own land, only good can come from this new wave of interesting and unique neighbours.

Settlers and Nomads

To become an expat, first we must decide which type you are, a settler or a nomad.

There are still settlers – those who are content to live and work in their own town or city and have decided to find a new home to call their own.  There are nomads, people born with itchy feet.

Being an expat doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll move from one country to another and then stay there. It may mean that you choose to live and work in several different countries over a period of years, often without returning ‘home’ for any prolonged period. Or you may want to emigrate to another country permanently.

If this lifestyle appeals to you, then the key to achieving it is learning how to create opportunities and mitigate risks.

There are 5 main ways to become an expat, and which you choose will depend on several factors such as your age, experience, profession and even self-confidence.

  1. Being a foreign student.
  2. As a part of a government service, such as Military or Diplomatic Corps.
  3. Being an accompanying partner and following your partner abroad.
  4. Finding and applying for a private job in a different country and moving when you’re successful.
Study abroad

Moving abroad as a student is probably the easiest pathway and the one which carries the least risk. After all, as a student you will be looked after, opportunities will be provided on a platter, you’ll have a ready-made social group and you won’t have to stress about where you’re going to live and how you’re going to pay your bills.

Being an accompanying partner and following your partner abroad.

At home, you may be both have incomes. When you move, you know that one of you is going to lose their job and you don’t know when he/she is going to get another one. Plan for this. Create a budget that is based on one income. Figure out how much (if needed) you want to dip into your savings while finding for a job. Find out whether it is financially possible for you to go years without you contributing. 

Government service

If you have a government position that involves a international posting, well, the decision has already been made and a lot of the stress (visa trouble, accommodation etc) is taken out of your hands.

Applying for a job overseas with a leap of faith

Now this is the most common way to become an expat, you will need to possess a very strong skill set in your chosen career. In some countries there are strict rules governing who can and can’t live and work there.

Throughout the majority of Europe however, these rules are much more relaxed and it is easier to get a placement for yourself.

What does a new British Expat need?

Becoming an expat is a stressful experience and getting into your new culture can be difficult at times. But! It need not be, we have asked some our customers what items they wished they would have taken or purchased/subscribed to whilst being expats.


Well we are british... During stressful times tea really is the liquid that keeps us going. When you first arrive in your new home we almost guarantee that yorkshire gold will not be available (trust us it's our most popular item) so you probably won’t know what are the local tesco value branded stuff from the twinings. Taking a (ideally massive) box with you means that you’ll be able to spend your first few days with a taste of home.

City guide

Unless you’re already familiar with the area you’re moving to, city guides are invaluable for new expats. We personally recommend downloading an app on your phone/tablet if you can. Wandering round your new home with someone local if you have no sense of direction or on your own if you are confident enough. This might make you feel a bit like a tourist but using guides are their for a reason!

A special something from home

Perhaps its something little and not that extraordinary, maybe its flash and glamourus, no matter what it is that little object can really make a new country feel less foreign and more like the place you live.

UK Adaptors

Let's be honest they are the best plugs, (fun fact! They can also be used as bottle openers)  thankfully when it comes to our media devices and phones the USB socket is universal so it's not as bad as it was. However, their is bound to be at least one thing that you'll need the adaptor for, so for your own sanity take one or buy it when you arrive


Call your loved ones alot, its one of main things our customers say to us. Since frequent international phone calls can be really pricey. Skype is a fantastic way of keeping in touch with loved ones.

Medical insurance (if needed)

Thank the lord for the NHS eh? Depending on where you go of course you will need medical insurance. Research is KEY and if you read our last blog you'd know this *wink* If you should get ill or suffer an injury abroad getting treatment can be costly and confusing if you don’t have insurance in place to cover it.

A pay-as-you-go phone

I did this myself before I eventually went to contract, sometimes you can't get a contract right away and need to have a phone (especially now a days) this will ensure that you can make and receive calls texts and emails.

Local currency

Cash cards and internet banking exist thank god! However having some of your new country’s currency in physical form can be really useful. Your first few days of being an expat i can guarantee you, it will be used.  You will need currency right from the moment you step off the plane in your new country. A pre-paid currency card is ideal!

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