Tuesday 16th November 2010
Earlier this year The Economist Intelligent Unit issued a special report on expatriate life entitled, Up and Out. Next Moves for the Modern Expatriate. In the report they looked at expatriate personality types and questioned, “What makes a successful expatriate?”
According to their research findings, a staggering 73% of expatriates surveyed believed that cultural sensitivity was the most important contributory factor for successful life abroad. Other traits such as foreign language skills, ability to network, previous experience of living abroad and ability to lead by example were also named as being important qualities for expats.
In this article we provide our own insights into what makes a happy expatriate and explore some of the personalities traits that the average successful expatriate seems to possess.
Expat Personality Traits
- Organized. Planning ahead can remove a significant amount of stress from the process of moving abroad and will assist you to settle in much faster. Remember that you are planning for two major events; leaving an old life and starting a new one, and both of these require a great deal of attention. When you first start to make planning for international relocation it can be overwhelming and you may start to question if the move is even possible. The best approach is to remain calm and divide the plans into small manageable chunks. If you feel that you could benefit from a sample plan then please see our free moving checklist template. It contains a 90-day planner listing common tasks that expatriates need to complete when moving overseas and can be a valuable starting point for your own planning activities.
- Open and ready to embrace new challenges. Moving overseas means facing changes, and unless you are ready and willing to accept these changes then the move will result in a complete disaster. Successful expats are often those who look forward to new experiences and lifestyles and are ready and willing to embrace them. No doubt things will be different in your host country but, instead of focusing of what your temporary home isn’t, you should be accepting of what it is. Don’t complain about bureaucracy or how things are don’t differently, just accept that this is the way it is- for now at least. You can’t exactly recreate your previous life in your host country and the sooner you realize that, the better. Open yourself up to the life and culture in your host country and give as many new opportunities a go as you can. No doubt things will sometimes go wrong but be prepared to roll with the punches, put any unexpected difficulties down to bad experience and quickly move on to find out what else your new life overseas has to throw at you.
- Prepared to ask for help. Being proud and refusing to ask other people for help and advice will get you nowhere when living abroad as an expat. Everyone needs help and guidance and the sooner you start to approach others for insights into life in your host country, the quicker you will be able to learn about all the idiosyncrasies associated with it and how to avoid unnecessary obstacles. Expats are generally a friendly lot and the majority of them jump at the first opportunity to help a new arrival. Join online expat networks or social groups and introduce yourself as a newbie. Feel free to ask all those burning questions that you have and you’ll quickly be surrounded with willing volunteers who are more than happy to share their pearls of wisdom and show you the ropes. Through being prepared to ask others for help you will save your own valuable time and potentially make some friends in the process.
- Willing to take a risk. When you first move abroad you really do not know what awaits. You enter into an unknown territory where anything could happen. This is a significant risk, especially if you are very happy in your home country. The most effective expats are the ones who embrace this risk and acknowledge that the move may not be permanent and that there is no harm whatsoever in sampling life abroad. At the end of the day, if it all goes pear-shaped, you can always return home. Through taking that step into the unknown you have the potential to enjoy a unique experience and truly alter your perception on life. Embrace it as a positive thing and let life take you where it will.
- Ready to embrace the culture of their host country. Quite often the most successful expatriates are those that wholeheartedly embrace the culture and traditions of their host country. Instead of moving overseas and forming associating purely with other expats, they are ready and willing to mix with the local people and integrate as fully as they can. Through doing so, these people start to adjust much more quickly as they are in a better position to understand the country they are living in and can begin to make the most of the opportunity that has been presented to them. One of the best methods of demonstrating to the local people that you are making an effort to fit in with them is to attempt to learn the language. You don’t need to be fluent, but simply trying to communicate in your host country’s language will demonstrate your efforts and the local people will appreciate it.
- Prepared to work at it. Every change and challenge requires work and effort and you would be naive to think that moving overseas is any different. Don’t expect everything to be right first time and do expect to have low points when you feel frustrated or lonely and just want to get on the first flight back home. Being a happy expat means accepting that sometimes you will feel sad. The work you put into making a new home for yourself abroad will be rewarded many times over and every challenge you overcome will make you feel stronger.
Have you experience of relocating to a new country? What personality traits do you think were the most effective in helping you to settle in and enjoy life in your host country? We’d love to know what you think.