by Chloe Trogden
Though more people are starting to travel for their job, and more people are embracing the idea of “lifestyle design,” the serial expat is still a relatively rare creature. Maybe you know someone who taught English in Asia for a year – I’m one of them – but few of us know people who spend their whole lives living abroad, maybe even bouncing from country to country, seeing the world while they work.
Perhaps because so few people actually know a serial expat, there are a lot of misconceptions about what serial expats are like and what their lives are like. Many of them are negative, though a couple are positive. Either way, they all miss the mark in some way. Here are a few of the myths about the serial expat compared to the reality of the expat lifestyle:
They Don’t Want to Grow Up
One of the most common perceptions about the serial expat is that they are Peter Pan types who don’t want to grow up. They party all the time, and they hold down a job only long enough to finance their next trip to some tropical beach where they can party the days and nights away. The perception is that serial expats can’t face the reality of a job and a mortgage and a family, so they defer the inevitable by literally dropping out and moving to another country.
The reality is that – just like with any group of people – this is true for some expats, but it is not true of them as a group. Many serial expats are working in serious jobs that are a part of achieving their long-term career goals. They are working in senior positions or working their way up to them. They are living the same kind of lives that anyone else lives – except they’re doing it in another country. In many cases, they may even be buying real estate or raising families.
They Can’t Commit
Serial expats are often thought of as serial bachelors. Many people think that they don’t want to commit to a partner, to get married, or to raise a family. The logic is that if they were settled down with a spouse and children, they wouldn’t be moving around to other countries – they’d be saddled with a mortgage State-side near their extended families.
However, the reality is that many serial expats are traveling with their partners and their spouses and that many of them have children. There are expats taking round-the-world trips as they homeschool their children. There are expats who are pursuing career opportunities as they put their children in English-speaking schools.
They Can’t Get “Real” Jobs
Going overseas to teach English is a popular choice for recent college grads who can’t find work in their home state – or who aren’t quite sure what they want to do for a career. Yet many people think that serial expats – especially teachers – decided to go overseas because they couldn’t or didn’t want to get “real” jobs.
The truth is that there are expats working in all types of jobs overseas. There are some working in NGOs, working as reporters at English daily newspapers, working as business leaders and so on. Even those working as teachers are working “real” jobs – many are committed to careers teaching ESL and developing curriculum.
Expats are seen as adventurers who are traveling the world, learning about new cultures, tasting new cuisine, and meeting new people. Many people think that every day for them will bring something new and exciting. They may look to the lives of serial expats with envy.
There is some truth to this perception, as expats do get to experience many adventures and learn about new cultures and new people. However, every day doesn’t bring something new and exciting. Many expats are living the same kind of lives as their friends and family back home – going to work, paying bills, keeping doctors’ appointments and so on.
They’re Risk Takers
Many people think that moving to another country is a big risk and that only those who are spontaneous and used to taking risks will make that choice. While moving to another country may be a big risk for some, it’s not for others. There are many expats who consider the move to be on par with moving to another state for a job. They may be comfortable making the move yet be risk averse in other areas of their life.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for the expat lifestyle. There’s as much diversity in the expat community as there is in any other community. Perceptions are just that: Perceptions, not necessarily reality. The truth is that serial expats are living the same kind of lifestyles as any other group of people – just in a different location.
Chloe Trogden is a seasoned financial aid writer who covers specific opportunities such as grants for school. Her leisure activities include camping, swimming and volunteer work.
What perceptions have you encountered about serial expats? Share your thoughts on them in the comments!