{Guest Post} Exploring Popular Perceptions about the “Serial Expat”.

24 Jul

by Chloe Trogden

In the Midst of This

In the Midst of This (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

They’re Adventurers

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!


Posted by on July 24, 2013 in expat, foreign service, TRAVEL


Tags: ,

19 responses to “{Guest Post} Exploring Popular Perceptions about the “Serial Expat”.

  1. theopenhome

    July 25, 2013 at 5:40 am

    This is such a great post and I will be sharing it over on my blog, The Open Home. My husband and I are hoping to move overseas and are exploring serving voluntarily in southern Africa. Although we’re not even expats yet we definitely pick up the ‘They don’t want to grow up’ vibe and the ‘They can’t commit’ vibe. We’ve recently had a baby and people now assume we’ve just given up on the life overseas idea. My husband has been told numerous times about his responsibilities to his wife and daughter, it’s apparently now time for him to stick at a job, provide for his family and give up on his dreams. Many people clearly feel we are selfish and irresponsible for wanting to do family life this way. This post really puts thing in perspective and will be a useful tool!


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      July 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

      I’m glad you’ve related to the post. Many of us – travelers, or simply the ones that for one reason or another, decide to go overseas for work – have been misperceived when it comes to the true meaning of moving overseas. I feel like we’re all thrown into this ‘guilt trip’ mode – we always feel guilty for leaving. And some of us have families and friends that unfortunately, will not understand the true reasons… One day, maybe… 😮
      Please feel free to share it, and begin a discussion on this topic – here, or on your blog… either way. The important thing is to keep the conversation over this going. Moving forward. The goal is to seek suggestions, questions from others, advice and concerns.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by the blog and share your impressions – I do appreciate the interest, curiosity and eagerness to join the conversation. Take care and good luck with your travels, Raquel.


  2. pollyheath

    July 24, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Very interesting! I wouldn’t call myself a serial expat yet, but I do get the impression that the idea of “expats as Peter Pan/partiers” is pretty widespread and not necessarily true. Great read!


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      July 24, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Ohh, I so wished expatriates would live the ‘Neverland lifestyle’… not a care in the world! 😮
      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Pak Liam

    July 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    I’d venture to suggest that the reason people don’t know many serial expats, is because the said expats are overseas! 😉


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      July 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      What about the expats one meets at their own country? 😮 Brazil has the largest Japanese community [obviously, outside Japan]; South Africa has a fairly large Dutch/German community; many African countries have a strong French/Portuguese presence… people cam meet ‘outsiders’ without even leaving their neighborhood! 😮


      • Pak Liam

        July 25, 2013 at 3:13 am

        Fair comment! 🙂


  4. Chasing the Donkey

    July 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    What a great read, thanks!
    I actually think that expats must work harder at all facets – to be sure they fit in and get good references when moving on.


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      July 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. I do believe many expats have to work harder than many if they were to live in their home countries… the whole adaptation to new cultures/habits makes it very challenging, but yet, very interesting and worth pursuing! 😮


  5. Coleen

    July 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    As a something of a serial expat, I will be bookmarking this page in order to pull it out and wave it in the faces of those who criticise my lifestyle. The “Real Jobs” part especially hurts when it comes up (and it comes up more frequently than I would like). I taught in Korea and Chile, and have literally had people ask me when I am going to get a proper job and stop playing around with kids.

    I took my jobs as a teacher extremely seriously, and I worked harder than people expect. Could it be that this disdain for TEFL jobs comes from the lack of respect for teachers in general back “home”?


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      July 24, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Coleen – thanks for taking the time to come over, read thru the post and share your thoughts. I’m really glad you enjoyed it/could relate to its content. I remember asking Chloe to come up with a ‘different vision’ for this take on the ‘social perception’ of us, serial expats. I totally agree with you – we do have real jobs, we do live real lives, we’re not hiding from anything/anyone. And we have no fear to grow as a person or as a professional. Travel is simply part of the whole process. And we all live and work overseas. Please feel free to share this piece, and any other you may find around the blog, with friends, co-workers, and why not, “with people back home”… I get that all the time from ‘my people’, as well! Greetings from La Paz, Bolivia.


  6. holawunmi

    July 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Reblogged this on SMILE ALWAYS .



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