Successful expats, while not a perfect science, do share certain key factors. After almost 10 years of being an expat, living in four different countries, travelling to over 40 others, and meeting dozens, if not hundreds of fellow expats, it seems to me there are some common characteristics of what makes a successful expat or extended traveller. While not all of these apply, and there are probably many more, these 12 characteristics seem to be consistent with those who choose the expat lifestyle and thrive in it. If you’re considering moving abroad but not sure you have what it takes to be a successful expat, read on!
1. They Are Explorers At Heart
Expats have usually travelled at least a little bit before deciding to move abroad. They love the adventure of a new country and potentially a new language. They are the ones you won’t find on the guided tour, crammed together with 50 other tourists in a cattle car, instead opting to figure out how to explore on their own.
2. They Embrace Other Cultures.
Successful Expats generally are interested in other cultures, their customs and what makes the people tick. They work to integrate themselves with the locals, wanting to immerse themselves in their new culture and understanding what makes the locals do what they do.
3. They’re Not Afraid Of A New Challenge.
Moving and living abroad isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if you’re moving to a country where there’s a different language. Relocating to a new city is equal parts exciting and terrifying. The challenges of learning how to ask for the simplest things can turn a seasoned traveller’s knees to jelly. Learning to get your cedula, how to sign up for health insurance, figuring out which school to put you kids in, and where to move are all challenges the expat willingly navigates.
4. They’ll Try Anything Once.
The thriving expat will be the one at the table wanting to try cuy (guinea pig) or whatever it is the locals are eating for a special occasion. They’re willing to try anything, at least once!
5. They Are Curious By Nature.
It’s been my experience that successful expats ask a lot of questions. They’ll be quizzing their local friends “Why does the parade take 11 hours and it’s always 3 hours late?” From culture, history and where to find the best market for organic veggies, expats are eager to learn everything there is to know about their new city. They will be asking “Where do the locals shop? Will you take me there?” They want to know about their new home and how to operate in it. They tend to be keen observers of other veteran expats to shortcut some of the frustrating stuff.
6. They Shun The Status Quo.
Once, while I was standing in the customs line in Canada on our way back to Ecuador, I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me and shared that we lived in Ecuador. She stared in horror at me and my then 7-year-old daughter and said “How could you subject your child to such a life? She should be in school here in Canada with kids of her own culture.” I quickly realized that not everyone felt the same way that I did about exposing kids to other cultures as a growth opportunity. Fortunately, the man in front of me in line leaned back and said “Good for you, I did the same with my kids and it was the smartest thing I ever did.”
7. They Feel The World Is Theirs To Explore.
Whether it’s a day trip to the nearby waterfall or a trek around the world, successful expats love to explore.
8. They Ask “Why Not?” Instead Of “Why?”
When I recently asked a friend why she chose to move to Ecuador, she replied “Why not?” Indeed! Life is short and for experiencing. Those who have the ‘why not’ attitude seem to do well as an expat because they know if they don’t like it, they can make a different choice.
9. They Roll With The Punches.
Lose your luggage? That’s unfortunate, but luckily the carry on you packed has enough essentials until the airline can locate your bag. The apartment you rented isn’t going to be ready for another 2 weeks, even though the landlord assured you it would be ready when you arrived? No problem, you’ll take the time to visit Vilcabamba and see what all the fuss is about. If you’re going to move abroad, be prepared for the unexpected. It’s part of the program that no one tells you about.
10. They Know Who They Are And Are Comfortable With That.
If you haven’t figured out who you really are, there’s nothing like becoming an expat or extended traveller to find out! How you deal with frustration, disappointment and victories becomes clear. You’ll also learn what truly makes you happy and likely uncover a few surprises. Some who move to Ecuador realize they can’t live that far away from the grandchildren or the call of being surrounded by familiar things is too strong to stay away. That’s okay! Deciding to return to your original home isn’t a failure–it’s being true to yourself and what really makes you happy.
11. They Will Be The First People To Recommend Expat Life.
You’ll often find that successful expats are eager to encourage others to try the expat life because they love it so much!
12. Successful Expats Aren’t Stuck On Expectations.
Successful Expats have plans, like anyone, but they’re not stuck on them. They don’t stress too much about something that doesn’t work out. If an expat is unhappy, they’ll take whatever measure necessary to change that. They’re not stuck once they make a decision — if they need a change, they’ve done it once so they can do it again!
[color-box color=”gray”]Want more information on how to be a successful expat? Another great article to check out has everything to do with your “software” and how it effects your expat experience.
Have a trait or characteristic that you would add to our list? Lets us know in the comment section below. Bonus points if you can provide an example of how your “trait” helped you to become a successful expat.[/color-box]