Expats: Away from Home but Happy in their Host Countries

Has anyone ever heard of a lonely expat? It seems almost counterintuitive to think someone would be lonely as an expatriate when reaching that level means one has had some measure of success and that going somewhere to replicate that success sounds like the most exciting thing. 

Success begets success, after all. About 74 percent of all expats, for instance, said they’re happy with life in general, while 84 percent said they’re happy in their relationships. This was from a survey done by InterNations, an expat support group based in Germany, where it asked more than 20,000 people living in 187 countries and regions to rank their happiness based on two categories: life in general and their relationship with their partner. It weighted the two results and ranked the countries where expats were happiest.

CNBC also didn’t mince words when it headlined a piece, “Landing a new job out of the country may be the ticket to being happier at work.”  It pulled the info from MetLife’s recent U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, which surveyed 2,675 full-time employees, 545 of whom are either U.S. citizens working abroad or people in the U.S. on a work visa or company-sponsored assignment.

An interesting outcome: The results showed 91 percent of these expats who receive company benefits are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 73 percent of their colleagues who stay local. A similar share of expats say they’re committed to their company’s goals, and they’re also more than twice as likely to recommend them as a good place to work, compared to those who have stayed in their home countries.

Employees who work outside their home countries “lean on strong relationships with their employers to navigate work and life in a foreign country,” said Ann Deugo, vice president and head of MetLife Worldwide Benefits, in a release. “When the employer can make this a positive experience, these employees will reward their employers with increased loyalty, enthusiasm and commitment.”

Another potential source of happiness for expats. There’s a good chance young professionals could see a significant pay increase by taking an international assignment. According to HSBC’s latest expat survey, the average 18 to 34-year-old’s salary hiked up 35 percent after relocating overseas. In some markets, earning potential soared by as much as 51 percent. 

Beyond the monetary rewards, expats have positive and sociable characteristics that make them happy in their adopted environment where other types of workers are not. Here are some more reasons why expats thrive and are happier where they choose to work:

They’re curious beings

They have an innate sense of curiosity about people, cultures, and life in general. Think of a young child playing at the beach for the first time, exploring the sand and the water with a sense of openness and wonder. 

They’re learning-oriented

Unforeseen challenges, mistakes, and frustrations happen. Some people may see this as something negative, or for expats, as an opportunity to learn something new. 

They’re sociable

Building a social life is one of the most important factors for a successful and enriching expat experience. Expats always look for opportunities to make connections in different contexts — professional and personal.