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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Love Abroad: Expat Relationships

Over half of the respondents in the Expat Insider 2016 survey are in a relationship. Satisfaction levels vary, though, with people seeming to be happiest with their relationship in Malta.
  • More men than women are in a committed relationship
  • More women than men have a partner of another nationality
  • 16% of expats in long-distance relationship; many moved for job

(Un)Happy Relationships?

Countries where expats are most, or least, satisfied in their relationship — infographic

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Around the world, 63% of expats are in a committed relationship. Male expats are somewhat more likely to be in a relationship than females: 69% of men are in a relationship compared to 57% of women. Indeed, this trend has not changed since the first Expat Insider in 2014. In terms of age, it would seem that as expats get older, they are more likely to be in a relationship. In fact, only for those aged 25 or less are there more single respondents than those with a significant other. Meanwhile, 69% of those aged 51 and over are in a committed relationship.

Parents are, as one might expect, more likely to be in a committed relationship than expats who do not have children (87% vs. 56%). It is interesting to note, however, that 13% of parents living abroad with dependent kids are single.

Of those expat types who originally moved abroad for love-related reasons, not all are still in a relationship, though: 15% of those classified in the Expat Insider 2016 survey as Romantics are single, while 9% of Traveling Spouses say the same. Meanwhile, (Ex-)Students are the most likely to be single, with 54% having answered this way, reflecting, with their lower than average age of 32.4 years, the aforementioned age-related trend as well.

Relationship Bliss?

Respondents in a relationship seem to be quite happy with it: 83% say they are generally satisfied with this factor of their life and 46% even go so far to say they are completely satisfied. Not only are those aged over 50 years most likely to have a partner, they also seem to be the happiest with their relationship, with 54% saying they are completely satisfied. Parents whose dependent children live abroad with them are just as satisfied with their relationship as those who do not have kids.

Among the different expat types, the Dream Destination Expats are the most satisfied with their relationships, with 88% saying they are generally happy. Romantics and Traveling Spouses do not follow far behind with 87% and 85%, respectively. The work-focused Foreign Recruitees, Foreign Assignees, and Career Expats, on the other hand, are comparatively less satisfied, with percentages ranging between 77 and 79%.

Cross-Cultural Relationships: The Beginnings

The majority of expats in a relationship around the globe is with a partner of another nationality. Women are actually more likely than men to be in a relationship with someone from another country: 58% female vs. 52% male. Meanwhile, parents are more likely to be in a relationship with someone from their own country (50% vs. 45% globally), who, more often than not, they met before the move abroad (78%).

Expats between the ages of 31 and 50 tend to be in a relationship with someone of the same nationality (47–48% in each group), while those under 25 and over 51 are the most likely to have a partner from their current country of residence (37% and 39%, respectively). Around seven in eight Romantics (87%) are in a relationship with someone from their host country, which is hardly surprising given that nearly all of this expat type (99.8%) moved for love and/or in order to live in their partner’s home country.

It is not too surprising either, that 51% of expats in a relationship met their partner in their home country, given that 45% also say their partner has the same nationality as them. Indeed, 72% met their partner before moving to their current country of residence. However, it is interesting to note that of those under 31 years of age, over a third (35%) have met their partner after they relocated.

Love Surviving the Miles

While the majority of non-single expats are not in a long-distance relationship, there are still 16% who are currently not living in the same country as their partner. Men are more likely to be in a long-distance relationship, with 20% compared to 12% of women. Close to three in ten expats under the age of 26 who are in a relationship (29%) are currently living in different countries compared to the global average of 16%. As expats grow older, they become less likely to be in a long-distance relationship, though; with just 14%, those aged 51 and over are the least likely to say they live apart.

Among expat types, long-distance relationships are more common among those who moved primarily for their career. The Foreign Recruitee (31%), the Foreign Assignee (30%), and the Career Expat (28%) are nearly twice as likely to live apart from their partner as the global average (16%). Meanwhile, it is hardly a surprise that Romantics and Traveling Spouses are not very likely to be away from their partner, with just 2% and 3%, respectively.

On a nationality level, expats from the Philippines are the most likely to live in a different country than their partner (38%), while Norwegians are the least likely to be in a long-distance relationship (5%).

The most common reason given for being in a long-distance relationship is family reasons, such as the children’s education (28%), with especially men pointing this out (36% vs. 11% of women). Women tend to quote career priorities (28%) and a lack of suitable jobs in the same country (22%) as their top reasons for being in a long-distance relationship.

Family Bonds Cross the Globe

Rather unsurprisingly, expats in a long-distance relationship are less satisfied with this aspect of their life compared to those in a relationship who live together. Just 5% of those who live together are generally unsatisfied compared to 20% of those in a long-distance relationship.

Also to be expected, most parents with dependent children are living abroad together with their partner (97%). Among those in a long-distance relationship, 13% of women have dependent kids living abroad with them, while the same applies to just 3% of men. Indeed, nearly half of men in a long-distance relationship (45%) have dependent children who are not living abroad with them.

Cupid’s Top Destinations

Malta seems to be the top country for love. Not only are 70% of expats in Malta in a relationship compared to the global average of 63%, close to two-thirds of those who are romantically involved (64%) say they could not be happier with their relationship. Possibly, this is connected to their higher than average age: over half of expats in a relationship in Malta are 51 years or older (54%). It also seems to be the place to go if you are together with someone who is neither Maltese nor from your own home country: 44% of expats in a relationship and living in Malta are together with someone from a third country, which is double the global average.

Rounding out the top three are Costa Rica and New Zealand with complete satisfaction being cited by 61% in each country. Both countries also stand out with low percentages of expats in long-distance relationships (4% each), as well as couples that are predominantly of the same nationality (54% and 52%, respectively).

The highest concentration of expats in a relationship in the top ten countries is located in the Philippines, where just 19% of respondents say they are still single. Close to four in five of those who are in a relationship (79%) are together with a local, which is the highest percentage across all countries. Interestingly, 91% of the non-single respondents are male and the average age is 58.2 compared to the global average of 44.3.

Further Reading