Love Is All Around: Expat Relationships Worldwide
- Those looking for a better quality of life are more likely to be in a relationship.
- Expat women are frequently single, despite moving for their partner more often than men.
- 57% are in an intercultural relationship.
- Relationship satisfaction is best in Bahrain, but lowest in Saudi Arabia.
Demographics and Relationship Status
The share of expats in a committed relationship has remained stable since 2014. In 2018, it includes 66% of respondents, just a bit more than the lowest percentage in 2015 (62%).
Unsurprisingly, respondents aged 18 to 25 have the largest portion of singles: only 44% have settled down with a partner. Things look quite different for expats above 50: 71% have found that special someone.
Apart from age, the likelihood of having a partner also corresponds to the reason for relocating to some extent. Next to those for whom a relationship was the main reason for moving, the share of singles is also low among expats with the following motivations.
Of those retiring abroad, 68% are in a relationship. With an average age of 66.4 years, they are also likely to belong to the 50-plus group, though. Expats searching for a better quality of life have the same share of people in a relationship (68%), though their average age is much lower (48.6 years). Those middle-aged and living their dream of a new life abroad will probably be sharing it with a significant other.
Two more factors make it more likely that a respondent is in a relationship: gender and parenthood. The latter percentage has also remained stable over the years: in 2018, only 12% of those raising children abroad are single.
Romance among Expat Women versus Men
Women move abroad for their partner’s sake more often than men, but the latter are less often single. Among women, 14% cite love as the primary motivation for moving, compared to 11% of men. The gap widens when it comes to relocating for their partner’s job or education: another 14% of women give this as their main reason, but just 2% of men.
Yet, men are more likely to be in a committed relationship, with 71% compared to 61% of women. Is the difference only due to gender? Age may also play a role: the average male respondent is five years older than the average woman (46.7 vs. 41.7 years). As mentioned above, the likelihood of having a partner is higher among older expats.
If the relationship status is analyzed by age and gender, though, a different trend emerges. In the age group up to 25, women are far more likely to be in a relationship (49% vs. 35% of men), the same applying to expats in their late 20s (61% vs. 51%). Around the age of 35, the tables are turned, and in the 50-plus set, 78% of men (vs. 58% of women) are in a relationship.
Gender doesn’t seem to affect the overall satisfaction with a romantic relationship abroad: 86% of women and 85% of men rate it positively.
When a Relationship Is the Main Reason for Moving Abroad
Are expats who relocated for love or their partner’s career still content with the romance in their life? Only 12% of the former and 6% of the latter are single.
Those moving due to their partner’s job or education aren’t any happier with their relationship than the average, but they don’t feel more negative, either. In both cases, 85% are generally satisfied. However, those moving for love enjoy a little more domestic bliss: 88% are happy, and 57% think their relationship couldn’t be any better (vs. 52% worldwide).
Expats prioritizing their own career are less satisfied. General contentment is lowest among those recruited by a foreign company (76%), followed by those who found a job abroad (81%), and those sent by their employer (82%). Among assignees, only 43% are very happy with their relationship (vs. 52% globally).
Not only does the likelihood of being in a relationship increase with age, but older expats are also a lot more content. Relationship satisfaction is highest among expats who moved abroad to retire: 72% are even blissfully happy.
Among expats in a relationship, only 43% have a partner with the same nationality; 35% are involved with a national of the host country and 22% with someone from yet another country.
While there’s a potential link between expats’ gender, age, and relationship status, gender doesn’t seem to influence the likelihood of being in an intercultural relationship. Age, however, does, as do parenthood and motivation for moving.
The expats most likely to be together with someone from their home country are in their 30s or 40s (up to 46%), are raising children abroad (48%), or moved for their partner’s career (64%).
Most expats moving for love (88%) are unsurprisingly involved with someone from their host country. Moreover, expats below the age of 26 have the largest share of those with a significant other from a third country (28%), while the percentage of respondents in a relationship with a local is highest above 50 (40%).
Trends by Country and Nationality
There are also some obvious trends regarding respondents’ own nationality and country of residence. Expats in the Philippines are most likely to be in a relationship: only 17% are single. Among those in a committed relationship, 83% also have a partner from the Philippines, the largest share romantically involved with a local resident.
The following expat hubs have an above-average portion of expats whose partner is from neither home nor host country: Hong Kong, Singapore (37% each vs. 22% globally), Switzerland, and Luxembourg (34% each).
Though the Gulf States are also typical expat hubs, relationships between people from the same country predominate there: in Oman, for example, 87% of those in a relationship have a partner with the same nationality, which could be related to factors other than location.
In Oman, 37% of expats are from India (vs. 5% globally). Indian expats often move to the Gulf region (30%), are very likely to be in a relationship (73%), and are frequently involved with someone from their home country (84%).
Respondents from Denmark have the lowest share of singles, though: 77% have a partner, and 56% of these describe themselves as very happy in their relationship. Couples in Denmark, however, are displeased. They give their relationship the third-worst rating worldwide. Only expats in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are more disappointed.
The expats most content with their relationship live in Bahrain, Mexico, Bulgaria, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. Up to 71% of respondents there are completely satisfied with their romantic life abroad. In most of these countries, a lower-than-average portion are in a long-distance relationship. At 12%, the share is on par with the global average in Bahrain, but lower in the other countries. In Bulgaria, just 3% aren’t living in the same country as their partner.
International Long-Distance Relationships
In general, 12% of expats in a relationship are not living in the same country as their partner. Men are more likely to have an international long-distance relationship (14% vs. 9% of women).
Interestingly, expats in a long-distance relationship are more likely to have children (55% vs. 48% globally). However, they are less likely to be raising them abroad: 9% say so, compared to an average of 23% worldwide.
The likelihood of expats not living in the same country as their partner decreases with age: it applies to only 10% of expats over 50. This may be one reason why this age group is so happy with their romantic life. Those not living in the same country as their partner are definitely less satisfied with their relationship: just 31% are completely happy (vs. an average of 52%).
Lower satisfaction in long-distance relationships may help explain why expats with career-related reasons for moving are less happy: the share of long-distance relationships is largest among those recruited by a foreign company (28%), those who found a job abroad (23%), or those sent on assignment (22%).
Living separately from their partner is common among expats in some Gulf States (especially Saudi Arabia, with 39% of those in a relationship), Myanmar (29%), and Uganda (26%). At 2%, the share is tiny in Greece, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Ironically, expats from the Philippines have the second-highest percentage of long-distance relationships (29%), right after Nigerians (32%).
Expats in a Same-Sex Relationship
Of all respondents in a relationship, 95% answered the optional question about their own gender, and another 95% shared information on their partner’s gender. Expats with a partner of the same gender make up 4% of all respondents in a committed relationship. One in ten is currently raising children abroad (vs. an average of 31% of all expats in a relationship). They are less likely to move for their partner’s job or education (8% vs. 12%), but a bit more likely to move abroad for love (19% vs. 17%).
Expats in a same-sex relationship are more frequently part of an intercultural couple, and they have found love abroad more often: only 33% are involved with someone from their home country (vs. 43% of all expats in a relationship), and 35% met their partner after moving (vs. 30%).
Last but not least, they are at least as satisfied with their relationship as the average respondent. Among expats in a same-sex relationship, 55% are very happy, compared to 52% in general.