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From Adventure Seeker to True Romantic: What Kind of Expat Woman Are You?

Though every expat’s individual journey is unique, someone else might have traveled the same path before. Let’s take a look at what some expat women might have in common. Do you recognize yourself in any of these profiles? And do these stories resonate with you — maybe even regardless of gender?

What type of expat woman are you? Maybe this question has made you think of the ever-popular personality quizzes floating around on the internet. But we won’t ask you which pace of life suits you best, whether you’d rather live in the mountains or by the sea, or what your favorite dessert is.

Instead, we had a closer look at two very different studies surveying (female) expats. If you’re eager to learn which expat woman profile you might fit, we won’t keep trying your patience. Let’s see if you recognize yourself in one of the following types of expat women!

But if you’re really curious about what we based this mini-typology of expat women on, skip ahead to the methodology section.

Curious and Confident: The Adventure Seeker

Did you take a job abroad to make your global lifestyle possible, instead of relocating to boost your career? Then you’re probably an adventure seeker. Adventure seekers are curious personalities with a thirst for discovery. They love exploring other cultures and generally dare to do something new and unexpected.

Adventure seekers work to live, instead of living to work, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t work hard. As expat women in an unfamiliar environment, they may have to put in an extra effort to overcome cultural barriers. Fortunately, they also tend to be confident communicators and don’t take other people’s opinions about them to heart.

Educated Explorer: The Avid Learner

Was your move abroad motivated by your love of foreign languages, thirst for knowledge, or wish for yet another degree? In this case, you might belong to the avid learners.

Unsurprisingly, avid learners are highly educated expat women, often having already obtained a post-graduate degree. Education might also be an attractive field of work for them, just like healthcare. Also unsurprisingly, they frequently have excellent local language skills, though they prefer an international circle of friends. Since they tend to be younger than the average expat woman, many of them are also less encumbered by personal commitments. Few of them have children, for example.

Avid learners are also pioneers. Emerging economies, such as India and Nigeria, are slightly overrepresented among their home countries. For many an expat woman, it’s the first stay abroad. Their dream job often involves great financial benefits, and they see their career options abroad fairly positively.

Bold and Brave: The Career Woman

Is your career your number one priority in life? Does the mere thought of not working make you feel disoriented? And was your job the reason why you decided to move abroad in the first place? If you’ve just answered yes to these questions, this profile fits you perfectly.

Career women usually relocate due to a promotion, an amazing job opportunity, or a general desire for professional growth. Work is the keystone of their identity, and they do want to make it work: they might try to “have it all”, balancing their career and their family. Or they might tackle both intercultural differences at work and the glass ceiling head on. But they set not only high standards for themselves — they often expect other expat women to be as bold and brave as them.

Flexible and Family Oriented: The Corporate Spouse

Did your adventures abroad begin with your partner being sent on an international assignment? If you moved alongside your husband (or wife, for that matter), you might be a typical corporate spouse.

Corporate spouses are often the “seasoned veterans” of the expat community. Relocating to their current country of residence was rarely their first move abroad. A considerable share of these expat women have lived in five or more foreign countries. However, perhaps due to being constantly on the move, they may also get stuck in the expat bubble. They frequently face a language barrier and socialize mainly with other expats.

Corporate spouses often lead very family-oriented lives. The majority has dependent children living with them abroad, and around 45% of these expat mothers are stay-at-home moms. Other corporate spouses have made a virtue of necessity and built a “portable” career. This means they are more likely to be freelancers or run their own business, and many appreciate the flexibility of working remotely.

Prudent and Pragmatic: The Expat by Chance

You’re living abroad now, but relocating to another country has actually never been one of your biggest dreams? Would you even describe your move as something that just happened to you? Chances are that you’re an expat (woman) by chance.

Expats by chance are more cautious people compared to some other types, such as the ambitious career women. They generally didn’t have any elaborate plans for relocating. This might be why they face the issue of turning the challenge of building a new life into a genuine opportunity for themselves.

Some of these women might even consider moving back home for various reasons. For example, they might feel they’re lacking their partner’s full support or being unable to reconcile motherhood with working abroad. In other cases, their pragmatism can become one of their greatest strengths. Expats by chance may then opt for a non-traditional, non-linear approach to their CV.

Tireless Trailblazer: The Pathfinder

Would you describe yourself as a resourceful person who seizes the opportunity to take matters into her own hands? Did you move abroad because your home country couldn’t offer you the kind of life you wanted? Then you might just be a pathfinder.

Pathfinders don’t wait for anyone else to improve their lives. Always proactive, they prefer to be their own knight in shining armor. In their quest for a higher quality of life, better support with childcare, or an upwardly mobile career, they don’t even hesitate to relocate. Becoming financially independent and shaping their own destiny is more important to them than their roots back home. These women have plenty of confidence, energy, and staying power when it comes to pursuing their goals.

Loyal and Local: The True Romantic

Did you follow your heart, moving abroad to be with your partner? If you, too, got lost in the whirlwind of an international romance, you’ll probably be one of the true romantics.

Unlike the corporate spouses, who relocate for their partner’s high-powered career, most true romantics settle in their partner’s home country. They experience little wanderlust, and they are often well integrated in the local community. They speak the local language. At least some of their friends — even most of them, at times — are local residents. And they’re in it for the long haul: about half of them can see themselves staying forever.

Most true romantics report great satisfaction with the relationship they’ve uprooted their life for. But there’s also a sizable minority who didn’t get that fairy-tale ending. One in five of these women states she is now single. However, the very fact that they have stayed, in spite of their bruised heart, shows how determined and resourceful these romantic souls can be.

 

Profiling Expat Women: A Short Methodology

In chapter 9 of her detailed report The Thriving Female Expat, career coach and blogger Kate von Knobloch identifies several kinds of women working abroad. This typology is based on her in-depth interviews with various “female breadwinners” — her expression for women choosing an international career.

Analyzing these conversations, Kate discovered that specific patterns kept repeating themselves in the women’s accounts of moving and living abroad. She used these patterns to create four different personas and categorize her interview partners that way. This includes the Adventure Seeker, the Career Woman, the Changemaker (aka the Pathfinder), and the Expat by Chance.

But many women don’t have their career in mind when they move abroad. So, what about all these women who probably don’t identify with the phrase “female breadwinner”? They should also be represented on a list of (female) expat types.

Reading Kate’s fantastic study inspired us to expand her mini-catalog of expat women, going for a different kind of approach. Instead of engaging people in conversation and making sense of their personal experiences, we did a bit of number-crunching.

Among the respondents of our Expat Insider 2021 survey, there are 5,889 women. We’ve zoomed in on the biggest sub-groups among those whose primary reason for relocating was anything but work. They definitely had quite a few things in common, too. Looking at the data, we’ve then identified the Avid Learner, the Corporate Spouse, and the True Romantic.  ­

 



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