Old style retirees versus new style expat career junkies

Published:  1 Aug at 6 PM
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Traditionally, the British expat exodus has been focused on retirees heading south for a fun life in the sun, but the focus is shifting to a more pragmatic stance based on a temporary stay.

In earlier times, the word ‘expat’ conjured up a vision of overweight Brit retirees in shorts, sandals and singlets lounging in deckchairs on a French or Spanish beach far from the UK’s drizzles and downpours. Nowadays, it’s far different, as the vision is far more likely to portray millennials in smart suits attending board meetings or doing deals 24/7 before hitting on their favourite award-winning restaurant or see-and-be-seen bar. Another vision more suited to the tech age is of eccentric entrepreneurs slaving over a hot laptop somewhere in Asia in an attempt to become the next internet sensation.

A recent study noted a massive 265 per cent increase in the numbers of expats who saw migration as a purely temporary decision lasting some three years before a return to the home country. A successful overseas work reassignment is a crucial addition to any expat professional’s CV, and moving from the first assignment to another more challenging relocation elsewhere in the world adds even more sparkle to the average resume. Interestingly, the number of females undertaking overseas assignments has increased over the last few years by 116 per cent, with many landing senior roles overseas as a much-needed boost to their career plans.

Again, young Britons aged between 25 and 35 are now making up almost a third of all expats. It seems the trend is changing what expats see as their roles in their temporary new countries, with focusing on the practical necessities of making their jobs easier and more successful taking priority over learning about the culture. Learning the language is considered important, with just under half considering it as an absolute necessity for progressing in the job. Of course, permanent expats see things very differently, focusing there efforts on practical tools for getting through the day without a mishap. In addition, they prefer to see themselves as citizens of their adopted country rather than just expats.
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