Simon Black wrote an article explaining his different types of expats based on motivations for leaving the home country. He identifies 7 categories: pioneer, expeditioner, retiree, nomad, hermit, internationalist and hedonist.
I’m not a pioneer because although I’m interested in doing something interesting, I don’t have any hopes of making a lot of money outside the USA. In the short term, I think most people will earn less by emigrating because mastering a new market takes time. The right destination will pay off in the long run, but I think the reason that more people don’t emigrate is that they’ve already invested so much in their own country. I’m also only partially interested in learning the local language. I know enough to get by, but not enough to carry on intelligent conversations. I’d be more motivated if I were single or worked at a job with Spanish speakers.
I fit Simon’s definition of an explorer because I want to be comfortable. I’ve met expats who live in downtown Santiago because they want the experience of living in the Second World; Las Condes and Vitacura are so similar to the USA and Europe that they don’t feel as if they’ve left home. I lived in Las Condes for 11 months in a 14 month period because I like the standard of living in the rich countries. In fact, I wish the electricity in Chile were cheaper so that I could enjoy air conditioning. This is one of the biggest drawbacks about Chile for me, although my wife and most people I’ve met don’t mind afternoon summer heat.
I partially fit Simon’s definition of a retiree, too, since I’m looking for something worthwhile for my time and surround myself with similar people. I’ve only been partially successful because it takes years to find the best people. Simon’s definition requires a longing for the glorious past of the home country, which I don’t feel. I consider all countries to be a series of trade-offs, and the USA was never a Utopia. I don’t feel like a retiree because I must earn money someday, even though it’s not an immediate need.
I partially fit the “nomad” definition because I reckon that there are many interesting places to see, but I don’t like to hop on a plane for a weekend. I like to settle in a place for 6-12 months. That’s long enough to get to know a place, but not long enough to become bored.
I definitely don’t fit Simon’s definition of an expat hermit. I like cities, lived in Santiago, and plan to return because rural life is boring. I accept the fact that all governments are corrupt and harbor no delusions about escaping from their influence. However, I believe the biggest advantage of Chile is that the government is far less obnoxious than the USA and Europe.
The best fit for me is Simon’s definition of an internationalist:
You are a smart, educated, opportunistic professional that is a cross between the pioneer and expeditioner– you thrive on opportunity but need some basic structure to feel comfortable… probably because you have a family or some other obligations beyond yourself.
As long as basic needs are met– safety, schools, healthcare, etc., you are happy and can focus on building a life and a new business.
What kind of expat are you?