Expats, love em’ or hate them, are part of daily life in foreign tourist towns. Some are interesting. Some fully immerse themselves in local life and play an active role in the local community, others merely roam in a love-struck haze waiting for their local suitor to marry them. There are the ‘escapees’ that run from their home country due to a bad relationship or the law, and others, the stereotypical expats, who turn up on the pretext of finding a more affordable lifestyle but are really just seeking cheap beer and reliable weather to drink themselves silly in.
So what defines an ex-patriot? What are their traits? Why can you deal with some yet hate and actively avoid the company of others? As a British expat of 12 years, here’s my little rundown on the various types of expats – which category do you fall into? N.B. It is possible to start off as one and morph seamlessly into a number of the others!
What type of expat are you?
- The Sunseeker. These are normally financially independent and move abroad chasing warmer climes. They adapt to their new environment by adopting the locals deep tan, lying by the pool for hours on end, or wearing a bikini and sunbathing on a deserted beach in December when the locals are donned in sweatshirts. They eat al-fresco. They throw BBQs and frequent local expat bar beer gardens, normally with a chair in exactly the same spot each visit, surrounded by similar Sunseeker friends. They stay in their adopted country by choice. Sunseekers are the ones that fill the resort airports a few days before Christmas returning home to see family and friends. They tend to be happy (unless it’s raining!) and are generally good company – as long as you’re happy enjoying an hour or so by the pool or putting the world to rights in a beer garden.
- The Swallow. Swallows are the ones that own or rent a property long-term. They visit for extended periods typically spending 6 months+ in the country. They are normally seasonal, coming on the first flights of the summer, sticking around until the last plane leaves in November. Failing that they are the school holiday visitors, the overly excitable ones with kids in tow. Swallows are OK. They too come by choice as they love the location or their holiday home. Swallows are often found on Facebook groups and social channels giving advice to others or bigging up the area. When they are here they get out and amongst it. They relish in finding new places to eat, visit and enjoy. They love when locals take them somewhere new or give them a glimpse of what it would really be like to live in the country permanently. Swallows live a half-expat life and are often caught saying how they would love to retire to the country. They are the ones that like the summer life but retreat back to their shag-pile carpets, central heating and convenience foods of a winter.
- Assignees. Not a common group and mostly found in cities. Assignees are the ones that have accepted a post or job in the country and have a subsidised living from abroad. Assignees get paid in foreign currency and are considered wealthy locally. Rarely do they integrate fully. They have disposable income so can be spotted eating at the more expensive haunts, drinking the import drinks and shopping in the real designer boutiques. They are not here by choice so tend to stick to their company social scene until their contract comes to an end.
- The Location Romantic. An interesting category. Location Romantics initially came to the country on holiday but fell in love with the surroundings as they “felt like home”. They are happy. They integrate well and normally try and learn the language and enjoy life on the whole. They have given their existence up in their home country, financially stable or not, to stick around.
- Love-Struck Lingerer. A common category and easily spotted propping up the end of bars staring at their barman boyfriends. These are the ones that settle on the hope to find true love with a local. They tend to be young and have normally given up a job in their home country to try and live in their partner’s world hoping the holiday fling pans out. Some relationships indeed survive, but mostly Love-Struck Lingerers last a season at most.
- Reps. Come March each year the holiday reps hit town spending around six months in resorts. Reps tend to be young with a work hard, play hard attitude. Due to their work, they tend not to integrate fully with the locals, their job involves dealing with their own country folk so rarely do they master the language as they return to their own country or another destination come winter. Reptiles are taught to know the area. They are easily spotted in gaudy uniforms traipsing the streets or leading welcome meetings in hotels during the day. By night they club together in packs in restaurants or bars that offer a decent Rep discount.
- Pain-in-the-Arse Complainer. Run! That’s my advice if ever you find yourself in the company of a Pain-In-the-Arse Complainer. You will get annoyed. The constant whining will get you down and you will end up thinking, “why the hell don’t you just bugger-off back to your own country then?!” These are the ones that moan about everything. The ones that are constantly comparing life with “back home” and nit-pick about the silliest things. They are the ones that will complain the beer is a penny more expensive than up the road, or that it’s too hot yet are sat in the middle of August by choice in 45 degrees. The ones that find a negative spin on everything and go out of their way not to integrate into, or accept local ways and customs. Their initial rantings may appear amusing, but a few drinks later, the negativity starts to grate. This category should be avoided. They tend to frequent expat bars in the company of their own type.
- The Saints. These are an exceptional category. They initially move to a country as a Sunseeker, Retiree or a Location Romantic, then adopt a cause. They are not content with normal expat life and become involved in charity work helping refugees, animals, kids etc. They help, support and do good for the community, often spending many hours volunteering, donating or giving their time to help those less fortunate. They integrate well and are normally found organising or attending charity functions and events.
- The Escapees. Escapees are running away from a mediocre life elsewhere, escaping bad times, a divorce etc. These normally settle alone and are in need of healing and a complete change of scenery. They normally join local clubs or charities to meet people. They often morph into a different category given time.
- Retiree. Perhaps the most common of all expats. They own a property and are enjoying their senior years in the sun. Initially attracted by the cost of living, they tend to enjoy their lives as their pensions stretch far further. Most tend to integrate fairly well, although are sometimes ‘stuck in their ways’. Some local traits annoy them (driving, time-keeping, other expats), but generally, they are happy. They visit home occasionally to see friends and family, for weddings or occasions but often prefer their grown-up kids and grandkids to visit them here.
So, what type of expat are you then? Have I missed any? Please comment and let us know.