By Nikki Vargas
There is an allure to being an expat; a certain je ne sais quoi that sets in when someone begins to wax poetic about leaving everything behind to move to Paris. On any given Monday, the dream of swapping your workplace for an office by the Seine always beckons.
There are an estimated 232 million expats living around the world today, having chosen to leave their home countries for a myriad of reasons. In a new HSBC study, over 27,000 expats from 100 countries were surveyed on topics ranging from financial security to property ownership to career satisfaction abroad. While some findings were no brainers (of course, expats living in Paris enjoy French culture) other results proved more surprising; specifically why more and more Millennials are choosing to ditch their home countries.
When it comes to the term “expatriate,” many people differ on the definition. According to InterNations Magazine, “expats usually choose to leave their native country for a career boost, or to fulfill a personal dream or goal, rather than as a result of dire economic necessity.” This idea of choosing to relocate in the name of a dream resonates highly with Millennial expats, among whom – according to the HSBC study – two out of every five move abroad in pursuit of new challenges. While expats of all ages will share tangible reasons for relocating abroad (career opportunity, quality of life and family ties); today’s Millennials are being swayed by two surprising new factors: politics and wanderlust.
“Most millennials are balancing the need for a job with an intense wanderlust,” explains Alexandra Yanik, lead researcher on the Global Moving Trends Report. Wanderlust is a German term that has become a pop culture identifier for anyone who considers themselves an avid traveler. With the rise of social media, the notion of wanderlust has spread like wildfire as every Instagram post, Twitter update and Facebook status reinforces the desire amongst Millennials to book a flight.
Becoming an expat offers a solution for younger generations to seamlessly pair the necessity to earn money with the desire to see the world. The Millennial expat seeks an improved work culture abroad, with more than half of expats (52%) aged 34 or younger rating the work culture in their host countries as better than back home. In short, a move abroad seems to promise the holy grail to younger generations: improved job aspects, better work life and affordable living in the context of a new country.
Politics, on the other hand, is a relatively new factor. “The controversial (USA) presidential election has increased the appetite for Americans moving abroad, with New Yorkers being the most keen to relocate overseas,” explains Ben Tyrell of MoveHub, a resource for people looking to relocate. “Political uncertainty seems to have shaken up citizens across key US states including California, Florida, and Texas.” It should come as no surprise that the promise of a potential Trump presidency is sending Millennials – a new voter force to be reckoned with – running for the hills; in this case, the hills of England, Australia and Canada where language is not an obstacle.
This new wave of Millennial expats is marked by both aspiration and ambition; a clear desire to see the world and have the trappings of a successful adult life. In its worldwide survey, HSBC found that 40% of expats say living abroad has helped them expedite reaching their financial goals, while 67% found owning property to be more achievable when relocating to a new country. In terms of quality of life, more than half of expats surveyed agreed they see a dramatic improvement in their day to day lives as a result of moving abroad, while expats in Spain and New Zealand tend to rank highest for improved quality of living. Be it politics, wanderlust or career goals; Millennials seem to have found the key to happiness; and it’s at the bottom of the suitcase.