Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, global citizens were increasingly exploring different ways to live their lives.
The concept of being an expat is often associated with retiring overseas or relocating for a job. However, this notion has been challenged in recent years by the rise in people living a nomadic lifestyle. In addition, the pandemic further inspired many of us to reassess what we want from our lives. As such, the growing popularity of being a nomad is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
So, are you a nomad or an expat? What are the similarities and differences between them? And does it even matter?
What is an expat?
The Oxford Dictionary defines an expat as “a person living in a country that is not their own.”
While an expat may enjoy the sense of travel they experience by moving overseas, they also may want to lay down roots and have a permanent place to call home.
It is most common for people to become expats due to employment or retirement. Some people become expats with an existing family. In contrast, others may emigrate because they have few ties at home and later meet their future spouse and start a family in their new location.
Many expats who move to a new location will consider it their permanent home even if they don't "settle down." Longer-term, it is common for expats to try and get permanent residency status and sometimes even citizenship after the requisite time has passed.
What are the potential benefits of being an expat?
- You have a stable home and an opportunity to become part of the local community
- You’ll buy or rent a property and have somewhere to call your own
- You’ll have opportunities to develop a social life, make new friends, and pursue relationships
- Over time, feelings of culture shock will reduce, and you'll start to feel immersed in your new country
- If you’re moving to a country where a different language to your own is spoken, you may develop near-native level language skills through the years
What are the potential drawbacks of being an expat?
- You may have fewer travel opportunities and less freedom than if you were a nomad
- If you don’t like your new location, you may need to change jobs or relocate back to your home country
What is a nomad?
In contrast to expats, who are usually looking to put down roots, nomads move from place to place every few weeks or months. Due to the remote nature of work for many people today, the number of nomads – specifically digital nomads – is increasing quickly. Digital nomads can typically do 100% of their work remotely or online. They may still be employees of one company, for example, that allows full-time remote working. Alternatively, they could be freelancers who manage all their projects online, so it doesn't matter where they are.
Nomads also differ in how they organise their living arrangements.
- Some may never leave their own country and simply “sofa surf” from place to place – easy to do if they have friends and relatives living in various places.
- Some will use another “role,” such as being a house-sitter, for example, to facilitate becoming a digital nomad.
- Some will travel globally and find accommodation using sites like Airbnb.
- Some will travel globally but find longer-term accommodation, such as a six or 12-month rental, before moving elsewhere.
In terms of where they work, digital nomads have the ultimate freedom to choose wherever they wish. Many will work in coffee shops, hotdesking facilities, or creative collaboration hubs. Others, who are more invested in the travel element of a nomadic lifestyle, may simply choose to work in their accommodation.
What are the potential benefits of being a nomad?
- You’ll have more freedom over how and where you work
- You’ll have the opportunity to always be on the move if you want to be
- Your lack of roots will mean you can make spur of the moment, spontaneous decisions on what to do next
- You can visit a vast number of countries and cities while still earning a living
What are the potential drawbacks of being a nomad?
- If you don’t stay in one place for longer than a month or two, it can become draining living out of your suitcase
- You may not have the opportunity to really get to experience places and immerse yourself in their culture
- It can be challenging to make friends and develop meaningful connections
Does whether I’m an expat or a nomad matter?
Regarding how you feel personally about where you live, there might not be much difference between the two. After all, some people change jobs and regularly relocate to work in a different country. If you do this, you're technically an expat. Still, you might describe and see yourself as having a nomadic lifestyle.
However, knowing whether you’re a nomad or an expat is vital as it could influence:
- How you declare income and your taxation status
- Your entitlement to healthcare and the type of international health insurance you need
- Your legal status when renting or buying property
- Your residency status if you start a new relationship, get married, or have children
If you’re an expat, Now Health International can help
If you’re permanently living overseas, international health insurance can help you get the attention and treatment you need, when you need it. Even if you’re living somewhere you can access a universal healthcare system, a private health plan can complement this and give you peace of mind that you and your family can avoid potentially long waiting times at public facilities.
If you’re already living overseas or are soon to be relocating, you can get a tailored quote for your new country of residence here.