Expat personality characteristics

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Three personality characteristics necessary for a successful expat life

Do people who become expats have a specific personality?

What is it about some people that makes them more likely to have the urge to live elsewhere in the world, and then to make a great success of it?

I asked for feedback on this topic on my Facebook page a while back. The results are displayed in the image above, and listed here.

Top three expat personality traits

  • Flexibility
  • Sense of humour
  • Resilience

Equal in fourth place are:

  • Adaptability
  • Open-mindedness
  • Optimism
  • Curiosity
  • Patience

And the runners up:

  • Positivity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Spontaneity
  • Foolishness
  • Persistence
  • Determination
  • Organisation
  • Bravery
  • Sociability
  • Adventurousness
  • Tolerance
  • Self-confidence
  • Willingness to learn

Of course, there are many more qualities that help you get the most of your expat life,

“Flexibility, social sensitivity, optimism. Not to mention patience, good observation skills to work out how things work, curiosity, friendliness and a willingness to make a fool of yourself.”

“Just like with any partner – tolerance, a sense of humor, and honesty (not every single day was a happy one in your home country, etc.)”

“Sense of adventure, willingness to adapt and open minded tolerance and understanding for other cultures.”

“Be accepting of change and at time embrace it. Try to live the local way rather than hoping to live your old life in a new place, otherwise you may be set up for disappointment.”

“To be open minded, to be willing to learn new languages (and to embrace their cultures), to be optimistic.”

Even more skills you will require in your expat life

And finally, you’ll go far if you have these vital talents as recommended by Alexandra,

1. Knowledge of two ways to skin a cat
2. Fluent in expansive international hand gestures
3. Glass-half-full personality
4. Military level logistical skills
6. The ability to prepare a meal 1000 miles from the nearest M&S food hall
7. Devil-may-care attitude towards ludicrous local rulings

5. Accurate lists 🙂

Even if you don’t have any or all of the above traits now, you’ll soon develop them!

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  1. You truly develop some of these characteristics AFTER you have become an expat. And not all at once. Never more so than in the case of children. We have lived on three continents and each country/culture/environment had its set of challenges and treasures. How you approach both makes or breaks a family secondment. Be as social as you can within expat communities and with local social groups, sports and organizations that focus on what you love to do or care about. Get involved. Get kids involved in clubs. Create your own club if you have to. Your friends become your extended family while you live abroad, so the effort pays off and lasts a lifetime. These traits help you also recover and start all over again if you move back to your home country.

  2. Interesting article. I am looking for a short and catchy character for a expat online dating site. Please advise

  3. While I do agree with most of the character traits listed above as being mission critical for expats, I think that in all fairness it should be pointed out that there is no such creature as a “perfect expat.”
    There can, however, be a mindset among foreign assignment employees that will prevent them from being successful expats. Being a “Negative Nancy” (using a rather US-centric reference here – google it), constantly comparing home culture with host culture, or adopting an “us vs. them” attitude will set expats up for failure. Our minds are like parachutes. They work best when open.

    I’ve seen this conversation take place on my blog as well. Feel free to pitch in:


      1. Carole,
        Sure, nothing was said about a “perfect” expat. I just feel that sometimes lists like these create a sense of expectation among expats – especially those who are going for the first time: “I have to be ALL this to become a ‘good’ expat? Not sure if I fit the profile…”
        Very few of us can claim to have all of the characteristics these surveys produce. We sure may wish we had most of them but in reality we all struggle at being “good” expats at a certain point during our assignments.

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