Monday, November 25, 2013

Overseas Exile Expat Survey Results — Emotions

Today's summary of expat results revolves around expat's emotional responses to being an expat. In other news, I'm learning more about Excel's pivot tables and am doing a better job labeling them. As usual, click on imagine for a larger picture.

See also:
Fully three quarters of expats are very or somewhat happy to be an expat. Only 15% of expats are somewhat or very unhappy.

234 participants by how happy they feel being an expat
Regarding homesickness, only 4% reported feeling homesick "very often", while 58% reported "never" or "seldom". That's a bit of a surprise to me because while I fall in the "seldom" category, I have often heard from expats who claim to be homesick. I suspect what's going on is that those who are homesick are more likely to talk about it, thus biasing my experience (which is why doing survey's helps keep a check on "gut instinct").

Also, most who said they were "very often" homesick had been outside the US less than two years. However, one person with 15 years outside the US and another with 11 years outside the US responded that they felt homesick very often. Thus, while length of time outside the US clearly reduces homesickness, it's not a guaranteed antidote.

234 participants by how often they feel homesick.
Loneliness was also interesting. Only 8% of people felt "very lonely". Again, this is a common complain of expats, but it's again possible that only those who feel this issue are vocal about it.

233 participants by loneliness


For "what do you miss most about the US", this was hard because you could select multiple items. After separating them out, we had 481 responses. Family and friends were what people really missed. Only 1% chose "nothing".

481 responses to "what do you miss about the US?"
Regarding "would you recommend being an expat to other Americans?", the overwhelming response was "yes", though many answered "it depends". Only 3 out of 234 respondents said "no". Of course, saying "no" would suggest that you, yourself, made a mistake. It's a given that people don't like to admit making mistakes, so this could be biased, even if it's unintentional.

234 participants by "would you recommend being an expat?"

The "how do you feel about your life as an expat" question was a freeform text field and generally answers were positive, though not always. Here's a sampling of answers:

I'm happy here. I don't really think of myself so much as an expat.; I don't seek out other expats. I am integrated into the community and have a good group of friends and have a good life here.

I don't care for the country where I am currently living, but I can always move again when I finish this job. I like having vacation time and working only 40 hours a week; this ensures a high quality of life. I also like knowing my medical needs will be met.

I still consider myself a US citizen and take the time to study issues before voting in elections. I am frequently frustrated by the annoyance of trying to maintain my driver's license (which I need when I visit the US, although not in Europe), which requires me to use my last state of residence and fight about it every time. I'm especially frustrated by the tax situation. I have linguistic and family ties to the US which make me not want to give up my citizenship, but I may have to in order to prepare for my future.

I love it. I have a work life balance that would be very hard to achieve in the US.

America looks different from outside. Americans should leave so they can see themselves.

I love Finland, but because of the language it's hard to integrate and find a job.

My circumstances are no where near normal. Every wrong turn that could possibly made has been at this point, which is why things are going poorly. Life here [Spain] isn't terrible, but the bureaucracy is atrocious.

I love the adventure but I am excited to return home.

I left a relatively high-paying IT job in the US, which allowed me to live a pretty nice lifestyle. I haven't been able to get my income back up to the point yet where I can live a similar lifestyle, so that's kind of frustrating. I also need to improve my language skills. I can generally function in society, but am not at the point where I can really talk about deep intellectual issues, or make the kind of friends I had back in the US. I've also gotten tired of most of the other expats I've met. I don't know if it's just the countries I've lived in (Uruguay and Paraguay), but I can't say I've been impressed with most of the other expats I've met. I meet the paranoid delusionals, who move overseas to get away from the "chemtrails and earthquake machines that the global elite are using as part of their massive de-population plan". Or, they're here on a three-year assignment and aren't really looking at the country the same way I do (as a permanent future home). It's definitely not the Josephine Bakers and Ernest Hemingways that I had hoped I'd meet. But overall, I'm a much more relaxed and happier person.

I enjoy it but am grateful for things I once took for granted.

I still love it to pieces, but I recently split with my boyfriend (British). Since all of my family is in the US, and now this, I just feel more lonely than I have in a while. I still have my friends and such here, but it is still hard. But no part of my wants to flee back to the States at all. I want to keep travelling

A great adventure in a land that has adopted me. I feel so fortunate for the experience

I am happier than I've ever been, despite the hardships and stress of establishing yourself in a new country.

I fucking hate Scotland especially Aberdeen

Mostly good, homesickness goes in waves.

It's a bit skewed because here in the UK it's not difficult. As an expatriate where I didn't speak the local language - Hungary and Estonia - it fluctuated. Some days were great, other days I felt crippling loneliness. I'm currently very happy. I am in a long-term relationship with the man I want to spend my life with. After our years in Estonia, it is a respite to be back in the UK.

Wish I could afford to go home more often, but I know home will always be there and my time abroad is limited (due to work conditions) so I have to enjoy it now.
It's just life.

Honestly Canada isn't that much different but due to the healthcare I feel Ihave a better quality of life. I've run into multiple hospital visits that I know would have put me into debt for my whole life that thanks to the healthcare I'm actually doing fine.

I am very happy with it. I'm able to have an interesting job here. In the U.S., I was bored and couldn't find work that challenged me. I have a fantastic community here. I do miss home, but I would most definitely rather be here.

I definitely miss home, and cannot wait to return.

Mostly good but I do miss my family and feel guilty about not being home more often. Feel that I may someday regret being unable to make it home for christmas or a family runion. When I head back to my adopted country I never know when or if I will see my older relatives again. Sad but its life.

I love it here, but I am not sure I would spend my whole life here. I think I will be happy to go home eventually.

Generally happier but I would personally have a higher standard of living in the US.

I do it now for the money mostly. When I left the US in 2011 it was to escape the US and get a better job. But it's great not being in the US because of its politics.
I'm in Papua new Guinea now and it's a rough place. But my job is great, Pay is great and I get to leave PNG often. It's a perfect job except for living in Papua New Guinea.

Happy with my decision to leave, but still difficult to be so far from family, especially as they age. I enjoy my life much more in my new country, but face challenges with the language. Furthermore, my career is going well but I would have more opportunities in my home country.

I am happier than I have ever been. America wasn't a bad place to live, but Japan's cultural and moral values fit me better as a person. I also love being able to explore a new culture and learning the language has been a rewarding challenge that I am happy to work hard at every day.

I'm having the time of my life, but it can also be very lonely.

It is what I want, I feel fulfilled. It can be tough but it is worth it.

other countries are much less friendly towards immigrants, if not downright hostile and explicitly racist.
but there is a higher standard of living in Europe, so even on a lower salary, life is in some ways better.

I have a girlfriend who lives overseas, which makes life considerably more difficult. I am working as an ESL teacher straight of out University because I sought the travel and world experience, as well as personal development. My social circle is limited to about 5 other native speakers. I sometimes feel very lonely and depressed. I enjoy teaching my classes and, when I have put a lot of effort into my work, experience the thrill of fulfillment. I like the food and the city where I live. I am a theatre graduate who had planned to move into another field (not knowing which) after graduating, but being abroad in a city with almost no theatre at all, I've begun to realize that the theatre is where I really want to be.

Sometimes, I feel like I am still living in America - just another city in America where nobody speaks English. I can call, text, and Skype all of my friends with ease. At this point, I realize that getting the experience that I'd hoped for is my own choice.

My job affords me a lifestyle that would be unavailable to me if I were living in the US due to costs of owning and operating a car, paying rent, paying for overpriced health insurance and whatnot.

Once you give up the novelty of living in a different country one has to start building a life. It's somewhat difficult when you're an expat, because you find yourself only being befriended or befriending other expats. Even with a strong grasp on the local language, you will still never be local and never treated as such.
I've lived in Europe for quite some time now and consider Germany to be my 2nd home. However, it blows my mind how out of touch people are with nature. I grew up gardening, hunting and camping. Even activities as an adult have me outside quite a bit, but I find that my time in Europe is spent mainly in cities..eating food and drinking. I've yet to meet anyone my age that has done any of those things listed. I definitely have a higher quality of life in the U.S. than I ever did as an expat in Luxembourg or Germany.

It's mostly good. I have a great support netowrk as I work at a large company that employs people from all over the world. Also I was married to my wife for many years in the US before I left, so her family and I were already quite close. It's not the traditional lonely foreigner situation at all. I miss the freshness of the food in America as Singapore is a tiny island where everything must be imported. Mostly I just miss my friends and family when I think of the US. Everyone speaks english as a first language in Singapore so it's not very isolating. I'm considering moving to China for a more authentically foreign experience.

I want it to continue for as long as possible.

I love meeting new people and getting out and seeing the world. Sometimes I wonder what I am doing with my life but I am only 23 and I really enjoy the choices I have made so far.

A means to an end..... It has made me appreciate The United States more than I did when I left.

Good for people who are unconventional and don't want a family/house/roots

I am very content, especially since I have many American friends who are also living in France long-term. I don't consider myself an "expat" since I am well integrated into life in my adopted country.

Exicting, many opportunities to explore, but sad that so many Americans have misconceptions about countries and cultures around the world.

I'm torn between staying (I love my partner) and going back. I'm not fulfilled at work, and it's a major factor in my unhappiness. (I'm an English teacher at a language school.) It's been difficult for me to decide whether to go back to school, since the main language would be German. (I'm not sure I could succeed, even though my German verbal isn't bad.) I understand the grass is always greener, and somehow I think it would be easier for me to have a job and go to school in the US -- but then I'd be without my partner. ugh.

Big mistake.