Here are two major reasons why people leave South Africa

A new survey published by expat network InterNations, finds that there are seven common expat types – people who leave their home countries for foreign ones.

South African expats feature prominently in two specific categories: ‘optimisers’ – people ‘searching for a better life’ – and ‘travelling spouses’ – people ‘supporting their partner’s career’.

More than 18,000 survey respondents representing 178 nationalities and living in 187 countries or territories revealed their reasons for moving abroad.

InterNations noted that the seven most common types of expats include: the go-getter‚ the optimiser‚ the romantic‚ the explorer‚ the foreign assignee‚ the travelling spouse and the student.

“On a global scale, there are about 50 to 60 million people whom we identify as expats. While their reasons for moving abroad and their lifestyles are very different, they still share some similarities. Based on the data from our new Expat Insider 2018 survey, we have identified the 7 most common expat types: 86% of all expats fall into one of these groups,” InterNations said.


Optimisers move abroad to improve their personal life: three in ten (60%) cite the search for a better quality of life (e.g. climate or personal health) as their most important reason, followed by 28% naming financial reasons (e.g. lower cost of living, tax issues).

The smallest share of Optimisers moves for political, religious, or safety reasons (12%). Out of all expat types, Optimisers see the most potential benefits in moving abroad.

Before relocating, many of them expected an improvement of their general living standards (78%), personal safety (65%), the climate and weather (62%), the cost of living (58%), healthcare standards (53%), and the political situation (36%).

Most Optimisers are satisfied with the weather (74%) and the quality of environment (79%) in their new country of residence. Both of these percentages are far above the respective global average (61% and 69%).

Additionally, close to nine in ten Optimisers (88%) feel safe abroad (vs. 82% globally), and 74% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 67% globally).

When it comes to their working life, it seems like the Optimisers care about a good work-life balance. The Expat Insider 2018 survey shows that 81% work full time, which is slightly below the global average (84%), and the latter also applies to their average working hours (43.4 h vs. 44 h globally).

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Optimisers are especially satisfied with their work-life balance out of all expat types (68% positive ratings vs. 61% globally).

Despite somewhat lower working hours, close to three in five (58%) believe that their current income is higher than what they’d get in a similar job back home, five percentage points more than the global average (53%).

Lastly, the Optimisers don’t seem to struggle much with settling in abroad: more than seven in ten (72%) feel at home in the local culture, which is again the highest share among all expat types and twelve percentage points more than the global average (60%).

Maybe this is due to the fact that the Optimisers find the local residents generally friendly (77% vs. 69% worldwide) and think it’s easy to make local friends (56% vs. 45% globally), InterNations said.

Traveling Spouses

Traveling Spouses move abroad for their partner’s job and career, mainly because their partner was sent abroad by their employer (39%) or found a job on their own (31%).

While most other expat types have a fairly balanced gender ratio, close to nine in ten Traveling Spouses (86%) are female.

Due to them moving for their partner’s sake, Traveling Spouses are more likely than other expat types to take care of their home and/or children rather than work (27% vs. 5% worldwide) or to be currently looking for work (17% vs. 8% globally).

Employees (13%) only make up the third-largest share when it comes to Traveling Spouses’ employment status, while it’s the most-cited employment status worldwide (25%).

Those who do have a job mainly work in education (17% vs. 14% globally), advertising, marketing & communication (10% vs. 6% globally), and IT (8% vs. 12% globally). But it doesn’t always seem to be very rewarding as only 44% of Traveling Spouses believe that they make more abroad than they would in a similar job back home, nine percentage points less than the global average (53%).

However, it seems like their partners do well in their respective jobs: 22% of Traveling Spouses still have a gross yearly household income of more than 150,000 USD at their disposal (vs. 12% globally).

Read: South Africans in these 16 jobs could now have a ticket to the UK: expert

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Here are two major reasons why people leave South Africa