digital nomad vs expat

Should you be a digital nomad or an expat?

These days, thanks to technological advances and changes in working model after the pandemic era, there are more and more people who have the ability to do their jobs remotely.

You may have heard of the terms “digital nomads” and “expats” and may be wondering what the differences are between these two. So, in this blog post, we are going to share with you exactly that and explore which lifestyle is right for you.

Definition of the word: Expat

An expat is defined as “a person living in a country that is not their own.” by The Oxford Dictionary.

Although an expat may enjoy the sense of travel they experience by moving abroad, they also may want to lay down roots and have a permanent place to call home.

It is most typical for people to become expats because of employment or retirement. Some people become expats with an existing family. Meanwhile, others may emigrate because they have few ties at home and later meet their future spouse and start a family in their new country.

Many expats who relocate to a new location will consider it their permanent home even if they don’t “settle down.” Longer-term, it is typical for expats to try and get permanent residency status and sometimes even citizenship after the necessary time has passed.

Definition of the word: Digital Nomad

In contrast to expats, who are usually looking to put down roots, digital 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 travel globally but find longer-term accommodation, such as a six or 12-month rental, before moving elsewhere.

• Some will travel globally and find accommodation using sites like Airbnb.

• Some will use another “role,” such as being a house-sitter, for example, to facilitate becoming a digital nomad.

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.

Which lifestyle is right for you?

Deciding on whether to become an expat or a digital nomad really depends on your job and what kind of lifestyle you want to have.

If you want to immerse yourself in a culture, form lasting relationships with locals and settle down at least semi-permanently, then the expat route may suit you.

But if you want to see all there is to see, explore every corner of the world, and live day by day then perhaps the digital nomad life is the way to go.

Potential Upsides of Being an Expat

Potential Downsides of Being an Expat

1. Easier to acclimatise

1. Can be expensive to start over in a new country

2. Immersion in a new culture

2. Restricted travel opportunities

3. Social support group of locals

3. Culture shock

4. Guaranteed income

4. May not be able to see friends and family in home country as often

Potential Upsides of Being a Digital Nomad

Potential Downsides of Being a Digital Nomad

1. Personal growth through experiencing other cultures

1. Finding local friends might be challenging

2. Every travel is a new adventure

2. Income can fluctuate

3. Freedom to choose next destination

3. Requires lots of self-discipline

4. Making connections all over the world

4. Constant travelling means constant admin


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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 abroad or are soon to be relocating, you can get a tailored quote for your new country of residence here.