Unpacking the Shortcomings of Lifestyle Expats

I have been a strong proponent of Global Mobility for years now and most readers and clients will know my general optimism towards it. I will be taking a critical look at the trend towards more Lifestyle Expats and various shortcomings that need to be addressed by Global Mobility Managers, Recruiters, and HR Directors if we want to hire qualified professionals from other countries into the German-speaking regions without annoying them in the process.

Another trend we have to take into consideration here is that our populations are a lot more diverse than they used to be ten years ago (Weinberger, 2019). We especially see a rise in female expats such as Ayeesha on assignment (Yeah!).

As I already wrote in The Global Mobility Workbook (2019): “In recent years, we have come across a new source of mobility traffic. We can call this driver “lifestyle”. Through technology, the economic crisis, and mobile mindsets, younger professionals are more willing to move to other countries to find work. The local-to-local hires from abroad are often “coming for love and staying for the job”. Locations with a high influx of foreigners due to low unemployment, high staff turnovers, and perceived high quality of living – such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland – attract professionals from many countries. The jobs require academic backgrounds and professional experience but can be filled by local staff if the talent is available in the marketplace. There is, however, a downside to this trend. Not many professionals think about the long-term consequences of moving from one place to another. Social security is covered in a later chapter, as well as other potential issues that can arise for global mobility professionals.”

Lifestyle expats are often expat spouses in Dual-Career couples, Third Culture Kids ((TCK’s), and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called). Also, as an international employee or migrant, you could face similar challenges. Often the packages of lifestyle expats are limited. They have a local employment contract in the host country and sometimes get help with the immigration and relocation process. The company does not always offer international medical insurance or an international pension plan. In many cases, this is not because of bad intentions, often, local HR Directors have not considered it as they have misconceptions about how these systems work globally.

Meet Yuki, a dreamer envisioning a move to Brazil. The excitement of the idea soon gives way to frustration as she navigates the complexities of immigration. Politics and an insistence on perfection turn the process into a labyrinth. Yuki seeks legal counsel, illustrating the challenges of realizing one’s aspirations in Brazil.

Introducing Luca, an adventurous soul planning a move to South Korea. Before he packs, safety concerns in the country catch his attention. Luca diligently researches, checking government resources and noting his Embassy’s location for emergencies. His tale emphasizes the priority of safety when exploring new destinations.

Enter Sasha and her partner, starting anew in New Zealand, only to discover they’re expecting. The catch? No health insurance or social security yet, leaving them in bureaucratic limbo. Sasha’s narrative sheds light on the hurdles families encounter when relocating and the challenges in accessing local healthcare facilities.

Meet Aiden, a young individual pursuing job opportunities in Germany. Sounds promising, right? However, his job contract implies potential deportation if he loses employment. Aiden grapples with understanding his rights, obligations, and the role of his residence permit in job security. His story underscores the importance of being well-versed in the rules when working abroad.

Enter Mia, an ambitious professional opting for a work-life adventure in Canada. Expecting a new experience, she encounters a work culture vastly different from what she’s used to—long hours and constant socializing. The fast-paced environment takes a toll on Mia, illustrating the significant variations in work cultures across countries and their impact on work-life balance.

Let’s delve into the world of Raj, ready to work in Australia. However, he faces a unique challenge—taxes. Distinct tax situations for local hires and expats require Raj to comprehend the intricacies. His tale underscores the importance of understanding the financial landscape before embarking on a professional journey in a new country.

And you already met Ayeesha who moved to Zurich, Switzerland recently.

What they usually need help with

  • Immigration Process
  • Partner Career and Life Support
  • Education of Children
  • Health Insurance
  • Old-age pension transfers from their home countries
  • Potentially relocation, settling in, and moving of their household goods.

What I advise you to do about it in the Corporate World

1 – Have the Global Mobility Leader Report to the CEO

What can be done to improve on these shortcomings? On an organizational level, I strongly feel that making Global Mobility a  function reporting to the CEO is the most logical path to positive consequences. Global Mobility activities need to include all sorts of cross-border activity including weekly commuters, International Business Travellers, International Hires, and “Digital Nomads”.

It would allow for smarter, involved decisions as part of the company’s expert staff. Looking after the well-being of your international workforce is now considered essential to an organization’s success, there really is no justification for slacking off on that front. Having the CEO directly involved with Global Mobility allows them to devise budgets and become the escalation point for critical hires and moves. Often, CEOs only hear about expats when things go pear-shaped and there is, for instance, a real life-and-death situation such as a terrorist attack or a tsunami – at times like these the Global Mobility Manager might not be able to get through to them because there are too many layers of organization between them.

2 – Address the Package Issues through an International Permanent Hire Guideline

We should address the package issues and devise at least medical coverage, support with the immigration for the expat and spouse, international pension, pay for the move and repatriation in case of redundancy and ensure the personal safety of the expat family.  Let’s make sure the expat experience is well taken care of as there is a need to sort out the details of the package, making sure there’s proper medical coverage. It’s crucial to provide support with immigration not just for the expat but also for their respective spouse. International pension arrangements should be in place, and the costs of moving and, if needed, returning home in case of job changes should be covered. Above all, we must ensure the safety of the expat and their family in their new environment is made a priority.

3 – Support with Relocation Planning through Career Coaching and an Expat Helpline

Many companies have not implemented great processes for hires from other countries. HR often works ad-hoc and as mentioned doesn’t understand all implications. I once met an expat who moved to Switzerland around the New Year and didn’t have a place to stay when she arrived! Normally, the company could have provided temporary accommodation but that did not happen, the expat ended up having to figure things out on her own. Despite the tougher aspects of being involved in being a Lifestyle Expat  I still maintain my optimism. We will be able to support our diverse global clients even better than today. Great strides have been made in recent years and I am certain that the coming days will see more positive resolutions to people’s pain points and enhance the expat experience.


Check out our new offering to enhance the Expat Experience via our RockMeApp Expat Experience Coaching for Global Rockstars.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some HTML is allowed

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.