Max Media International’s Expat Survey reflects on the changing face of Expatriatism

Emma Wood, Research Director of The Expat Survey looks at where The Expat has come from and where it’s going.

From the dawn of time, the human race has never been akin to sitting still in the same place for very long periods of time. Yes, granted in those days movement was due to a subsistence lifestyle, but the common denominator for migration has and always will be based on a person’s innate desire to improve their lot in life.

Statistically this is proven by the many socio-segments of ‘expats’, a word that is slowly but surely becoming socially unacceptable these days, that are united by the desire for a better life and share a craving for social acceptance. However when analysing the research gathered over the last five years, it becomes rapidly apparent that beyond this point is where the common behaviours end and where the unique and intriguing characteristics of each socio-segment begin.

Let’s start by stripping things back to the meaning of the word ‘expatriate’. Deriving from Medieval Latin is translates to any person outside their native land, whether they left of their own accord or not. Abbreviated to ‘expat’ the word became synonymous with a new life in the sun or well paid career move.

Today’s reality, post global economic melt-down, amidst wars and drought, is that the many segments within mass migration, particularly during the last few years, have changed the face of Expatriatism; and with that the need for those companies servicing them to truly understand the consumption needs of each, if they are to service them accurately.

The evidence shows for example that to pursue tax exiles, lifestyle retirees and wealthy career climbers with a hard sell on financial services and top end products is likely to be a flawed strategy now, when economic migrants and refugees who despite starting from humble beginnings in new lands, are much more aggressive consumers.

Of course, that’s just scratching the surface. Other than the reasons for them upping sticks and leaving, be it for safety and security reasons, economic ones, or indeed many others, do we really know what makes these people tick? That’s where The Expat Survey comes in and it’s at this point where aspirant marketers and owners of global companies need to sit up and take notice.

Launched in 2013, The Expat is a research portal that engages with and collects data from expatriates around the globe, all year round on a rolling basis, not a once per annum poll. This means that the data is always up-to-date and extremely relevant to those businesses who seek it.

It’s for this reason and others that the programme has proven successful. Over the last five years it has engaged with more than 40,000 people residing outside country of origin for its own projects and those of clients; and built an extensive Intel library of insights from international Government departments.

Emma Wood, Research Director of The Expat Survey explains, “There is evidence that most that arrive as SIM card customers escalate to becoming Apple consumers far more quickly than members of native populations. Equally they aspire to luxury fashion brands and vehicles and to safe-guard their financial security. It would be a mistake on the part of those in marketing to assume that chasing lifestyle retirees or globally mobile career climbers will yield the highest return. These segments pride themselves on conserving their reserves and mostly rely on a closed shop circle of advisors from their country of origin. There’s a lot more to profiling and targeting relevant consumer groups than there used to be.”

And when it comes to profiling it would probably be wise to avoid referring to these part nomads as expatriates. From direct dialogue and respondent surveys, it is clear that those residing in another country from where they originate for whatever reason are increasingly not in agreement with being referred to as ‘expatriates’ and that they feel that the badge of ‘expat’ to describe somebody abroad is out of touch and they are right.

Leading that charge is the group of people that originally started The Expat who now realise that five years on, and as a direct result of more than 102,000 matrices of data analysis, that perhaps the time has come to change their name to better reflect the dynamics of global mobility now. Their new portal will be launching in the Spring and will be called ‘i-World’. A name that will stand for individuals on the move around the world today, regardless of their origin as well as standing for independent research across the planet. Watch this space.

About the Expat
In a world of rapid change amidst globalisation, volatile economies and the tech revolution, with the diversification and consolidation of businesses resulting in employment instability and mounting stress, as well as conflict over natural resources and power struggles displacing native populations; many have moved abroad in the belief that the grass is greener on the other side, but is it?

The aim of the project is to establish the answer to this question and more, to understand migratory patterns and causes; and gain a true understanding of expatriate life across all nationalities and territories.

Zooming in on past highlights and examining emerging trends and points of interest, topics in our current programme include:

  • Education and the next generation
  • Lifestyle and interests
  • Technology and online engagement
  • Money Matters and attitudes to investments
  • Fashion, luxury and leisure
  • Travel and adventure
  • Mental, physical and spiritual health


Emma Wood – Research Director at The Expat Survey and
Strategy & Business Development Director at Max Media International
Cobden Court
Wimpole Close
Bromley BR2 9JF
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 8464 8787

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