Moving abroad? Here's why locals might resent you

  • people in the Netherlands
    Harry Beugelink /
Published on 2024-04-15 at 10:00 by Natallia Slimani
Expat bashing seems to have become a real trend in the Netherlands, according to one article published in Driven by historical grievances and the more recent issues related to the housing and economic impact that expats have, some local residents have expressed strong concern about expat presence in their country. Local publications have joined in by frequently portraying the expats in the country as overprivileged and out of touch.

Moreover, following the victory of the far-right (and anti-immigration) politician Geert Wilders in last year's election, it may seem that anti-expat has a substantial base. And the Netherlands is not alone. It seems that the wave of expat bashing has swept over quite a few destinations. So, we thought we'd take a closer look.

What is expat bashing?

Expat bashing may come in many forms. In general, however, when we talk about expat bashing, we most likely mean the overall negative sentiment, criticism, or discriminatory behavior directed toward expats. There may be specific reasons for expat bashing, and it may be connected to specific events. For instance, if we go back to COVID-19 times, we will easily see an example of expat bashing that Chinese expats had to experience.

Sometimes, however, expat bashing can become systemic and morph into the general attitude that a country's citizens feel towards foreign residents. In most cases, this has deeper underlying reasons, such as a salary gap, an oversaturated job market, a difficult economic situation, and so on. 

So, let's take a closer look at some other countries that may be experiencing this trend.

Understanding expat bashing in popular destinations


Singapore is often referred to as an international financial center and is known as a country with a highly advanced market economy. The country's GDP per capita in 2024 stand at over USD 91,700. 

Singapore's active economy, strategic location, and friendly visa policy have attracted a lot of expats to the country. Moreover, many people relocated to Singapore for professional reasons and well-paid jobs. 

The influx of expats in the country with large disposable incomes has had a marked impact on the local housing market, with rent prices driven up substantially by increased demand. 

This has made some Singaporeans resentful of newcomers, both in high-paying and mid-level jobs. Expats who relocate to Singapore from India, China, Malaysia, and other neighboring countries are often happier with lower salaries as their relocation and living expenses are covered. As a result, they are able to put aside some money to take back home. However, the same salary wouldn't really be enough for a Singaporean. 

As one local explains on Reddit: “Most Singaporeans find that they (expats) are here to steal our jobs or force our salary to be low for many years. Because most of them are willing to work at a lower income, in the range of $2000+/month. To them, $2000 is good enough, and minus all the expenses, they can save and bring back quite a sum to their home country. When you do the normal SGD conversion to Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah, Chinese RMB, or Indian Rupee, the amount is a lot. But at $2000+ a month for Singaporeans, it is not enough.”

As for highly paid expats who relocate to Singapore from the USA or Europe and work for large multinationals, a different set of problems comes up. Expats in these companies are generally paid substantially more than Singaporeans. Moreover, with their housing and other expenses covered by the companies that hire them, they are often blamed for driving the pieces up by simply having more money to spend. 

The Singaporean government has tried to address expat-related concerns by taking measures to cool down the housing market. This included imposing additional buyer's stamp duties and tighter loan-to-value ratios for property purchases. However, despite the efforts, the tensions between the options that expats in Singapore have and the affordability for locals continue to be a heated topic of discussion.


Following the Russo-Ukrainian War, Türkiye has seen an influx of migrants from both Russia and Ukraine. The country's friendly immigration policies resulted in many new arrivals applying for and getting residency in Türkiye, especially big cities like Istandbul and Western Türkiye like Antalya where Russian speaking expats have a strongly rooted community. 

Local reactions to the growing Russian community have been mixed. On one hand, there's been an economic boom in certain sectors, including real estate and hospitality. On the other hand, the newly arrived expats bought and rented expensive property all over the country. In fact, in 2022 alone, Russian expats purchased over 16,000 homes in Türkiye.

Eventually, the sentiment towards expats started to change as it became more and more difficult for local residents to afford housing. As the dissatisfaction grew, expat bashing became quite common in certain circles – and local media started to fill with stories of expats misbehaving or disrespecting local culture. 

The government's response was abrupt and effective. In 2023, Türkiye stopped issuing short-term residence permits and increased the minimum real estate purchase price that qualifies expats for long-term residency from USD 75,000 to USD 200,000.

The sudden change and the volatility of the local economy have led to many expats leaving the country. 

Julia has lived in Türkiye for over four years but decided to relocate in 2023. “It just got too much: the prices, the unstable visa policies. I had lived here for a long time, but it all became unstable overnight”.

San Francisco, USA

San Francisco and the broader Silicon Valley region have long been magnets for tech talent. Professionals from all over the world flocked to the city recruited by some of the globe's most innovative companies. 

And here comes the problem: the concentration of high-paying tech jobs has led to skyrocketing housing prices, increased living costs, and gentrification. As a result, long-term local residents ended up relocating, which, in turn, altered the cultural fabric of the city's neighborhoods.

The backlash against expat tech workers followed, with locals expressing concerns over the loss of financial accessibility and community character. The city has since made efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing. 

Digital nomads

Technology has made it possible for some of us to work from anywhere in the world. And this has created the grounds for a unique form of expat presence around the globe – the digital nomads. Modern work setups have allowed digital nomads to relocate easily and often, seeking out destinations known for their affordability, pleasant climate, and fast internet connectivity. 

While the lifestyle itself is often romanticized on social media, it has also sparked quite a bit of negative sentiment among some people and communities. As digital nomads often enjoy the benefit of making a “Western” salary, they tend to relocate to destinations with a lower cost of living to make the most out of their income. This often has the reverse effect of the rising costs of living in places popular with digital nomads. 

For example, there is growing concern over the sustainability of such practices in places like Bali, Chiang Mai, and Lisbon, which have become hotspots for digital nomads. Moreover, there is a general perception that digital nomads contribute less to the local economy compared to “traditional” expats – which exacerbates the tensions further.

As one expat notes on Reddit in a discussion on Chiang Mai: “I think nomads are going to have to start realizing that the "hot spots" for dining only last a little while before the influx causes issues. At some point, you have to start being open to branching out. Some of my favorite dining places have been ones that other people weren't interested in visiting at all.”

It looks like expat bashing is not isolated to one country—or even one type of expat. Rather, it is a reflection of broader societal and economic tensions in the world that are becoming more and more interconnected. In most cases, however, the unfriendly sentiment towards expats is related to the specifics of the region's economic shortcomings rather than a reflection on the expat population itself. With that said, it makes sense to keep this phenomenon in mind when planning relocation. It's a good idea to look into the socio-economic layout of the destination you are considering to see if there is anything you can do to make your stay less impacted.