Expat.com study: Find out about expats repatriation behaviour

Published 2020-03-02 10:20

In September 2019, Expat.com invited expatriates to participate in a survey which aimed at uncovering their expatriation habits. Do expats usually settle abroad permanently or temporarily? How often do expatriates cut their life abroad short?

Overall, 3, 500 expats took part in the Expat.com survey. They were mostly from Portugal, Thailand, Spain and Saudi Arabia. A global analysis shows that 35% of expats initially planned to return to their home countries after their time abroad- mainly for family reasons. They were mostly employed in a local company or on a work assignment. Most of them were between 25 and 44 years old and had settled in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) mostly. Most of them wanted to settle abroad for one to 5 years.

On the other hand, 65% did not plan on returning to their home country. They were mostly looking for better professional and economic prospects.

 Of the 3,500 expats who took part in the survey, 30% decided to shorten their expatriation. Most of them are within the age range 35 to 44 years old. They mostly cited not adapting to their host country and administrative barriers as reasons for shortening their expatriation. The 70% who did stay back mentioned the lifestyle in their host country as the main reason for staying as long as possible.


  • 66% of respondents were male and 34% were female

  • The expats who responded to the survey were mainly professionals (50%) and retirees (38%).

  • 38% of respondents were French and 14% were American. The others were scattered between British, Indians, Canadians, Australians, Swiss, South Africans etc…

  • Respondents were settled in Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, France, the United States, Canada etc...


Around 2,000 professionals living abroad have taken part in our survey. They were mostly living in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates and Canada. 48% of professionals were employed in a local company and 21% were working in a local branch of an international company. The rest were entrepreneurs.

Amongst the professionals surveyed, 44% said they had initially planned to come back to their home country and it was mainly for family reasons. They were mostly between 24 and 29 years old and had settled in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. On the other hand, 56% of professionals were looking to settle abroad for good. They were mostly between 45 to 54 years old and living in Spain, Vietnam and Thailand. For the majority, they stated the economic situation of their home country for not wanting to go back.

Of the 2, 000 professionals surveyed, 30% had, also, decided to shorten their expatriation mainly because of difficulties to integrate. These were mainly living in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and the UAE. On the other hand, 70% who decided not to return or to complete their planned time abroad stated doing mainly because they enjoyed the lifestyle of their home country as well as for family reasons. 56% of them were between 25 and 44 years old.


Retirees were an important population to take part in our survey. In all, 1,300 expat retirees took part in our survey. 68% were aged 65 and above and they mainly lived in Portugal, Thailand and Spain. 

Of the retirees surveyed 22% wanted to eventually return to their home countries. The main reason was for healthcare but they also mentioned getting closer to their families and financial reasons. They were mainly set to settle in Portugal, Thailand and France. On the other hand, 78% did not want to go back to their home countries and they were mainly living in Portugal, Spain and Thailand.

Regarding shortening their expatriation, only 28% of expat retirees surveyed decided to leave their host country earlier than planned. They were mainly living in Portugal, Spain and Thailand. Once again, they cited healthcare as the main reason. The 72% who decided to stay in their host countries for as long as planned did so because they enjoyed the lifestyle. They were living mainly in Portugal, Thailand and France.

It is important to note that Spain, although being a popular destination for expats seems to not be the perfect place to settle down permanently. Indeed, while 14% of expats who were settling in Spain were planning to settle permanently, 11% decided to move back home before the planned time of expatriation.