The changing profile of expats in 2021

21 January 2021

The risks and limitations associated with COVID-19 made many expats rethink their living situations because many of the perks of expat living were affected. Ease of travel was almost eliminated – something which most expats rely on to visit friends and family in their home country. Social gatherings vanished and isolation became unavoidable while living in lockdown.

Many expats missed ‘home’ and felt worried for their families – especially older or more vulnerable family members who are at higher risk of the adverse effects of coronavirus. The need to be close to them became more important than ever. 

Estate agent Knight Frank recently completed a survey of its global base of customers with results revealing that 64% decided to buy a property in their home country after experiencing lockdown. Of that 64%, 29% admitted that they were moving home permanently and 57% planned to use the property as a second home in the event of future lockdowns.

The survey also found that the number one reason for moving home was to be close to family members followed by a new job offer in second place. The third most popular reason for expat repatriation was to avail of a better healthcare system at home. Concerns around future air travel was ranked in sixth place. 

Many aspects of expat life changed because of COVID-19. Travelling, socialising, exploring, working in an office with your team, networking and even exercising all took a hit this year while feelings of stress, worry, loneliness and homesickness increased.

Plans were put on hold for many planning assignments in 2020 because of travel restrictions and the lifestyle they were expecting as part of expat life was no longer on offer. With most of the world adapting to remote working many companies realised that business could be conducted online. 

Despite this, remote working had the opposite effect for some people. MBO Partners reported a 49% increase in American digital nomads compared with the same period in 2019. 

Many employees learned that they could work competently online with no need to visit the office. This, quite literally, opened a world of possibilities encouraging more people to apply for digital nomad visas and become location independent. Traditionally, digital nomad life was more suited to free-lance workers with no fixed base but now that many companies have adapted to working online digital nomad life is an option within other industries. 

With COVID-19 vaccinations starting to roll out in early 2021 many experts believe that the world will return to “normal life” by summertime in 2021. Though this is not guaranteed, and every country is different the outlook is looking more positive. Rapid testing in airports is also becoming more widespread helping air travel to resume safely.

In October Madrid was announced as the number one expat destination for 2021 in a piece of research completed by MoverDB. Though Madrid has a considerably lower salary level than other cities among the top 25 including Luxemburg and Geneva, Madrid’s cost of living and rent expenses are also considerably lower.

Reykjavik in Iceland took second place followed by Luxembourg, Helsinki and Geneva in third, fourth and fifth place.

Though right now the future of travel and working overseas seems a little uncertain one thing we know is that looking after our health and wellbeing is of utmost importance. If you are traveling ensure that you are protected with access to quality healthcare with international health insurance from Allianz Care.