So, what’s an expat? Isn’t it a posh old Brit or a wealthy North American using their countries’ status and money to live a better life than the majority of the native populace in their chosen country of residence? Well, if that’s your thinking, then you’d better read on, because today’s expats are anything but! Modern expats come from an incredibly wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They relish being part of a cultural diversity that allows you to experience new and interesting – different ways of living and working. They are the ambassadors of progress.
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They are, simply because of the life they choose, adventurous. This helps them, and indeed, ensures that they need to be more creative in their thinking and problem solving. For them, the old fashioned, physical boundaries no longer exist – they work where they want, and sometimes, when they want. The modern expat is an ambassador of progress for many reasons; one of those, according to entrepreneur.com, is that ‘the global expat community produces entrepreneurs because expats are, by their very natures, entrepreneurs. Expats are risk takers’.
A work of start
This global expat entrepreneurial spirit has helped redefine the job market, creating an enormous variety of new jobs and employment, but without the outmoded, physical restrictions of needing to be in a certain place – You can be a digital nomad anywhere you like, with a good speed internet connection the only thing you really need. Also, many expats decide to just go for it, and start up their own businesses, helping create employment where they have settled. In fact, the more progressive countries and regions have realised what a positive, regenerative effect new startup companies can have on their economies.
There is now an abundance of financial rewards in the shape of prizes or grants, and all manner of support – from providing affordable spaces to work in, to helping you put together a business plan to accelerate the growth of your new enterprise. Two such examples of these progressive cities are available to read about on this very website; Antwerp and Bilbao.
Mind you, Bilbao isn’t the only place in Spain to have realised the revitalising effect expat entrepreneurs can have on a place. In fact, Spain as a country, is ranked in the top 5 worldwide destinations by InterNations Expat insider, in 2019, for expats to live and work in; and comes in at 4th on the Expat Explorer global report from banking giants hsbc.
The regeneration game
And the progress of regeneration can even include whole neighbourhoods. Take Ruzafa, in Valencia, Spain, which is now one of the, if not the most fashionable, places to live in the entire city. This was not always the case though. Despite its excellent location, a hop and a skip from the town square, Valencians didn’t really like the idea of living in what they saw as second-hand properties; they wanted new, modern flats.
A lot of the buildings are quite classical in appearance, which was exactly what the expat community liked about them, and so were quickly snapped up at what were bargain prices at the time. This then had a knock-on effect as the new expat community started living, working and opening new businesses in the area, whilst also creating a new market for already established local businesses.
Ruzafa then became so popular that the local government had to change most of the street planning, making the neighbourhood more pedestrian friendly for the enormous amount of people now coming to the area for the many bars and restaurants that had opened up. This, of course, meant that the community has become far more culturally diverse than it otherwise would have, and a more vibrant and fun place to hang out.
There are other extremely important reasons why Expats are the ambassadors of progress. Apart from the, already mentioned, opportunity to explode cultural myths, helping to shine a light on the dark face of ignorance and banish prejudice.
One of the most important aspects of this progress is that there are an ever-increasing number of women expats becoming tremendously successful entrepreneurs. For example, there’s Indra Nooyi, who is now the CEO of PepsiCo. She not only had to deal with prejudice as a woman in a very male dominated business, but also, coming originally from India, a certain amount of racial prejudice.
She is now the first Indian women to be the head of a fortune 500 company. Then there’s Gail Kelly, originally from South Africa, who is now CEO of WestPak, one of the big four banks in Australia, and ranked as the 32nd most powerful woman in the world.
Other notable examples are Shaw-Lan Wang, a Chinese woman who lived in Switzerland and France – She now owns the fashion house Lanvin, which she bought from L’Oréal; and not forgetting Pansy Ho, who was born and grew up in California but is now considered to be the richest women in Hong Kong.
Work in progress
So just what are some of the reasons that the modern global expat community is now so progressive? Apart the entrepreneurial spirit that we’ve talked about there are a number of other factors to consider. You could be starting afresh, you’ve got a clean slate to do things differently, try out new ways of doing old things.
You need that adventurous spirit to make new contacts, you need to get networking. You also need to keep an open mind about the best way to successfully solve possible problems, and this approach helps you to learn and become more adaptable.
The opportunity of cross-cultural connections often causes you to think in a different way, more creatively. It allows new ideas to flourish and come to life. Expats are constantly exposed to products and services that they have never tried before, causing them to think about how these things would translate to their home countries’ markets.
And, clearly, this can work just as well the other way – there may be a particular product or service that does not yet exist in your new country of residence; a great business opportunity and a chance for progress!
This brings us the possibility of emerging markets. An expat has the opportunity to help both their country of origin and the one they reside in, by being one of the first to introduce a service or product to a new market, perhaps even helping that country to progress. So yes, modern expats really are the ambassadors of progress if they want to be, and, of course, who wouldn’t want to be?