We often hear the terms ‘expat’ and ‘digital nomad’ being used interchangeably, but the lifestyles and goals of each group tend to be quite distinct. So what is the difference?
Visitors or Dwellers
Digital nomads more often hold a visitor’s mentality when going abroad. Regardless of the period of time digital nomads stay in one location, they will always consider the chance of relocating when the opportunity presents itself. They do not have long-term plans of putting down roots, and frequently travel from one country to another on short-term visas.
In comparison, when expats move abroad they commit to being residents of a country, either for a fixed period of time or even laying the foundations of full-time residency. Unlike nomads, expats own homes, businesses, properties and frequently move with their family and even pets. If you're looking for guidance as an expat moving your life abroad, Avvinue is a platform that can guide you through all the ins-and-outs of relocation, easing and simplifying an otherwise complicated process.
Job or Career
Working abroad can prove to be challenging for anyone, digital nomad or expat. To be able to live as a digital nomad, your work must be 100% remote and most likely online. Digital nomads benefit from the flexibility and freedom of remote work and bring with them the valuable experience of a global life. Work for nomads could include blogging, writing, marketing, online teaching, software development and many more.
Expats, however, are more likely to move abroad specifically for a new job or even to start a business. While they may have more stability, expats also have to consider leases, mortgages, rules and the regulations put in place for their employment or business. Expats enjoy the security of employment arranged in advance and may be wishing to experience their own field of expertise in another culture.
Both lifestyle choices face their own hurdles, and though working abroad can indeed be a challenge for all, it also opens up endless possibilities.
Visa Holders or Residents
Relocating to another country inevitably means dealing with a lot of immigration paperwork. In this instance, the weight is much heavier for expats, who must consider a change in status or secure the right to work in a country, which both naturally require documentation and signatures. Digital nomads typically spend less time organising immigration and visa arrangements, due to their employment needs, and shorter, more flexible periods of stay.
Travelling Culture or Cultural Immersion
Due to their varying time frame, digital nomads and expats experience a location very differently. Digital nomads often find more friends among other nomads and travellers rather than the local community. In addition, nomads are also less likely to have a full grasp of the local language, if they are moving more frequently to various other destinations. The job of an influencer, blogger or writer can also require digital nomads to experience the attractions centred around tourists rather than locals.
In contrast, expats tend to embrace the unique culture and lifestyle of the locals to a greater extent. Becoming a resident of a country, expats learn the language, partake in the same holidays, start to celebrate the same festivals, and gradually assimilate the traditions of their new environment. While expats may still have other friends from an international community, they are fixed residents and members of society. Digital nomads aim to soak up all the adventure possible in the short time they have, whereas expats can afford to completely embrace all aspects of a new culture.
Neither lifestyle holds less value than the other, and regardless of your preference, moving abroad is a rich and fulfilling experience. If either lifestyle appealed to you, consider your time frame, your career path and your attitude to living in a foreign community, but most importantly have confidence to realise your relocation potential.