female expat study, sharethelove, moving, motivation

What triggers women to pack their bags and leave their home country?

What makes women seek a life abroad? What drives them? What is their motivation to pack their bags and move their whole life to the other side of the world?

The reasons are manifold and show the different personalities of global minds. Learn about the key drivers, the accidental expat, and the role of her own upbringing. 

The thriving Female Expat

A qualitative study of 30 role models around the world

I interviewed 30 amazing women working abroad and asked them about:

– What was your motivation to go abroad?

– Can you have it all? A successful career and a family?

– How do you deal with the opinions of friends and family back home?

– What makes you thrive in your career?

How to access

What motivates women to move abroad?

The 30 conversations I had can be divided into two camps. About 50% of the study participants had private reasons for going abroad. These include, for example, love, self-development, a desire for living in a foreign country or in a more serious context to live in a safer environment. Especially women from South America reported that they are looking for a higher standard of living in Europe and want to become financially independent.
Still others, especially women from Europe and Asia, are attracted by professional projects. Either their career at home has stalled and they hope that projects abroad will have a positive effect on their salary and position, or they are looking for more challenging tasks or find it difficult to coordinate family and career in their home country.

female expat study, sharethelove

Why women move abroad: In her own words

The study carried out is so valuable in terms of quality because women have their say directly and unfiltered. At numerous points in the report, I let the women speak directly and they share very honestly and authentically about their motivations, experiences and challenges. Below are a few quotes from women about their reasons for moving abroad. You can see how diverse the reasons can be:

female expat study, sharethelove, moving, motivation

“My career in Germany stagnated a bit at that time and the foreign assignment was a great career opportunity. Basically, I was interested in the Scandinavian countries and curious about life abroad, but I also wanted the challenge and to push my career.”

“Definitely personal and professional growth. I wanted to live abroad because I see it as a valuable experience in an increasingly global world. Professionally, I am in a global company and I also see it as important to have been abroad. Curiosity about foreign countries also, but above all, I wanted to further my private and professional education.”

“Back in the UK it was hard to be taken seriously especially as a young professional and I wanted to see whether other cultures are the same.”

“I do love Brazil but after the 4th robbery in front of my building, I decided to move abroad.”

“South Korea is a conservative country and I wanted to break free and live in a country without limitations.”

“My philosophy: I will never be rich but rich in experience. Living abroad is part of my personal bucket list.”

The accidental expat

While the examples above show that the reason for a career abroad can be manifold there is also another trigger. An international career does not just happen. Many women have taken their fate proactively into their own hands, writing applications on their own initiative or expressing interest to their employer in a project abroad. But there are also some women who stumbled into this adventure rather by chance. Especially as an Expat Partner coach, I meet women again and again for whom life abroad came as a surprise and either welcomed it with open arms or shied away from it. In this study, I also encountered some women who did not proactively want to go abroad. An opportunity was offered to these women, they were persuaded by their employer or suddenly found themselves in the role of Expat Partner. These comments describe this situation very well:

“I have to be honest and say that I didn't really have any motivation to go abroad. I was very happy with my job in Germany. But it was always an unwritten rule that you have to go abroad once to make a career. And when I was asked, I accepted.”

“I always wanted to go abroad, but I never really pursued it and didn't have the courage. But my bank always had a partner bank in New York and needed someone and I was offered the job. We declined once because the USA did not appeal to us but then took up the second offer.”

“I fell in love to be completely honest and decided to move to Rome because of him. After that it was opportunities that triggered this global lifestyle.”

The role of their own upbringing

For many, the parental home also plays a role in the decision to leave. Interestingly, this applies to both directions. Some reported that their parents themselves hardly left the home country and were very sedentary, and they wanted to break out of these structures to some extent and were curious about the world out there. For others, their parents were role models and exemplified international life. It was only logical for these women to do the same. The following quotes by two Female Expats illustrate how different their own upbringing influenced how they choose their own way of life.

“My parents never took me on vacation and I spent my entire childhood in the local swimming pool. When I had my own money I traveled to Chile with a friend and it blew me away and fascinated me. It was so impressive, the culture, the vastness.”

“I just always wanted to travel and see the world. I always wanted to work abroad and also decided to study abroad. I love to meet new people, maybe it is also due to my upbringing as I was the daughter of a diplomat, never thought it would be Germany though.”

While the motivation to move abroad is very diverse all women encountered very similar challenges and struggles while living abroad. One of them is how to combine having a family and small kids while also following an ambitious career path without the support of the extended family close by.

One of the biggest findings from my study was that many women choose to live abroad because it is the only way they can experience and have a family and career at the same time. Their own home with its familiar values and norms was often perceived as very restrictive, and abroad the women found the courage to assert their very own family concept. You can read more about this in the study here.
Are you currently abroad or thinking about moving abroad? Share your personal reasons with us in the comments and join us at one of the next Global Coffee Dates. In the newsletter, I regularly inform you about new events and content. Feel free to sign up if you want to be part of the next event. I look forward to hearing from you!

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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