It takes a certain kind of person to be able to move to another country and make a life there. Everybody would love to think that they could pull up roots and take their life to another country. However, the reality is that many people couldn’t make it. It is a challenge that requires certain personality traits otherwise the difficulties could prove to be too much.

I’m not talking about taking a gap year as that has a safety valve built-in as you know you will be back in your home country at some point. Immigrating to another country is something else altogether. In this article, we will go over what it takes to be an expat and be successful at it.

1 – Be organized 

There are going to be so many moving parts involved in an international move that only the most organized person can make it work. You have to get a lot of paperwork together for things like visas and work permits and if you forget one important piece it can throw your entire plan out the window.

You’ll have to understand what your health insurance is going to be like and if you need to buy a Cigna Global Medical plan, for instance. There will be many interviews with government officials that will all need to be kept track of. In addition, you’ll likely have to go through a confusing cycle of offices that require certain documents to be stamped before they can get filed.

If you lose track of what you need to do then your life is going to be very difficult, bureaucracy in many countries is very complex and many Americans are not used to the hoops you have to jump through to get simple things accomplished.

2 – Have emotional intelligence 

Emotional intelligence is somewhat related to being very self-aware and mindful. It involves being able to deduce what people are saying and what they mean through social cues, for instance. In another country, this is going to be very difficult if you are the type that tends to live in your own little reality.

People with emotional intelligence are able to see the big picture in many situations. This is essential for people who wish to live abroad. This type of intelligence will allow you to be able to learn the nuances of a new culture in addition to learning the language and customs.

3 – A perpetual learner 

When you live abroad, every day is a learning experience. This is a challenge for a lot of people but the perpetual learner thrives on these challenges. This personality trait is going to keep you from feeling frustrated by always being a fish out of water since you seek out those challenges so you can learn something.

You will be learning a new language that will take years to perfect. Only the most determined will enjoy the process of learning a language that takes a long time to learn. There is also the culture that goes hand in hand with the language and is equally a challenge.

If you prefer to not have to think too hard and feel like your learning days are behind you then an international experience is likely not a good idea for you.

4 – Flexible 

When you are living in a foreign country, faced with a strange language and customs, you will have to be adaptable to situations. Being flexible is going to help your transition immensely. This isn’t to say that there won’t be any frustrations, but that you will find things less frustrating when you have a Plan B or contingency plan at all times.

Often, you will find yourself dealing with unforeseen problems. Not being too set in your ways will help you overcome these experiences.

5 – Patient 

Last but not least, the intrepid expat is somebody who is always patient. There will be loads of hurry up and wait type of situations where things just never seem to happen on schedule. This is inevitable and if you’re an impatient type of person then things will get frustrating fast.

Having a calm inner force will allow you to take things in stride and know that you just have to wait and things will work out. Very few things are going to happen on a reasonable timeline. When you are dealing with government officials and bureaucracy this is especially important to remember.


At the end of the day, not all expats are the same and they are all individuals. However, these are traits that many of the ones that have transitioned well in other countries will have. If you have at least some of these, to begin with, then half the battle is won. Then you can work on the ones that you don’t have.


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