What contributes to a successful expatriation (part 1)


Which characteristics contribute to a successful expatriation? A research on 200 study subjects, who “constituted a large enough sample to reveal trends for the success factors of the expatriate working globally in business-related fields” and who spent on average over five years abroad, “came from 33 home countries, worked in 32 industries, were on expat assignments in 73 countries with 18 native languages represented”, and were nearly evenly split on gender – 54% male and 46% female –, assessed the success of their expat assignments.

84% self-assessed their assignment to be moderately or very successful, while 91% indicated that their organizations considered their assignments to be successful.


The main goal of the study was to “understand the characteristics of successful expatriates”. Subjects were “first asked to articulate what made them successful abroad and then, they were presented with five characteristics hypothesized to contribute to success”. Subsequently, they were asked how important each characteristic was to their success as an expat.


These five characteristics are: adventurousness, cultural sensitivity, curiosity, flexibility, and open mindedness.


Adventurousness is defined as the expat’s desire to have exciting and new experiences, both at work and in life outside of work.


Cultural sensitivity is defined as the expat’s ability to understand the culture in which they are living and working, and to integrate/fit into it.


Curiosity is the expat’s interest in learning about their new culture, environment, and job.


Flexibility is the expat’s willingness to try new ways of doing things.


Open mindedness is the expat’s ability to look at their new environment with a desire to learn about and understand it and an interest in seeing things differently.


When asked how important each of the five hypothesized characteristics was to the expats’ success, between 95-97% noted each of the characteristics as important.

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