• Spain's news in English

The end of the expat? Europe's cities fight for 'Inpats'

James Savage · 26 Oct 2015, 13:02

Published: 26 Oct 2015 13:02 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

These people aren’t defined by where they’re from, but where they’re going - and they don’t have a return ticket. They don't live on a compound or in a company apartment. They want to integrate in their new home countries – and cities are crying out to attract them. In this sense they’re not expats at all, but a new kind of immigrant: the Inpat.

Englishman Adam Webb is typical of this new kind of global mover. Following a career in the British Foreign Office, including a stint in Paris, he moved to Sweden with his then-girlfriend. Within a year he has co-founded a start-up, Gymgo, which has produced an app for finding gyms. The idea was partly inspired by Adam’s frustrations of moving to a new country as an expat.

"All the gyms would sell was monthly membership. And you always needed a personal number, address and bank account," he says. The rules made it hard for newcomers to Sweden to use gyms, so Gymgo helps users find more flexible deals.

After just a year, Adam and co-founder Paul Stallwood have seen the idea praised by Stockholm’s STING start-up incubator, and offers of investment have followed.

Adam Webb and Paul Stallwood moved to Sweden and started Gymgo.

For Webb, being an outsider was an advantage rather than a drawback.

"There are lot of opportunities for expats to come over here and replicate a good idea," he says. Apps similar to Gymgo existed elsewhere, but not in Sweden. 

"You can bring your expertise from abroad. You see the hole in the market and implement the idea."

Mobile, talented professionals like Adam are a growing group in Europe. Germany is home to 3.7 million people from elsewhere in Europe, Britain is home to over 2 million. About 1.5 million Brits and the same number of Germans live in other parts of the EU. And that’s before you start to look at people from other countries setting out to work here.

recent survey showed that 18 percent of employees in German startups were non-Germans, rising to 33 percent in Berlin-based startups.

Over the past two years, The Local has written a unique series of career articles on our sites around Europe, looking at the lives and motivations of people who have moved country, not usually because they were forced out of their home countries (many refugees are also establishing highly successful careers, but they naturally had very different reasons to move), but because of work or lifestyle choices.

These people tend to fit the profile of Inpats  - they’re united by a sense of adventure, a sense of affinity with their chosen countries and an ambition to create something.

It was the lifestyle that attracted Jeff Zaltman, a 44-year-old dual US-UK citizen, to Spain. But he’s living proof that moving for lifestyle can also lead to a highly successful career. Jeff has lived in six countries doing a variety of jobs from Naval aviation to telecoms consulting to M&A with Ford Motor Company. Now in Barcelona, he has set up a business promoting air sport events:

"My wife and I decided to settle here and we absolutely love the lifestyle and culture of Barcelona and all of Spain. It’s easy, but so true, to say that I love the food and the weather is gorgeous. But it’s more than that. The Spanish history has always held an allure for me and there’s something distinctive and charming about the Spanish sense of humour and way of life in general that is very inviting and comfortable."

Jeff Zaltman went from M&A with Ford to promoting air sport events in Spain.

When HSBC’s annual Global Expat Survey asked how people rated living in different countries, Spain came second in the world in experience category because expats found it easier to settle faster.

Strong economies were important for those heading to Germany and Britain, but one country was rated in the HSBC survey to be more desirable than both: Sweden. People who move there fit the description of Inpats perfectly: locally employed, moving under their own steam, driven to create. And crucially, they’d sought Sweden out because it offered them the lifestyle they wanted.

What really set Sweden apart was its quality of life for families. Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave, gender equality in the workplace and decent education pushed the country up the ratings.

Julika Lamberth, project manager at  Stockholm Business Region,  Stockholm City Council’s business promotion organ, puts Sweden’s reputation as a land of opportunity down to a combination of the many successful new companies that have started there - like Spotify, Klarna and Skype - and its excellent reputation as a place to live.

"We’re seeing an influx of tech competence - people want to be a part of our tech scene and our startup scene. This is largely down to our big names. Most people I meet have either moved here to realise their own potential or the potential of their company."

"Lots of surveys have shown how important a role quality of life has played for Stockholm’s desirability."

This is particularly true for families: 79 percent of expat parents in Sweden said their lives had improved since moving, according to the HSBC survey.

Dean Blackburn, Head of HSBC Expat, says moving abroad today "is a lot more about experience and seeking out quality of life, rather than all being about career and financial wellbeing."

The impression that expats are now largely moving under their own steam is supported by HSBC’s survey, which shows that eight out of ten expats in Sweden are on local contracts. The figures for Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands aren’t far behind.

This means the days of generous benefits packages for expats are all but over, in Europe at least. According to HSBC, 45 percent of expats (or Inpats) in Europe don’t get a benefit package at all. 

"Even those that are receiving some sort of benefit, the largest of these is health and medical, then relocation allowance. It’s not housing and the sort of thing you see globally," says Dean Blackburn.

So instead of living cocooned by the power of a big employer, people are forced to integrate and live like locals. But that’s what they want to do, says Dean Blackburn:

"Countries rate higher on the experience league table when people find it easier to integrate with the community, learn the language."

Julika Lamberth agrees that expats are rejecting the idea of living in a bubble:

"We arranged a workshop to look at what made Stockholm attractive. When we suggested an expat network, they said they didn’t want one - they wanted to meet Stockholmers," she says.

Story continues below…

But if people are moving for the experience and quality of life, that doesn’t mean they’re looking for an easy life - quite the reverse. 

For American Arlene Gibbs, who set herself up as an interior designer in Rome, it was a question of falling love with the place first, then working on forging a career that could take her there:

"When I visited for the first time eight years ago, it felt like home. I did not expect that to happen. I kept returning and would stay for longer periods of time to get a real sense of the city. I thought I would move when I retired, but realised I needed to stop putting my life on hold," she told us.

American Arlene Gibbs is now an interior designer in Rome

People who move out of necessity also factor in lifestyle issues - even if you’re forced to move, you have a choice about where to go. Ambitious Spanish architect Jon-Ander Azpiazu Juaristi  took off for Stockholm after the property crash in Spain made work hard to come by. 

The choice of Stockholm was affected by the fact that his skills were in demand, but he said he said the high quality of life also figured. Once working in a Swedish architects’ firm, he was positively struck by the flatness of the organization:

"Here, you don't feel any difference between your boss and yourself. Even if there's a hierarchy, of course, my boss behaves just like any other team member. I wasn't used to that in Spain," he told us.

Of course, bringing talented new people into a nation is good not only for the expats, but also for the country itself. For instance, in the UK new immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) between 2001 and 2011 contributed one-third more in revenues than they drew in public spending, subsidising native Britons.

Increasingly, local authorities recognise this and are competing for talent. Officials from Berlin recently headed to Stockholm  to try to tempt startups to head from the Swedish to the German capital. For cities to establish an edge, it’s crucial to burnish their credentials as a good place to live.

"It’s hugely important. Stockholm needs talent to continue growing," says Julika Lamberth. Judging by how highly expats rate it, there’s a good chance this will keep happening - but the competition for global talent is only set to get stronger. Attracting Inpats is likely to keep rising up cities’ lists of priorities for some time to come.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available