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What Are Expats & Where Do They Live?

What Are Expats & Where Do They Live?

What is an Expat?

The word “expat”, short for “expatriate” literally means “outside your native country (ex patria)”, so expats are basically people who live abroad. Expats are often distinguished from migrants or immigrants in terms of how long they intend to stay in their host country; expats typically relocate temporarily and often for professional reasons, while immigrants move to another country with the intention of settling there permanently. Having said that, there are many cases where an expat moves abroad for a short trip, only to find themselves falling in love, having a family and becoming a lifelong resident of their new host country!

The profile of the quintessential expat is frequently that of a manager or other high-ranking professional employed by a multinational company. These individuals often possess skills or hold positions that are deemed critical for the global operations of their firm. They play a pivotal role in ensuring that the interests of their company are looked after on the ground in the overseas territory where the expat is located. Expats tend to work in high-value sectors, such as finance, technology, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

There are a number of reasons why people choose to work abroad: they may simply be sent or seconded by their company as a fait accompli. More often, however, the opportunity for an extended stay in a foreign country simply arises and the expat may see it as a smart move for developing their career, especially at the global level. Add to that the allure of living in an exotic location, plus the chance to experience another culture, and the idea of moving to another country can easily become irresistible. A change of scenery can be invigorating and for Anglo-Saxons in particular, having an improved quality of life is a big draw. 

Where Do Expats Go?

There is an almost endless source of league tables and listings ranking the best expat destinations. In fact, you can take your pick from among trusted sources such as Forbes to the more random questionable compilations generated by a slew of online surveys. In general, expats follow the money: the Gulf, especially Dubai and the UAE, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the US, Europe and Australia are all popular destinations for career-mined expatriates. Post Expo, Milan was coined the revitalized city and ranked as the top destination by the NY Times. More recently, it was written up again as top places to visit in 2023, although its attractiveness as a long-term destination for lower-earning expats has faded somewhat. The general perception is that Milan is most suitable for higher echelon executives, mainly due to the rising cost of living.

For American expats, the Old World has always had a certain retro charm and European destinations combine the chance to develop your career with all the culinary and artistic delights that are not generally available stateside. Among the countries of Europe, Italy stands out with its favourable climate, unparalleled landscapes and cultural heritage. In fact, as Business Insider reported, the number of American citizens registering to live in Italy has been rising. According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics the figure increased from just under 4,000 in 2019 to over 6,800 in 2022 — a 42% increase in only four years.

However, while the prospect of moving overseas can be exciting, it is also presents some logistical challenges, especially if someone intends to settle with their family, pets, furniture, car and anything else they deem indispensable during their stay in a foreign country. In fact, the typical expat does not simply move to another country: they relocate. This is generally a complex undertaking that involves finding accommodation and orienting themselves in their new country (e.g. simply understanding how to post a registered letter or obtain a driving licence in Italy can be a significant bureaucratic challenge). The language barrier also presents a formidable challenge. Fortunately, expats have a wide range of options when it comes to finding help relocating to their new destination: specialists relocation firms and consultants are on hand to help smooth the transition – and if you are coming to Milan you can find an excellent selection of these here in the Easy Milano directory.

Why Do Expats Choose Milan, Italy?

Duomo, Milan / Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Over the last few decades, Milan has become one of the main destinations for expats relocating to Europe, especially from the US. Following the phenomenal success of the 2015 EXPO, the Lombardy capital and Italy’s main business city has been seen as increasingly attractive prospect for executives from English-speaking countries in particular. Multinationals are increasingly choosing Milan as a strategic location for their EMEA headquarters. Back office, sales and other corporate functions are often based in the city, which has historically acted as a hub connecting Italy and southern Europe to neighbouring countries in the north.

Post-Brexit, Milan has even challenged London as a location for financial and European services, although the UK capital remains a global hub mainly due to magnitude of the City of London and the prevalence of English speakers. However, as anyone who has spent time in the UK will tell you, the British weather, food and coffee cannot really compete with those of Italy.  

Where Do Expats Live in Milan?

Most expats who move to Milan for work look for a comfortable, upmarket area of the city that offer easy access to their place of work, a good range of amenities, including shops and entertainment venues, and international schools for those with children. The historic centre, Brera, Città Studi, Porta Romana, Porta Nuova, Isola, Corso Sempione and Porta Venezia, for example, are all popular areas for newcomers from abroad as well as more established expatriates. In fact, identifying the best areas for expats in Milan is a topic that we have often explored here on Easy Milano. However, while living in the centre has many attractions, especially for young people moving to a new city, the option of moving further out is increasingly appealing, particularly for expats with young families. 

Post-covid green spaces have become a premium consideration. For those who want to get away from congested traffic or pollution, Milan’s hinterland offers a wonderful alternative. Having access to the countryside without foregoing the convenience of luxury living is something of a conundrum. But there are a number of options available, for example Milano 3, an area just south of the city with excellent transport links.

Milano 3.0

According to one long-term resident of Milano 3 who also attended the American School of Milan in nearby Noversaco, the area has a vibrant expat community and an international feel. It is a family-friendly area with lots of greenery, very little crime and is blissfully quiet: a real retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. “It’s a suburban area, but not like a US suburb: here, you can walk and cycle everywhere and you have all the stores you need, as well as the pharmacy and hospital close at hand”.

Newly developed site Milano 3.0 offers residents the best of both worlds. With its beautiful landscaped areas, cycle paths and lakes, the development of architect-designed condos is built to the highest eco-friendly levels. Residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to leisure options: the exclusive Milano 3 health and lifestyle Sporting Centre, as well as the Tolcinasco golf club are on your doorstep. Tennis courts and a range of other leisure activities are all available. It’s the ideal place for children to play and for families to go on bike rides. Milano 3.0 is also close to the American School of Milan, located in Noverasco and is home to the Humanitas hospital, one of the city’s most revered medical institutions. The luxury apartment complex combines rural peace and quiet with premium services comparable with big city high-rises and NY Style living.

As Milan revitalises and become more international, the city still retains the advantage of being a manageable size, really on a human scale, as Easy Milano co-founder Amie Louie told the Corriere della Sera in her interview about the changing face of the city and improved quality of life. Unlike the comparative behemoths of Rome, Paris and London, residents of Milan do not have to spend excessive amounts of time commuting. And those living in the rural setting such as in Milano 3.0 can easily access the very heart of the city in a reasonably short time. Milan’s popularity as a destination for high-level expats in particular is set to grow steadily for the foreseeable future. 

For more info in Milano 3.0, contact their Info Point
Piazza Marco Polo 2, Milano 3 (MI)
Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 7pm
Tel. +39 02 67.36.31

Article by Easy Milano editorial staff

Featured image by Yanapi Senaud

Easy Milano

Easy Milano is the online publication for the international community of Milan. We offer practical tips, key information and essential insights about living and working in Italy. Easy Milano has been assisting English speaking expats in Milan since 1999.
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