We are all bound to have days where we wish we could drop the labels and be who we are, without our traits or characteristics having to mean something more than what they are or set us apart from other people.

At the same time, we know that there is value in understanding our personality type or traits. It helps us get to know ourselves and build stronger relationships by better understanding others.

There is one theory that, in a way, allows us to achieve both of these things because it looks at personality traits on a spectrum, as opposed to binary categories.

The Big Five Personality Traits are according to the Big Five Model, or Five-Factor Mode. The reason this model is so helpful is that each trait within the Big Five Model exists on a continuum.

All this can help us realize that no one personality trait is inherently good or bad, or negative or positive.

Plus, they are broad categories, which means that each attribute has a positive side. By realizing which characteristics we have, we can more easily navigate our way through life.

Personality Traits and their Impact in Expat Life

The big five personality traits are significant for expats because by taking advantage of these characteristics’ positive side, life abroad can be much more comfortable and purposeful.

Let’s take a closer look at what these big five personality traits are and their impact expat life.

Openness

How the Big Five Personality Traits Impact Expat Life - Openness

Openness describes creative individuals who have imagination and insight and are open to trying new things. Those higher in this trait generally prefer more variety in life and are more willing to think about abstract concepts because they are curious.

Unlike those who are low on this spectrum, those who exhibit higher openness levels enjoy change, new ideas and are not as traditional in terms of routines and ways of living and thinking.

A certain level of openness is not only helpful but necessary when you’re an expat.

It is safe to say that most expats are at least reasonably high in this trait because deciding to leave a life of comfort for an entirely foreign one takes openness to experience, and many would say a growth mindset as well.

In either case, embracing this trait while abroad will not only help get you past specific fears and challenges but help you make the most of your time in your new country.

As an expat, you are sure to end up missing many things from home, whether it is food, certain people or groups, or activities.Openness is an ideal trait to have as an expat.

Curiosity and multiple interests will help lead you to find new things and people you love instead of staying closed off, spending more time missing your past life rather than building your new one.

Conscientiousness

Someone conscientious is hardworking, dependable, and organized. If you are conscientious, you likely put a good deal of time and effort into planning and creating a set schedule.

A high level of conscientiousness shows by finishing tasks on time instead of procrastinating and paying close attention to detail rather than making careless decisions or mistakes.

How does conscientiousness impact expat life?

Well, it’s a beneficial trait when it comes to prioritization and creating new routines and habits.

After all, it’s like you are building a life from scratch, and while you may fall back into some old habits and patterns, your new life abroad will not look even remotely like your old one.

Your conscientious tendencies will help you when it comes to making the most of your day and finding a balance between work life and travel.

You may end up abroad somewhere expecting to be on the go all the time, only to find that your most frequent view is the one through the window at your desk.

By creating a schedule and sticking to it, you will have more freedom to embrace all aspects of expat living without worrying that you will lose track of time or fail to complete your high priority tasks.

Extraversion

How the Big Five Personality Traits Impact Expat Life - Extraversion

Unlike introverted people, people high in extraversion gain energy by being around others and are excitable, talkative, outgoing, and even assertive.

Life as an expat can pose many challenges for introverted people who prefer isolation and dislike small talk and starting conversations.

However, extraversion is a useful trait for expats because you eventually need to make new friends. You will do this more quickly if you do not get drained after social interactions.

Especially if you are in a new country where the language is foreign to you, but you are attempting to learn, you will be more likely to speak up and practice without overthinking about what you are saying or whether it’s wrong before saying it.

When it comes to learning a new language, being able to practice conversing with others is vital.

Agreeableness

Those with a high score for agreeableness will be more trustworthy, cooperative, and empathic than those with a low score, who tend to be competitive, manipulative, critical, and suspicious.

If you present yourself to the world as helpful, caring, and understanding, you will attract similar types of people into your life who are invaluable to have around when living in an entirely new place.

If you are agreeable, it means you not only take an interest in others but in helping them, which will leave you more open to new opportunities, such as a volunteer organization that will bring you a higher sense of purpose and belonging.

How the Big Five Personality Traits Impact Expat Life - agreeableness

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is characterized by a tendency toward unstable emotions, mood swings, anxiety, sadness, and irritability. 

While it is not wrong to say that those low in this trait, who are calm and secure, would live a successful expat life, it does not mean that those high on this scale cannot.

As an expat, you may encounter high levels of stress, but that can help drive you to try new things. 

Even if you intend to merely get outside your bubble and find ways to cope with stress and intense emotions, it can lead to you discovering new places, people, or activities.

Neuroticism means you may exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence that makes you more relatable to people, leading to others seeing your authentic truth, helping you more easily forge meaningful connections.

Personality traits impact Expat Life. While it is helpful to see how these varying charactheristics can promote a healthy and positive lifestyle as an expat, you do not need to have a particular score within all these categories to make the most of your new life.

These traits can be improved to a certain degree, and where you fall on each continuum is not set in stone.

In fact, your new country (setting) is a situational variable that can impact your behaviors and even shift your personality. Your life as an expat will surely be complicated, but personalities are just as complex.

So, as you live your life abroad, rather than focusing on what your personality is, use this knowledge to focus on where your personality can take you.

Having troubles figuring out your how your personality traits are benefitial for you and your expat life?

Don’t worry; I’m here to support you. You have all of the tools within to get through any challenges life abroad can bring. Let’s uncovered them together.

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By your side,
Gabriela

Gabriela Encina - Psychologist & Expat Coach

Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.

Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.

Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.