Digital Nomads vs Expats: Which One are You?



29 May, 2023

Digital Nomads vs Expats: Which One are You?

Thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, you no longer have to stay confined to the four walls of an office to manage your work. Today, you don’t have to show up at the office every day. Remote work is gaining more and more popularity every passing day. And with this popularity has come a new concept- Digital Nomads.

Digital Nomads can be understood as “workers on the move”. They move temporarily to a country and work remotely from there. Most digital nomads hop from one country to another, hence, the term nomad.

There is another category of individuals who travel for work. These people are referred to as Expats. While digital nomads are working professionals, expats are self-employed individuals who choose to stay in another country.

But what makes the two groups different from each other? Let’s find out!

What is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is necessarily a person who is employed remotely either in a full-time job or as a freelancer. As the term suggests, a digital nomad moves from one place to another while continuing to work online.

Digital Nomads don’t have any permanent addresses. They are free to travel anywhere while working. Countries around the world see digital nomads as an opportunity to increase their tourism and thus, welcome them with open hands.

It is very easy to get a digital nomad visa. However, there are certain limitations to it. For instance, with a digital nomad visa, you cannot participate in any business activities in the country that you are staying in.

Furthermore, being a digital nomad can be isolating as most people find it difficult to interact with people at a place where they are going to live only for a short duration of time.

What is an Expat?

An expat or expatriate is a person who travels to a different country to work. What makes an expat different from a digital nomad is the fact that, unlike a nomad, an expat doesn’t hop from one country to another.

An expat stays at a place for a longer duration. Furthermore, as an expat you can find a local job and can even engage in business activities in the country. In order to get a work permit in a country, an expat must first get a job sponsorship from an employer abroad.

As an expat, an individual is expected to pay the taxes in the country of their residence. Expats get integrated into the social system of the new country as they have a permanent residence in the country and tend to stay for a longer period.

However, as an expat you will have lesser travel opportunities and will not have the option to work flexibly. You will have to go to the office and maintain a full-fledged life.

What is the Difference Between a Digital Nomad and Expat?

The primary difference between a digital nomad and an expat is that a digital nomad stays for a shorter duration of time in different countries. They travel to a country for some time to work from there. An expat, on the other hand, moves to a country on a more permanent basis.

As a digital nomad, you cannot take up any local jobs or engage in business activities in the country. An expat can take up a job in the country of their residence and earn locally. Furthermore, they can participate in business activities. An expat is also supposed to pay taxes in the new country.

The next difference between a digital nomad and an expat is the kind of accommodation they get. An expat often has the advantage to find an accommodation like a local with lower rents and better facilities. They can personalise their space and even open a local bank account and enjoy other facilities like health insurance, etc. These benefits are not available to digital nomads as it will be extremely expensive and time-consuming to go get a new bank account/ health insurance at a new place every couple of months.

Furthermore, it is easier for an expat to maintain a routine and build a social life in the new country as they will be staying there for a long period of time. Digital nomads have the challenge of building a new life after every six months which is often tiresome.

However, as a digital nomad you have the flexibility to leave at any time and explore more places. Expats are restricted by their jobs and lives and find less time to travel.


The two terms- digital nomads and expats are often used synonymously. However, the two cannot be any more different from each other. Both expats and digital nomads have their own set of challenges. While it is difficult for digital nomads to build a social network and maintain a routine, expats generally get less time to travel. No matter what you choose to become, it will bring you many opportunities to get to explore a new place and adopt a different lifestyle.

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