Enclaves vs Cultural Living

house on Mekong River in Laos Expats in some emerging nations tend to gravitate toward enclaves. That isn't all bad. Yet it doesn't fulfill what many consider the most important aspect of migration.

Some expats have no desire to live among the locals. They prefer to ensconce themselves in walled and gated expat communities with western designed and built houses.

Other expats thrive on living among locals. They shop at the local wet market and pass the time of day with their neighbors on a regular basis.

While there is no universal best option, it is a decision that must be made when expats go looking for housing. It's difficult to state advantages and disadvantages without addressing the likes and motivations of the expat family.

Upscale urban condominiums tend to not fit these perceptions.

Some generally argued advantages of expat enclaves and living "in the neighborhood".

Expat Enclaves

  • Socializing with westerners is often easier than socializing with the locals when you don't speak the language.
  • Western housing can be easier to buy or rent in an expat village or community than in a local area. However, a higher price may come along with that ease of purchase.
  • Security Walled and gated expat communities with security guards may be safer than the neighborhood .. but that depends to a great extent on how well the community is managed.

    A perception of wealth in an expat community can be a magnet for petty crime, so if the enclave is not policed diligently, problems can be greater.
  • Amenities Generally speaking, expat communities will have superior and better maintained club houses, pools, landscaping, etc.

Living Local

  • Socializing Some expats tend to not pick up the language when living in relative isolation. That means they lose out on a significant part of the expat experience.
  • Housing Suitable housing may well be more difficult to find, or sacrifices may be required. Building one's own house is normally an option, but often requires a much longer learning curve.
  • Security Without community backup, expats living local may be more vulnerable. Except that, in many cases, expats who have made an effort to be part of a community may well find that locals watch out for them.
  • Amenities - Locals like swimming pools and landscaping just as much as expats. In more affluent sections of larger cities, the amenities can be just as good .. even better.

Some expats rent or buy in an enclave style community but then decide they are missing out on the local experience so then decide to move out into a neighborhood. The reverse also happens.

Generally speaking, expat enclaves in smaller towns and cities are more isolated from neighborhoods than in large cities. In many world capitals and major cities, expat enclaves don't seem to work because high quality neighborhoods are available.

But the decision to live locally or in a community of expats is a conscious decision that every expat must make. Fortunately, when done correctly, bad decisions can be reversed.