In today’s digital age, it’s not uncommon to hear the terms digital nomad or remote migrant worker being used to describe individuals that work remotely or live in a location in which they don’t have any attachment. While the two terms sound pretty similar, they are actually different, but people tend to confuse them because of their similarities.

Join us in this article and we’ll get you through the distinctions between these two concepts and the challenges and benefits associated with each lifestyle.

Digital nomads

These persons are described as the ones that use technology to work remotely and are not tied down to a specific location. Because of their freedom and flexibility at their workplace, they tend to travel frequently and work from coffee shops, co-working spaces, or other locations that have Wi-fi.  It’s more like a lifestyle.

It might seem easy to be a digital nomad, but being one of them also brings some challenges. What is most important is to have a high level of discipline and self-motivation to stay productive while working remotely. Governments tend to have special visas for these people, as they are not there to stay, but just to work for a couple of months there. 

Besides the work stuff, digital nomads tend to have difficulties to establish long-term relationships, as they are always moving and meeting new people. 

PRO SPEAK tip for digital nomads: join cultural exchange events in different cities that you might go to, and meet people that maybe are in your same situation or that are locals that can guide you during your stay in the country. 

Remote migrant worker

These individuals, on the other hand, are people who actually decided to stay and establish their life in one place even when their jobs are not tied down there. Their decision to move could be because of necessity, financial reasons (to avoid high costs of living, for example), social situations or just because of choice (maybe because of the climate or for what they do in their leisure time).

Remote migrant workers are similar to traditional migrants, their reasons for moving out of their country are alike. The difference is that remote migrant workers have jobs that are not attached to the place they are currently living, which can be a benefit, a challenge or both at the same time. A benefit is that they have the possibility to move to wherever they feel it’s best for them, or a challenge because establishing connections within the local community may require additional effort compared to having a job in their own city.

Digital nomads also have this kind of challenge to overcome but, remote migrant workers’ challenges are more related to adapting to the new culture and language in their new cities with a permanent approach or even meeting new people to build their support systems in their new town because they are not planning to leave in the short term as digital nomads.


82% of SPEAKers state that they increased their sense of belonging to their current city after the SPEAK experience. Learn more about participant experiences in our article about Naky’s journey moving to Lisbon.

If you are either a digital nomad or a remote migrant worker, we invite you to be part of our cultural exchange events or part of our language groups in which you can learn another language while you learn a bit about the culture of the country you are discovering. A plus is that you will also make new friends in your city. 

Author: Doménica Torres

Doménica is a marketing intern at SPEAK. She is curiouse for what the world has to offer. She is originally from Ecuador but lives in Portugal since 2019. Besides her marketing passion she also loves music as her hobby.

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