Iconic National Sports for Expatriates: 7 Favored Expat Locals

When expatriates choose a new country to call home, they often immerse themselves in the local culture, and sports play a big part in that cultural experience. Here’s a look at seven popular expat destinations and the iconic national sports for expatriates that define them, offering a slice of life from each unique cultural playbook.

The Cultural Fabric: Iconic National Sports for Expatriates

Expat life is about more than just work opportunities and living conditions; it’s also about engaging with the local culture, and sports are a universal language. Participating in or cheering for a national sport can be a fast track to understanding the heart of a country.

1. Australia: Cricket

Cricket is more than a sport in Australia; it’s a national pastime with a history stretching back over a century. The Boxing Day Test Match is a fixture of the Australian summer, and according to Cricket Australia, the sport reaches over 1.4 million participants nationwide. The success of events like the Big Bash League attests to cricket’s cultural significance down under.

2. Brazil: Football (Soccer)

Brazil’s passion for football is unparalleled, with the country having won the FIFA World Cup a record five times. The Brazilian Football Confederation reports that nearly 30 million Brazilians actively play the sport, and it’s ingrained in the nation’s identity.

3. Canada: Ice Hockey

Ice hockey is synonymous with Canadian culture. Statistics Canada reports that the sport contributes over $1 billion annually to the Canadian economy, with community-level participation playing a significant role in social cohesion across the country.

4. Japan: Sumo Wrestling

Sumo wrestling, Japan’s national sport, has a history spanning centuries, deeply rooted in tradition and ceremony. The Japan Sumo Association oversees professional sumo tournaments, which continue to draw massive local and international audiences.

5. New Zealand: Rugby Union

Rugby Union holds a special place in New Zealand’s cultural landscape. The All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, have a storied legacy, and the sport is seen as a unifying force across diverse communities, as detailed by New Zealand Rugby’s statistics.

6. Spain: Bullfighting and Football (Soccer)

While football may be the most widely played sport in Spain, with the Spanish Football Federation overseeing a massive fan base, bullfighting remains a historical national spectacle, despite its controversies and declining popularity due to animal rights concerns.

7. United States: American Football

The National Football League (NFL) governs American football, which has become an integral part of American culture, with the Super Bowl being one of the most-watched sporting events globally, drawing in over 100 million viewers annually.

Embracing Local Sports as an Expat

For expatriates, participating in or being a spectator of these national sports can be a meaningful way to connect with new friends and embrace the local culture. It’s a common ground that can lead to shared experiences and a deeper understanding of the local ethos.

The Influence of Sports on Expat Life Choices

The popularity of these sports can also influence the quality of life for expatriates. For instance, cities with major sports teams often have vibrant expat communities that gather for game days, creating a sense of belonging and community spirit.


For expatriates, understanding and appreciating the national sports of their chosen destinations can enrich their experience and provide an authentic connection to the culture. Whether it’s the crack of the bat, the roar of a crowd at a football match, or the hush before a sumo bout, sports offer a unique window into the soul of a nation and can play a significant role in the expatriate journey.

More for you