Some authors argue that ‘mobilities’ form the distinctive feature of late modern societies and represent a new social cleavage between cosmopolitan mobile élites and urban residents more rooted in their local neighbourhoods. One assumption in contemporary discourses of rootedness is that this new transnational or global society entails an ongoing process of uprooting individuals and a mainly mobile élite packing up and relocating. In this article, we draw on empirical comparative research to examine the patterns and dynamics of mobility and belonging across European borders among upper-middle-class managers in four cities – Paris, Madrid, Milan and Lyon. We suggest that these new urban upper-middle-class managers display flight responses, or ‘partial exit’ strategies, which operate at various levels to enable them to protect and control their interests while holding onto the reins of power in their local communities. Our study adopts a micro-level perspective to explore individual experiences, strategies, motivations and values based on interviews with 480 managers in these cities.