Daily Archives: March 23, 2009

What do expats look for?

When we talk about expatriates, we most often refer to those of us who move every few years from one posting to another or to those of us who are serving a posting outside of home. But what about those people who have made a foreign country their “home”? Those, who moved to live in another country for professional, personal, or any other reason? Are they expatriates?

According to the Wikipedia, “an expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland).” So, if we go with that definition, then those of us who have moved to another country to live for “good” (or at least for a very extended period of time without a commitment to return), are also expatriates.

Yet it seems that there is a difference between the two kinds of expatriates – the ones who are there on assignment and the ones who are there “permanently”. What is that difference?

If we go back in history and look at famous expatriates – each country probably has had at least one during its existence – we’ll find that those expats that move to a country and make it their home, are attracted to something that this particular country has to offer. It might be culture, it might be climate, it might be the atmosphere, or it might be opportunities that are not available at home. Whatever it is, it seems to be something that’s both unique to that particular country and desired by that particular person.

And so the difference that I see between the two sets of expats is specificity. Expats who move from post to post are not looking for anything specific, they are looking for the experience of a temporary expatriation. Expats who make a foreign country their home look for something specific, something that they were missing at home and something that they absolutely need to have a fulfilling life.

What are you looking for when you become an expatriate?

How does knowing this change your expatriate experience?

Let us know — leave a comment!

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