What is an Expat or Expatriate? What You Need To Know

What Is An Expat?

I have lived overseas for over 30 years, so I am also an ex-pat or expatriate. When I have mentioned this to some people, they are confused by the term ex-pat or expatriate.

An ex-pat is someone who lives in another country for an extended period of time. But even among the ex-pats, there are all different kinds of ex-pats and a variety of reasons why a person would become an ex-pat.

What is an Expat or Expatriate?

If you have been overseas, you may have heard someone refer to themselves as ex-pat or expatriate. The word ex-pat is short for the word expatriate.

The Oxford Dictionary refers to an ex-pat or expatriate as:

“A person who lives outside their native country.”

Oxford dictionary

An ex-pat is not just about someone traveling to another country, but it actually someone who lives in another country for either a long or extended period of time. This is very different than someone who may travel for a long period of time as an ex-pat will have a place to live in this country that they call home.

Eight Main Types of Expats

Even within the term ex-pat or expatriate, there are usually several types of ex-pats. The reason is that people come to live overseas for a variety of different reasons. Their companies send some, and others come because they want to live overseas.

Here are the 8 main reasons we have identified for a person to go overseas to work and live:

Company Sends Them

A company in the States or Europe needs someone to live and work in another country as they have a specific skill that they need there. They usually work for the company in the States or Europe but have been asked to transfer to work for the company overseas.

The ex-pat package they get really depends a lot on the country and their company’s policies. There are no real set rules about what or how much a company will or will not pay for. But a basic package usually includes housing, schooling for the children, a container load with household furniture, and some annual home leave. Many companies may also give a car and driver to the employee and family and even tax privileges to help with double taxation issues.

If you are considering going overseas on a package like this, you should negotiate the things you want in your package before leaving your home country, not once you are at your destination.

As the economy has gotten tougher and as many countries also have qualified local candidates who are educated overseas, I have noticed fewer ex-pats sent overseas by their companies – especially over the last 10 years in many parts of Asia. The reason has to do with economics. Keeping an ex-pat and their family overseas can be extremely costly, and they need to be sure the expense is worth it. School fees alone for one child can be up to 20,000 USD per year. This is one reason many of these same ex-pats may be paid well, but they must travel and work long hours.

Embassy or Government

Most ex-pats who work for a government or Embassy will be assigned to a specific country for several years, and then they will go on to a new posting. They are not permanent but will usually stay anywhere from 2 to 5 years.

Depending on the country they are working for, normally, they get a package that includes their housing, schooling for the children, and maybe some other additional perks. United States Embassy employees usually have APO box privileges to get packages sent to them just like they were in the states. They also get some home leave paid for the entire family, but how often is usually left up to the individual agency they work for. And the US Embassy usually allows the employees to send a car with their household goods.

Those overseas for an embassy or government role will usually also be a holder of a diplomatic passport. In many countries, a diplomatic passport gives the holders special privileges that others do not have, but it can also cause special restrictions.

Came to Teach

I have put teachers and educators in their own category since the truth is most ex-pat communities would not be able to function with the educators also coming overseas to educate the children of the ex-pats.

The children of the ex-pats need qualified schools and teachers. Most of them will go to English speaking schools or even a school in their own language. So they need qualified teachers who can also teach them and a program that is comparable to what they would get in their own country.

This is one of the essential areas of ex-pat life. Their children need a school to go to while their parent or parents are working overseas. This is why International schools are usually such an essential part of any expatriate community. Some of these teachers were recruited from their home countries, and others came on their own and were hired.

Came On Their Own

Then there is the ex-pat who decided they wanted to live in a certain country or place and find a job. Many of these hires can be considered as a “local hire.”

Many countries have visa restrictions in that you can not come on a tourist visa and then switch it to a work visa. Also, others require that you find a company in the location that is willing to sponsor your residency. I mention this as going overseas to find a job is not always easy.

Those that are locally hired may or may not get their housing, school fees, or home leaves paid for. Some companies may help out on this, and others may give a budget but have the employee pay for it themselves. Others will not pay anything so you must handle all this on your own,

Affording the cost to live and work overseas will depend a lot on what you are getting paid. School fees can be costly. Some of these ex-pats have also put their children in a local school system. Whether this is possible will depend a lot on where you live and if the local schools will even allow this. For most ex-pats, the most expensive things in living overseas are the housing and school fees. If you do not need to worry about the expensive school fees, this will help a lot in your living budget.

I have noticed this trend to hire ex-pats on a local or semi-local package. I expect this trend will continue as more and more companies look for ways to save money and do not want to pay those huge compensation packages that many ex-pats require.

Business Owners

Some ex-pats who live overseas maybe here simply because they own an overseas-based business. As they are business owners, this kind of ex-pat will be responsible for paying for everything themselves. This will include housing, school fees, transportation, and any home leaves or trips back home.

Of course, to be able to survive overseas is not always easy. There will not be a security blanket for you, so you must have a company that allows you to survive overseas long term. For example, you may not be able to purchase land or housing and may need to pay high rent to have a decent standard of living. You may have to pay some very high school fees for children if you want your children to get a decent education.

Came To Do Charity Work

Some ex-pats go overseas not for the money, lifestyle, or work, but they may go for the specific reason of doing charity work. Some of them may work with a charity organization, and others will set up their own charity.

Many of these ex-pats I have seen may even live a simple life overseas without many modern conveniences. Their main reason and aim are to go overseas to do some good.

Some of them are missionaries or ministers for a Christian organization, and others may work with a group like the United States Peace Corps. These Ex-pat are usually very passionate about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Many of them may even live outside the normal ex-pat centers of the country they are living in.

Marriage to a Local

The most permanent of the ex-pats are usually the ex-pat that is married to a local. They usually live a more local life as they have a spouse with family and others in the country they live in. Some of them are extremely well off, and others are not. It just really depends on who they marry.

There can be benefits to those who are married to a local that other ex-pats do not have. The country they live in may treat them as local and allow them to do things that are hard for any ex-pat, such as opening a business or buying land, or obtaining a driver’s license.

Retired or Independently Wealthy

Not all ex-pats work or marry overseas. Some may be retired or be independently wealthy, so they decided to move overseas. Usually, this person is living overseas for a specific reason.

Maybe they are in Costa Rica as the cost of living is not as high as the United States, and they want to be near the ocean. Or they may decide to move to Paris as they love the art scene there. Others may decide to move to Africa for the excitement of it all. There can be a host of reasons why someone in this category would decide to move overseas.

An ex-pat is a person who lives overseas for an extended period of time. But even among the ex-pat community, there can be a variety of reasons why a person would want to live overseas.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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