An expatriate or simply expat is an individual who lives and/or works in a country other than the country of citizenship, often temporarily and for work reasons. An expatriate can also be a person who has renounced the citizenship of their home country to become a citizen of another.
An expatriate can also be a migrant worker who is a professional or skilled worker in his profession. The employee assumes a position outside of their home country, either independently or as a scheduled work assignment from the employer, which may be a business, university, government, or non-governmental organization.
Expats often earn more than they would at home and more than local employees. In addition to salary, companies sometimes provide benefits to their expatriate employees, such as relocation assistance and housing allowances.
Living as an expat can be exciting and present an excellent opportunity for career advancement and global corporate exposure, but it can also be an emotionally difficult transition involving separation from friends and family while adjusting to an unfamiliar culture and work environment. Hence the reason for the higher compensation offered to these migrant workers.
People are motivated to move abroad later in life for a variety of reasons, including lower cost of living, better weather, access to beaches, or a combination of these and other reasons. But it can also be difficult to deal with taxes, long-stay visas, and the language and cultural differences experienced when settling in other countries.
Living and working in another country for an extended period can have its advantages. These can range from new experiences and adventures to more practical considerations such as a lower cost of living or being closer to extended family abroad. Depending on where you are, you may also get government benefits such as free health care and education, and more favorable taxes.
You’ll also be a long way from home, potentially. This can make it harder to see friends and family, and time zone differences can also interfere with finding a good time to connect via phone or video chat. Learning a new language and customs can also be difficult for some, and some items or products you love may not be available where you live. New experiences and maybe a better climate
- Potentially lower cost of living
- Potential access to affordable health services
- Double taxation possibility
- Away from friends and family
- Language, cultural, political and economic barriers
- Possible challenges in obtaining the right visa
Where are there more expatriates globally
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States follow Saudi Arabia in the ranking for the largest number of expatriates. The expatriate population constitutes 98.4% of the total immigrant population of Saudi Arabia. Poland, Portugal, and Sweden have the smallest expatriate populations. Qatar had the highest proportion of expatriates in its total population, at 70.9%.
When people move to a foreign country, they often find solace in seeking out other foreigners, especially from their home country. Expat communities are enclaves of people of similar national origin, often with their own school and shopping options.
Can expat feel at home?
For many people, their concept of home is tied to a specific place: their place of birth, the city where they grew up, or the place where they currently live. But for others, home is not so easy to define.
For expats, the concept of home is not usually so black or white. Home is not necessarily a physical place or a house that you can return to after being away, because in a way you are always away. Instead, the concept of home for expats is often experienced or described as a feeling or an idea.
Expats may call more than one place home, or may not even feel at home in a specific place. Not all expats have the same sense of security and stability of having a place to call their own as others, so they may search for the concept of home within themselves.
The definition of home is not as ambiguous as one might think. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the place where one permanently lives, especially the house or apartment one occupies”.
In a sense, home is what we make of it. When the feeling and concept of home is experienced indoors, it allows expats to feel at home in more than one place. It can become something they take with them wherever they go.
However, not having a permanent home or leaving behind the place you remember most is not without its challenges. Remembering that you have to value the concept of home as something that is cultivated inside is usually an intentional practice, which an online psychologist for expats can guide and support.
For some, finding the feeling of home comes easy and natural. They may feel more at home when traveling or around other expats. But for others, it can be more difficult to find that feeling of comfort and familiarity.
Expats can find their version of home in many ways. Some may join local clubs or groups in the city they live in, others may seek travel opportunities to feel more at home in different places.
Regardless of how an expat finds their home, it is important to remember that the concept of home is not static. It can change and evolve based on our values and life experiences.
Having a flexible concept of home can be very beneficial for expats. When we are not limited by the idea that home is tied to a specific place, we open ourselves up to new experiences and opportunities.
This feeling of openness or belonging to more than one place allows expats to connect with cultures and people from all over the world. This can add richness and depth to our lives that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
This flexibility can also make us more open-minded and embrace change. When we can see the world through a lens of openness and acceptance, we tend to connect with others on a deeper level. We are also less likely to be judgmental or closed-minded, which leads to more peaceful and understanding relationships.
Also, when we open our hearts and minds to others, we become more connected to the world around us and more compassionate. We learn to see the beauty in all things and appreciate the richness of diversity. We come to understand that each person has their own story.
What is it like to be an expatriate?
The sheer abundance of cultures, languages and traditions from around the world ensures that no two expat experiences are the same. Similarly, each assignment has specific business goals and will come with different professional challenges. And, of course, each individual will handle it from their personal perspective.
However, despite this unpredictability, there are many things that all expat experiences have in common and that most experience while abroad. For this reason, we present these things that happen to any expatriate, with the hope that once you learn about them, you can face them in a more open and relaxed way:
- Overcomes initial fears and anxieties
Surely before leaving you will feel fear, moving to an unknown country is a complicated process and a change full of uncertainty. At the beginning, feeling lonely is completely normal, expats often feel anxious about meeting new people in a different environment and culture. However, a large majority have concluded that the nerves and sacrifices made were worth it, as their experiences and relationships developed abroad gave them an extremely valuable perspective.
- Prepare for setbacks
Maintaining control over our lives is an illusion that easily adapts when we are in our country and follow a routine; however, this becomes impossible when you decide to move to another country. You will surely experience some unforeseen events on your way, such as lost or delayed shipments from your old home.
Working with a suitable relocation or relocation company can be a solution, since it reduces the possible risk of losing the goods during shipment, and they usually offer insurance in case things go wrong.
- You will learn to keep the essentials
It is likely that in your first experiences as an expat you want to keep and even hold on to some belongings from your time abroad; however, one lesson this process will teach you is learning to let go. You will realize that this new lifestyle is liberating and you will appreciate even more what really matters: the experiences, sensations and moments with the new people you meet.
- Don’t get frustrated with the new language
Living in an environment where you constantly hear a different language does not necessarily mean that you will learn to speak it without problems. This could be a difficult process, particularly if you are dealing with a new vocabulary and alphabet that you are not used to.
- Adapt to a different diet
Just as one must adapt to the culture of the new country, the body and organism must also adapt to a new diet, with ingredients or species that it does not know, so at first you will have to be more conscious about your diet (even more if you have restrictions such as vegetarians or vegans).
Consider that your first trip to the supermarket will take perhaps three times as long as normal. This is because the aisles may be organized differently or because you do not find the same products that you are used to.
- Shopping at the pharmacy will be a challenge
Even if the same language is spoken in your new destination, being able to identify basic medicines will be quite a journey since they can be sold with a different name or dose. Each country may have its particular laws regarding the need for medical prescriptions to buy some medications or it may be the opposite, and you may be surprised to be able to purchase any medicine without requiring any requirement.
- New friendships and invaluable support
If you manage to find a community of expats, you will realize that they are very close and this is where the most valuable advice is found, considering that they come from the same circumstances and share the same culture shock.
The usual experience for expats is similar to a first day of school; so many new faces, so many names to remember and so much going on. But experienced expats know how to detect newbies from a distance and can become an unconditional support. It may seem unlikely, especially at first, but in this time you will make some of the most meaningful friendships of your life.
- Take care of your family
Despite the support that the expat community and new friends in this unknown country can offer you, it is not easy to move with a family. Your partner will have to face a very different role from the one they left at home and it may take time for the rest of your family to adjust to the new environment. Remember that if your family isn’t happy, you probably won’t be either, so prioritize their needs and encourage open and healthy communication.
- Returning home may be different than you thought
It is common that at first you are in constant contact with your loved ones, sharing all your new experiences. Little by little you will get used to it and you will stop feeling the need to communicate with them so regularly. Both parties will understand that they are on a different path and will continue with their lives. This is completely natural! And a part of the reality of any expatriate.
Another aspect that many overlook is the return home. During this time living and working abroad you will adopt different habits and the way you see life may change. Keep in mind that you could even feel like a foreigner in your own country and far from everything you called home. This is often due to a dangerous combination of too little planning and too high expectations, so take it easy. In the end, the human being can get used to everything and always return to what he knows.