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You’re an expatriate… But what does that mean?

Posted on

14 October 2014

Last updated on 26 December 2017
The Meaning Of Being An Expatriate

When you search the definition of expatriate online, a word often shortened to ‘expat’, there is one dominant theme as to what the word means. As a noun, an expatriate is a person who lives outside their native country. Now that’s relatively straight forward; you are an individual temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of your upbringing. The word is also used as an adjective, to relate to a person living outside their native country. For instance, you can be called an expatriate worker.

The word ‘expatriate’ itself derives from the Latin terms ex, which means ‘out of’ and patriate, means ‘country’ or ‘fatherland’. Commonly the term is used in the context of professionals or skilled workers who are sent abroad by their companies, rather than for all ‘immigrants’ or ‘migrant workers’.

SEE ALSO: What it means to be an expatriate for the ExpatWoman team

Of course, in practice, the definition of expatriate varies with context, country and time and takes into account a whole number of different aspects of a person’s lifestyle and choices. To be an expat for one individual may adopt a whole different meaning to another. Retirees are considered expatriates who have upped and left to end their working life while for others, the prospects of better money and tax treatments are luring. For some it may also mean a chance to experience an entirely different culture, learn new skills and knowledge of a new country’s history and gain a better rounded experience of the world. The time you live abroad does not matter either; you are labelled as an expatriate whether it’s for a year to sixty years.

To be an expatriate gives you a sense of identity and solidarity with others like you; you are all far from home, from the known and home comforts, you are all seeking advances in your career, finances or family, and you are all combating with the little battles being an expat brings with it on a daily basis. Perhaps you are a sole person, alone, and you have travelled across countries to set up your new life. But remember, to be an expatriate means you are never alone; it means there will always be someone, somewhere nearby that is feeling exactly the same as you, or has been there themselves. 

Did you know?

All of these notable figures were or are also expatriates.

Josephine Baker Johnny Depp Marc Jacobs

Josephine Baker
American performer, civil rights activist and intelligence operative
Johnny Depp 
American actor
Marc Jacobs
American fashion designer
Oscar Wilde Kylie Minogue Vincent Van Gogh

Oscar Wilde
Irish Writer

Kylie Minogue
Australian singer

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch painter