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Expatriation meaning? And what is an expat?

Or – Expatriation meaning?

Perhaps an odd question in this community, however an often asked one.

Being expat advisors and supplying successful expatriation and repatriations, we often get that question as well do we see it asked in various social media threads and google reveals that the question is indeed in need of an answer.


Why is it not already commonly known and answered?


It seems that if you are an expat, are offered a position abroad, are working in a large corporation where expatriations happen, have someone within your proximity that have expatriated, or are within the industry of human resources, you know the meaning. However, if you are not associated with either, you don´t. Simple as that.

Also, and for some reason, students that go abroad to study, are called just that or “international students”– despite them also being expats.


THE WORD EXPAT – and how it is often mis-conceived

We have to go way back to find the first known records of the word expatriate. Way back into the 1760s. The word comes from the latin word expatriāre which means “to banish,” from ex-, “out of,” and patria, “native land.”

In its nature the word “expat” comes from the word “expatriate”. When we expatriate, we are actively engaging in the relocation abroad.

The word is often mis-conceived as being the title of someone with high level business skills, a rich income and an elitist lifestyle. (Perhaps that is why the “international students” are not referred to as expats).

For many years, and still today, expat packages are seen as something that will supply you with a state of art car, house, savings and lifestyle. To an extend that is true, but only as true as the movie made fact that when the water breaks on a pregnant woman – she immediately go into screaming pain. In either case, it is not the paramount truth.

The truth is that an expatriate is a legally working person who lives temporarily in a country of where they are not a citizen. They live there to perform a job or a study, regardless of salary level or nature of skills.

Along with the legally working expat there might be a spouse and/or children. Those too, are considered expats.


Looking at the past and the present, an “expat” is an individual who temporarily resides in a different country from their own.

Most expats achieve this by obtaining a work visa, student visa, or family visa from their desired destination. People from all walks of life become expats, and they may live in a foreign country for a variety of reasons, such as for work opportunities, academics, or retirement.

An expat can be someone on a temporary assignment (E.g. within the military or international organizations) or someone who has permanently moved to a foreign country. Expats are however, often not residing permanently in one country.

Expats may be sent abroad as part of a corporate relocation, or they may make the decision to move abroad themselves / alone, to take advantage of new job opportunities, a lower cost of living, a higher pay, or to experience a new culture.

Counting all expats, statistics shows that the number of expats, as per 2021, are as high as 87 million. Ref. Finnaccord



Always risky to set the future in stones, but as far as our extensive knowledge, research, countless meetings with industry experts and work shows, the word “Expat” and expatriation will remain unchanged. Perhaps the word and definition will become more commonly known and used as the digital nomads and early career movers are becoming more autonomous and independent, and will thus require an existing and a future employer to expatriate them.

We do hear a change in the way a relocation can be done though, when accommodating to the requirements of the autonomous freedom seeking workforce.

We see a tendency to offer early-stage career professionals a smaller lump sum for relocation, when they are themselves asking to work abroad, or if the company decides to expatriate them during their earlier career years. They then must manage the lump sum themselves and make sure that they have it cover the move, the integration and accommodation finding.

Certainly, the huge shift in demand for increased freedom, roaming as per desire, and the craving for self-fulfillment within the present and coming work force set´s the precedence for an increase in the use and knowledge of the word “expat”.

Expat Advising

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