Expat Definition

The human race has travelled the globe for millennia. Indigenous folk have fought amongst themselves, been fought by others, overrun or displaced. Newcomers have been treated as outcasts, even when they merely moved to the next village.

Are these some of the reasons that modern societies are still sceptical about the arrival of foreigners? A phenomenon that is hard to avoid is the increased necessity to attract talent from abroad. These individuals, their partners and families may still be foreigners but they are defined more generously as expats.

Taking a glance at what the professional field of knowledge has to say about the modern day movement of people.


Merriam Webster: The Americans still give a somewhat extreme definition of expatriate. Verb: To leave one’s native country to live elsewhere. To renounce allegiance to one’s native country (from 1768). The noun is more subtle: A person who lives in a foreign country (from 1818). Expat: A person forced to emigrate for political reasons. According to them, the first known use of the term expat was in 1962.

Collins expresses more gently: An expatriate is someone who is living in a country which is not their own.

Urban Dictionary: Expatriate: A citizen of one country living in another. Expat: A person taking up residency in another country.

Cambridge University Press is yet more simple: Noun: Someone who does not live in their own country. Expat is considered informal.

Oxford University Press offers another angle. Nouns: A person who lives outside their native country. An exile. Expat is considered informal. Adjective: short for expatriate.

And the German Duden? Expat: someone who works (on behalf of their company) abroad for a prolonged period of time. Looking up the generic German equivalent (internationale Fach- und Führungskräfte) reveals no results.


Merriam Webster: A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence; Collins: An immigrant is a person who has come to live in a country from some other country; Urban Dictionary: An immigrant is any person who lives in a country other than their country of birth; Cambridge University Press: A person who has come to a different country in order to live there permanently; Oxford University Press: A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.


Merriam Webster: A person who moves regularly in order to find work especially in harvesting crops; Collins: A migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work; Cambridge University Press: A person that travels to a different country or place, often in order to find work; Oxford University Press: A person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work or better living conditions.


Merriam Webster: A person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution; Collins: Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their homes or their country, either because there is a war there or because of their political or religious beliefs; Cambridge University Press: A person who has escaped from their own country for political, religious, or economic reasons or because of a war; Oxford University Press: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Personal experience

Many years ago, I was asked by my British employers to solve complex issues in Germany. I went to a city I had never even thought about, in a country that was not high on my list of places to see.

Let alone contemplate living in. After several months of having had terrific experiences, I returned home. End of story, I thought.

However, a year later a new chapter opened. I was requested to go again and eventually to commit to staying. I therefore began to engage more intensely with German society. My life was not in danger in anyway. I was neither poor, nor did I have to leave my country of birth for political reasons. It war therefore, by definition, my first experience as an expat.

Did I take someone else’s potential job? Certainly. Since I was expert at what I did, I was invited to stay abroad. Developing my career, I took away several positions over time. However since the company thrived, other openings were created. Did my move cause a vacancy in the UK? Of course. Was that taken by a German national? No. Could this be an imbalance or source of friction? Possibly.

Owning my own business in the years to come, I created other jobs in Germany. Does that factor in any equation? Not really. The point is, the labour force is in flux. I firmly believe that is a fine situation, offering opportunity to individuals and their employers on a global scale.

Beneficial synchronicity

Do these individuals take jobs from nationals? Of course they do, technically speaking. But they also fill vacant positions that otherwise could not be filled. The phenomenon of movement of people is independent of necessity of staff. Yet one could and often does benefit from the other.

If we were to examine our rejection of foreigners more fully we might accept the desire to improve their wellbeing more freely. Such a shift in viewpoint is a valid one, enabling us to be more welcoming to each and every expat. Economists agree that this would raise productivity and add to both local and national economies.

The use of strong words to define international movement across borders is manipulative. Is there a desire to instil fear amongst the public and pursue certain agendas? Today, the words expat, expatriate, immigrant, migrant and refugee are far more interchangeable. Whilst refugees possess a more unfortunate reason for relocating, many possess qualifications. Many more are willing to work.

Dissecting words, we discover more truths and insights, such as un-fortunate. My personal good fortune led me on my life’s path. I am an expat. Yet I too could be defined as an economic migrant. Unfortunately, this label causes much friction, ill-will and even anger in societies everywhere. I was welcomed with open arms and I felt accepted. I was even referred to not as a foreigner but as a British citizen. Despite the facts.

What defines an expat? My simple, unifying expat definition: Of foreign origin often with no local languages skills. A more widespread approach and holistic strategy is required in most locations across the globe. Surprisingly, little is undertaken to secure and promote this highly desirable group of people.

My mission is to change that and has become my business. Amazing Capitals creates expat ecosystems in locations to improve the circumstances of all stakeholders. Join the movement!

Fear Driven Recruitment / Two

Following reflection upon Finland, a look at Germany is next, where the lack of trained staff is known as “Fachkräftemangel”. The phenomenon is ever-present and has been so for a very long time.

Viewing more specifically North Rhine Westphalia, the state capital Düsseldorf boasts its cosy 650,000 residents. A powerful economy belongs to the neighbouring Ruhr Metropolis, an area with some five million people. Vastly different, yet both require far more staff than the national labour pool can offer.

Many years ago, I attended a speech held by the Italian Ambassador in the Industrie-Club, home to a large number of venerable members. I quote him loosely but he stated that the Germans love the Italians but don’t respect them. The Italians, on the other hand, respect the Germans but don’t love them.

Could this sentiment play a role in too few professional staff relocating from abroad? Or are other characteristics at play? Germans have always been renowned for their dedication to work. Yet they were not considered the most jovial nor friendliest of nationals. The rise of politics to the far right may be of concern to some looking to relocate but pushback from society is also strong.

The country and its folk have changed much over recent decades. I personally can vouch for a more diverse cultural landscape and heightened “laissez faire”. Although somewhat lacklustre, the globe’s third largest economy remains strong and quality of life is generally high. Especially for expat residents.

I was able to learn rudimentary language skills after three months and speak proficiently within a year, so I consider German fairly easy to learn. The weather is nothing to write home about but is normally far from extreme. And the country is ideally located to visit dozens of other nations with ease.

Internationally operating local corporations and highly successful, family owned businesses are widespread as are those in foreign ownership, be it the US, UK and EU, China, Korea, India, Japan or elsewhere. These big players are experienced in employing international talent. Others are less so.

Could it be that company leaders are reluctant to hire from overseas due to a perceived disruptive effect upon customary staffing traditions? Is it the language barrier, culture or more? Is there a reluctance to recruit in case the new employee or possibly their family fail to integrate and feel at home in their new place of residence? Or does the mere lack of experience create an element of fear-driven employment?

Cycling past an advert, I screeched to a halt. My feed on social media has been presenting me with similar job ads, causing me to wonder about the folly of demographics, geo-positioning and targeting options. But this was new to me. The airport in Düsseldorf is targeting passers by. A search for jobs online reveals, perhaps understandably, that non-German speakers have no initial options:

Düsseldorf Airport’s job plattform (sic) offers a variety of job vacancies. Either for the Flughafen Düsseldorf GmbH itself or for companies being located at the airport area. To search for job vacancies, internships or duale (sic) study programmes please click the link below. The button says “View German version” and a click reveals 18 positions:

The effect on business development and predictability through having positions filled is undeniable. Secondly, the influx of foreigners has long proven to be highly rewarding to so many. And I wish to help.

Meanwhile all success to the airport and its candidates. The job fair is being held on February 27 2024. Free entry.

To be continued…

Sources: https://www.dus.com/en/corporation/jobs; https://www.dus.com/de-de/konzern/jobs/stellenangebote/flughafen-düsseldorf-gmbh.

#HR #humanresources #expat #expatriates #internationaltalent #düsseldorf #neuss #ruhr #amazingcapitalsview

Fear Driven Recruitment / One

As Monty Python once sang, Finland is “So close to Russia”. Located way up in northern Europe, the tip of Lapland is also over 1100 kms or 700 miles farther north than the south coast. Not only long, it is also the fifth largest nation in the European Union behind France, Spain, Sweden and Germany.

The country is fascinating and so are the Finns, of which there are not so many living there. Whilst Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ireland and Slovakia reveal fewer residents, Finnland with over 5.5 million people is by far the least densely populated.

And yet, the country thrives. Having spent many a summer flying there for the weekends, I often came across roadworks during a drive the cottage. A week or three later, repairs were completed over long distances and contraflows gone. Both road surfaces and journeys were smooth again. I have never seen such efficiency in any other country.

Infrastructure is not their only area of excellence. Schooling, public transport, aviation, ecology and quality of life rank among the world’s finest.

However, when it comes to international recruitment, Finland struggles similarly to many other countries. Since experience shows this is a global phenomenon, is it the case that the language is a barrier?

Having tried to learn Finnish twice, I could agree. Whilst my mother tongue is English, my German is almost as proficient. Drop me off in Paris and I’ll communicate fairly well in French, even if using somewhat banal vocabulary. In Madrid I may require a glass of wine but I can hold a conversation in Spanish too. I can thus attest to Finnish being far from easy for me but innumerous foreigners excel in speaking with natives.

Yes, winters can be cold and dark. And long. But summers are equally warm. And, due the light, even lengthy. Is it perhaps the mosquitos? Not really. I have experienced more in Düsseldorf. The cost of living? No. Whilst prices may be inflated, salaries are proportionately high too.

Employment opportunities exist in their thousands. So much so, that even such a strong economy suffers. Unique measures have been introduced to help attract international staff.

Recruitment Events

The national Talent Boost Summit took place in November last year in Vantaa. It is, quote, “the most exciting business event of the fall! The event will offer concrete knowledge and practical tools regarding the recruitment of international talents and diversity topics.”

Just prior to that, another event known as the Work in Helsinki-Uusimaa Region was held in October in partnership with EURES, European Employment Services and ELA, the European Labour Authority.

The upcoming Contact Forum in Helsinki January 25 this year is “Finland’s oldest and largest recruitment and career event for university students” and held annually. With 135 companies already registered, it clearly reveals current circumstances.

Most Fascinating?

To quote the Helsinki authorities from last year: “The City of Helsinki wants to provide work for people – regardless of language skills. On 4 April 2023, Helsinki City Hall will be hosting a Work for You recruitment event, bringing together employers in Uusimaa and international jobseekers. The event is aimed at jobseekers who have moved from abroad as well as companies that do not require their employees to have good Finnish or Swedish language skills.”

This is a huge step, especially since governments across the globe require language proficiency to become a resident.

And, since all these events were local, is international recruitment considered questionable?

Or is it the case that employing their first foreigner who is not proficient in Finnish is for many companies a step too far? That recruitment is at times fear driven?

To be continued…


Work for You: hel .fi/en/news/the-city-of-helsinki-wants-to-provide-work-for-people-regardless-of-language-skills; Contact Forum: contactforum .fi; Talent Boost Summit: workinfinland .com/en/tyonantajat/tapahtumat/talent-boost-summit-2023; Work in Helsinki-Uusimaa Region: europeanjobdays .eu/en/event/work-helsinki-uusimaa-region

#HR #humanresources #expat #expatriates #helsinki #internationaltalent #amazingcapitalsview