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Expat Employee

Expat Definition

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In a world rife with discrimination and xenophobia, living life as an expat is a unique experience. Born in England, I crossed a border to Scotland at the age of ten months. Returning three years later, many years passed living in various parts of the country. I was English. When asked to go to Germany, my passport informed me that I had become British.

When asked where I was from, I frequently stated the UK. I was also a citizen of the EU. Today’s common word for a foreigner did not occur to me until many years later. This Englishman was British, from the UK and a European to then also be labelled an expat. I had joined a curious collection of non natives with no local knowledge and often no national language.

Human beings have travelled the globe for untold 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 today’s “modern” societies are still sceptical about the arrival of foreigners? A phenomenon that is increasingly hard to avoid is the necessity to attract talent from abroad. These individuals, partners and families may be foreigners but they are defined more generously as expatriates.

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


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 was 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 if no-one else is available they also secure 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. Whether in Finland, Germany or other countries, a reluctance to employ people with a foreign mother tongue may be understandable but is short sighted. Most are intelligent or determined enough to adapt and learn. The company benefits more than the individual.


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. Regulations and xenophobic attitudes often prevent able and willing individuals from benefitting society to the full and create friction amongst the local populace.

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 “one of us”. Despite the facts.


My simple, unifying expat definition: Of foreign origin and often with no local language skills but skilled or talented. 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!

By Vincent Green, Nov 28 2023

Mural of couple under umbrella


Improving the chance of companies retaining international employees in their location is a challenging task for city authorities. Life as an expat is complex. The need for balance, contented interaction and feeling at home is key. Those that underestimate the necessity to support are likely to lose valued residents.


Once an expat professional has been hired, companies soon return to business as usual. The employee has relocated and their days take on a routine. However, international residents also need to settle in, which involves a steeper and broader learning curve than with nationals. Longer term support determines true success.


Attractive locations across the world create strong competition to companies who desperately need to attract expats. Position and package fit, as does the company. Unfortunately a lack of convincing images, false impressions and incomplete city presentations fail to help inspire expats to relocate.

Numerous expats bring along or acquire a four legged member of the family. Are locals pet friendly, a license necessary, are dogs permitted on public transport or in restaurants and is a leash a must? Surprises await on this and other topics such as telecoms, insurance, banks, utilities, recycling, emergencies, libraries and religion. All are covered in detail in the local eGuide.