I accidentally learned about this word when I moved out of my home country for the first time in my life. I must confess that my first impression was unpleasant and even my feelings ended kind of hurt. The first thing that came to my mind was the image of a person who lost their country. However, I realized that it was a very used word for commercial purposes and daily used by people who got used to it.
According to the dictionary, an expatriate is “a person who lives outside their native country”. When I read this definition my feelings got back to normal. I thought it was not so bad after all. But it wasn’t the same when I looked for synonyms: exile, emigrant, deportee, refugee, and evacuee.
According to OECD (Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development) since the end of 1990’s, issues related to international migration and more particularly to the international mobility of highly-qualified workers are receiving increasing attention from policy-makers. This reflects the increasing international movements that have been taken place following the fall of the Iron Curtain and in conjunction with the growing globalization of economic activity. The differences related to standards of living and salaries between developed and developing countries also affect the international migration. Moreover, many OECD countries work to attract qualified human resources from abroad in order to sustain economic growth in face of aging populations. This means that there are too many reasons for a person to leave their home country.
If we stick to the dictionary definition, we can list a large variety of expatriates: diplomatic employees, international students, displaced people by war, military personnel, international employees and others. In my opinion, this is a phenomenon that is becoming more normal each time.
Some expatriates can move from one country to another several times in their lives. Others can choose one of those countries as a definitive residence. Many others can return to their home country.
In any case, the expatriate lifestyle has special challenges: language, culture, food, separation from family and friends, daily routine changes, change of school, professional challenges for you and your partner and so on. Some issues will appear from a repatriation also. Despite going back to your home country after a long time, things will never be the same. I will write about this topic in a future article.
Moving to a different country every once in a while can result highly beneficial for the individual and for the family group. They can learn a new language and new cultures. They also can increase their friend circle. It’s possible to develop a remarkable capacity to adapt to changes and in my personal case, it’s possible to assume a totally new and refreshing attitude towards life.
Being an expatriate gave me the opportunity to nourish my strengths as a human being and during my experiences, I discovered that my best tools are inside of me: emotional intelligence, resilience, courage, motivation, will, discipline and all those that come to your mind while you are reading this article.
What to do to find those tools? Identifying your purpose on life, it’s a good beginning. Ask yourself these questions: What do you want to live for? How do you want to live? What options do you have? Which one of your actual resources is useful for you? What additional resources do you need? Where can you find those additional resources?
Once you answer these questions: Go for it! Don’t give up! You have everything you need. Just go! And… if you are still thinking of some extra help, there are plenty of available tools. Current trend points to the human development and to a healthy quality of life both physical and mental. You can choose from psychologists, therapists, coaching, neuro-linguistic programming and so many others. You are the only one responsible for your life.