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An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland).


In its broadest sense, an expatriate is any person living in a different country from where he or she is a citizen. In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals sent abroad by their companies, as opposed to locally hired staff (who can also be foreigners). The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labourer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an 'immigrant'. There is no set definition and usage does vary depending on context and individual preferences and prejudices.

In the 19th century, Americans, numbering perhaps in the thousands, were drawn to Europe—especially to Munichmarker and Parismarker—to study the art of painting. Henry James, for instance, was a famous expatriate American writer from the 1870s, who adopted England as his home.

Famous expatriates

American expatriates

The phenomenon and image of Americans living abroad is significantly associated with certain cultural movements, particularly literature, in which these expatriate individuals and communities were portrayed. Some prime examples are American literary notables who lived in Parismarker from the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression (the so-called Lost Generation), including Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. Edith Wharton had already moved to Paris before WWI, and did not consider herself an expatriate. African-American expatriation to Paris also boomed after World War I, beginning with black American veterans who preferred the subtler racism of Paris to the oppressive racism and segregation in parts of the United States.

In the 1920s African-American writers, artists, and musicians arrived in Paris and popularized jazz in Parisian nightclubs, a time when Montmartremarker was known as "the Harlem of Paris." Some notable African-American expatriates from the 1920s onward included Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, and, after World War II, Charlie Parker and Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Dexter Gordon. [37101][37102][37103] In the 1960s a new wave of young black American visual artists chose to leave the U.S. They included Harvey Cropper, Herbert Gentry, Arthur Hardie, Clifford Jackson, Sam Middleton, Earl Miller, Norman Morgan, Larry Potter, Mildred Thompson and Walter Williams. In the words of artist David C. Driskell, "They chose a form of cultural exile over expatriation, hoping for a better day to come about in the land of their birth." All settled in Europe.

Another famous group of expatriates was the so-called Beat Generation of American artists living in other countries during the 1950s and 1960s. This group included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Harold Norse, Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder. Later generation expatriates included 1950s jazz musicians such as Steve Lacy, 1960s rock musicians Jim Morrison and Nina Simone, as well as 1970s singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy. Preceding the Beats by several years, and serving to some extent as a point of pilgrimage for many of them was the American expatriate composer and writer Paul Bowles, who spent time in Europe in the 30s before relocating to Tangier, Morocco in 1947, where he lived until his death in 1999.

Many Americanmarker fashion designers have notably become expatriates in Francemarker and Italymarker to design for existing European design houses or to enhance their own collections. These fashion designers include Marisol Deluna, Tom Ford, Patrick Kelly, and Marc Jacobs.

Coloradomarker-born actor, singer and songwriter Dean Reed never achieved great success in his native United States, but later achieved great popularity in South America, especially Argentinamarker, Chilemarker and Perumarker. He appeared in several Italian "spaghetti westerns" and finally spent much of his adult life in the German Democratic Republicmarker, but never renounced his USA citizenship. He was an immensely popular celebrity in Eastern Europe until his death in 1986.

American cartoonist Robert Crumb has lived in France since the mid-1990s.

According to the U.S. Department of State, there was a substantial rise in the number of American-born expatriates since 1990, from about 1.5 million to 4.5 million in 2005, to eventually grow to about 6 to 8 million by 2009. Most of the expatriates are retired and live on social security benefits, others are employed in international business, and those with strong unfavorable political views on American government.

Expatriates in the United States

Alistair Cooke - British citizen who lived in much of his life in the US (eventually became a US Citizen)

Penélope Cruz - Spaniard living in the U.S.

Craig Ferguson - a Scottish comedian who became an American and now hosts the Late Late Show. Now a US citizen.

Many expatriate musicians and actors, especially from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, live in the United States to pursue careers with recording studios and movie houses based in California.

Romanian expatriates

Constantin Brâncuşi - an internationally renowned Romanian sculptor who lived in Paris after 1903.

Mircea Eliade - a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer and philosopher. He moved to France on September 16, 1945 due to the increasing power of communists in Romaniamarker. Eventually he moved to Chicago, United States, where he became a professor at the University of Chicago.

Eugène Ionesco - one of the foremost dramatists of the Theatre of the Absurd. Born in Slatina, Romaniamarker he moved to France in 1938 in order to complete his Doctoral Thesis, eventually settling there.

Expatriates in other countries

The English singer Jane Birkin has lived in Paris since 1969.

Trends in expatriation

During the later half of the 20th century expatriation was dominated by professionals sent by their employers to foreign subsidiaries or headquarters. Starting at the end of the 20th century globalization created a global market for skilled professionals and leveled the income of skilled professionals relative to cost of living while the income differences of the unskilled remained large. Cost of intercontinental travel had become sufficiently low, such that employers not finding the skill in a local market could effectively turn to recruitment on a global scale.

This has created a different type of expatriate where commuter and short-term assignments are becoming more common and often used by organisations to supplement traditional expatriation. Private motivation is becoming more relevant than company assignment. Families might often stay behind when work opportunities amount to months instead of years. The cultural impact of this trend is more significant. Traditional corporate expatriates did not integrate and commonly only associated with the elite of the country they were living in. Modern expatriates form a global middle class with shared work experiences in multi-national corporation and working and living the global financial and economical centers. Integration is incomplete but strong cultural influences are transmitted. Middle class expatriates contain many re-migrants from emigration movements one or two generations earlier.

In Dubai the population is predominantly expatriates, from countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines, with only 20% of the population made up of citizens.

The continuing shift in expatriates has often been difficult to measure. According to UN statistics, more than 200 million people will be living outside of their home country in 2010. However, this number also includes economic migrants.

In terms of outbound expatriation, the UK has currently the highest expatriation rate among developed countries with more than three million British living abroad, followed by Germany and Italy (as percentage of total population). In terms of exatriates influx, the most popular expatriate destinations are currently Spain, followed by Germany and the UK.

Business handling of expatriate employees

In dealing with expatriates, an international company recognises the value of them and has experienced staff to deal with them, and often has a company-wide policy and coaching system that includes spouses at an earlier stage in the decision-making process, giving spouses an official voice. Not many companies provide any compensation for loss of income of expatriate spouses, although they often do provide other benefits and assistance. The level of support differs, ranging from offering a job-hunting course for spouses at the new location to full service partner support structures, run by volunteering spouses supported by the organization. An example of an expatriate led project can be found in the Gracia Arts Project of Barcelonamarker.

There are several advantages and disadvantages of using expatriate employees to staff international company subsidiaries.Advantages include, permitting closer control and coordination of international subsidiaries and providing a broader global perspective. Disadvantages include high transfer costs, may encounter local governement restrictions, and it can create a problem of adaptability to foreign environments.

Subtleties of usage

In some countries, such as Switzerland, the term "expat" is not used for all foreigners living and working there, but only to those on "expat" contracts. Typical Swiss expats will be living in housing provided by the employer, with most other expenses such as children's (English) education also paid by the employer. In theory, this is because they are still maintaining a home in their original country. This is in strong contrast with those on "local" contracts who are treated and paid like other locals. The "expats" have a reputation of being flush with money, and raising the prices for others who are not subsidised in this way. Expat contracts are usually time limited, so the expats either move on to another assignment, or are given a local contract without expat subsidies.

Expatriates and communication technology

Modern communication technologies such as internet radio, phone and television globalize communication by allowing expatriates around the world to easily connect with their home country and culture instantaneously. This has the effect of reducing the separation anxiety associated with the expatriation process. Companies have emerged to facilitate this virtual connection to the home country.

See also


  1. David C. Driskell (1978) “Bibliographies in Afro-American Art,” American Art Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 3 1978 page 385
  2. Collings, D.G. Scullion, H. and Morley, M.J. (2007) “Changing Patterns of Global Staffing in the Multinational Enterprise: Challenges to the Conventional Expatriate Assignment and Emerging Alternatives”, Journal of World Business, 42:2, pp. 198-213.
  3. Gomez-Mejia,Balkin,Cardy 2007:544
  4. Gomez-Mejia,Balkin,Cardy 2007:545

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