Defining Expatriate

November 26th, 2013 by The JetSetter Team | 2 Comments »

Slide1Since Hemingway lived in Paris as an expatriate, Americans have romanticized the title and the action, often dreaming of an international life overseas. Hemingway’s days in Paris were limited; he eventually moved back to the United States and tenderly mocked expatriates in his fiction. But what exactly does it mean to be an expatriate?

For many, the question is unanswerable. Merriam Webster defines expatriate as withdrawing one’s self from residency in or allegiance to one’s native country. A correct definition, certainly, but one that probably oversimplifies the experience of living abroad.

Realistically, expatriates can occupy another country forever or for awhile. In context, expatriate usually refers to a skilled worker or retired person who lives in another country by choice, while laborers doing the same thing will often be labeled as migrant workers.

Expatriates typically receive favorable treatment when it comes to taxes, assuming they intend to return to their home country in three to five years (depending on specific laws of various countries). The lifestyle of an expatriate is often appealing because it offers opportunities like unregulated offshore investing. The United States is one of few nations to continue to tax income earned abroad however, and requires expats to report foreign bank accounts exceeding $50,000. Many foreign banks also refuse to work with Americans because the US government requires international banks to abide by the same financial laws present in the US when dealing with citizens. As a result of these inconveniences, many former US citizens renounce US citizenship each year.

If you’re thinking about becoming an expatriate, you should know that you’ll find good company in Spain, Germany, and Britain, who continue to boast the highest numbers of expatriate populations. 6 million expatriates are from the United States, and many live in the above countries (and Canada).

And still, given these definitions, many have trouble nailing down what it is (or means) to be an expatriate in any specific way. Clary Estes, founder of Project Xpat, is seeking to provide answers via her crowd-sourced journalism project, in which she’s asking current expats to submit ten word answers accompanied by a photo to help provide an answer.

For now, it looks like we’re stuck defining expatriate as best we’re able, perhaps with platitudes and travel clichés about the adventurous spirit one might possess. Jason Hartman has a few ideas of his own, but he’d like to know what you think, too. So let’s hear it—how do you define expatriate? (http://www.flickr.com/photos/serfs-up/7059146001/)


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