American Expat FI

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What is an ”expat?”

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I remember hearing this word in high school and having absolutely no idea what it meant. The long form is ”expatriate” and somehow it sounded almost criminal; someone in exile from their own country maybe. Little did I know at the time, I would become one, and it might be the most liberating title I’ve ever held.

An ”expat” can describe any person who lives outside of their home country. However, its usually also someone who moves for work, and often on a temporary basis.* It’s common for an expat to move back to their native country after a period of time living and working abroad. Oftentimes the person may specifically move for better work opportunities, short-term work assignments. They sometimes also move for family and love, or simply just to explore other cultures.

Social Distancing Christmas Work Party for Expats – 2020

What’s the difference between an expat and an immigrant then? An immigrant is someone who comes to another country with the intention to live there permanently. An expat moves on a temporary basis. An immigrant is often seeking a better life than what is available in their home country (though not always), whereas an expat isn’t always defined by that opportunity seeking.

I identify strongly with the ”expat” title and am drawn towards others in the same situation. Most of my friends here in the Netherlands are also expats, who moved here for a variety of reasons. We can all commiserate together on the difficulties we face, while also forming a sort of community of relative outcasts. I say ”outcasts” in jest, but it can be isolating moving to a country where you don’t speak the language and know few locals. On the flip side, it feels like your world has expanded exponentially. Seeing how people live in different corners of the globe and finding a way to adapt to them is a challenge I think everyone should face at some point in their lives (even multiple times).

Mark Twain said it best: ”Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Follow along with me as I share expat stories, financial tips, and try to pursue financial independence in a foreign country. I can be found on Instagram at @americanexpatfi.

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