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Expatriate Services

Being an Expatriate: What does it mean?

An expatriate: a person who has left their home country in order to reside temporarily in another.

The list of reasons why these people choose to leave their homes and extended families is endless. The offer of a better job; lower cost of living; the opportunity to learn about and experience other cultures; a better climate; a booming property market; and a higher attainable standard of living are but a few of the factors influencing people to take jobs and/or retire overseas.

"Expats" are typically, but not always, Westerners living in non-Western countries, and differ from immigrants in the sense that they are residing temporarily in the host country rather than committing to the adoption of the host country's culture. However, many expatriates either retire in the host country or choose to extend their employment contract if possible, so whether they are expats or immigrants is then subject to their own distinctions between the two.

The term "immigrant" often brings to mind a person leaving their home country due to limited employment opportunities, poverty, government persecution and the desire to live a better life. Ironically, people in this situation who move to Europe or America are leaving their own country for remarkably similar reasons to the Europeans and Americans who are expatriated to Asia or the Middle East. An increasing number of both wealthy and middle-class citizens of Western countries are heading East, many disillusioned by high taxes, and what they see as mismanagement by their respective governments. The common consensus is that people are working harder than ever before, yet reaping few benefits. Taxes are rising, yet the standard of public services does not reflect this.

Furthermore, recent events have triggered increased government regulations and supervision that has left even more people dissatisfied. The US government in particular is taking notice, as new legislation and tax regulations can attest to. The Internal Tax Revenue Service now claims that they have the right to tax you for up to ten years following your expatriation, if they believe you are leaving for tax reasons. Income tax rates in many countries, such as Australia and Canada are heading towards the 50% category, making people wonder if staying is worth it. Those who pay the most in taxes are often told by the government that they "earn too much" to reap the supposed benefits. Since it is criminal not to pay taxes, for many people the best option is to physically leave.

Since many countries can offer a better "return on investment", so to speak, it is no wonder people take the opportunity to go. When faced with the choice between high taxes/minimal benefits/higher cost of living and lower taxes/lower cost of living/maximum benefits, the most appealing decision is obvious. Another common disenchantment is with the legal system. It is claimed by many government agencies in the US that individual property does not have the same rights as an individual, and that it can be seized in the name of "war on/against… anything". The loss of freedoms and rights previously taken for granted has also encouraged a number of educated professionals to head for greener pastures elsewhere, or at least less restrictive ones.

Advances in technology have also greatly contributed to the increasing number of expatriates. Communication is easier and faster, banking can be done electronically, business can be conducted from anywhere and at any time via video conferencing, and money can be deposited anywhere in the world, exempting you from both tax and government scrutiny. Truth be told, expatriates stand to gain a great deal out of relocating. They are often offered very appealing employment packages, complete with paid trips home each year, medical care, a rental allowance, a company car and the children's school fees. Once overseas, expatriates can afford to send their children to private international schools, which many would find difficult to afford in their home country.

Dissatisfaction in their home country and the promise of better elsewhere certainly equals a greater likelihood of staying than leaving. Naturally there will be those who opt to stay, for various reasons, but those who go rarely regret it, often citing it as one of the best decisions they ever made. The life experience, cultural sensitivity and even language skills they may gain are invaluable not only to them, but their future employers, and their children who will learn from it. International schools are widely believed to be an ideal environment for students, and in addition to learning how to get along with others from all over the world, these students tend to be good at not only the theory that they learn, but more importantly the application of their knowledge to real life situations. It is ultimately a win-win situation for the whole family, and the host country, which benefits from the relative wealth, and expertise that the expatriates possess.



Editorial By:
Matt Bellotti
(Expatriate in Asia)

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