First, there were the Expats. Employees who were sent by their company on a mission outside of home. But as time passed, globalization crawled in, and as borders became easier to cross and international experience became invaluable for global companies, a variety of ‘post expatriate’ (’Postpat’) groups started to emerge.
The following chapters will try to describe the main characteristics of the different Postpat groups and the challenges and opportunities they are facing. However, a word of caution must be noted – no two persons are the same and no two Postpats have the same relocation experience. Still, when trying to mark trends and set group outlines, generalization is inevitable. The below is a rough description, open to discussion, and calling for adjustments and modifications.
Who are the different Postpat groups?
First, there were Expats. A clearly defined group of employees, sent by their company for a specific mission outside of their home country. Assignments in those old times (pre skype and low cost flights) were considered “hardships” and companies were doing all they could to compensate employees who were uprooted from their families and culture. Such compensations were bundled into packages covering school, housing, medical insurance, home visit trips, and even club memberships, to make sure the expats could stay comfortable within their foreign environment.
But not all expats were heading home at the end of their assignment and some were extending their time abroad. In some cases, the extension would come as a response to company needs, and yet in others as a result of getting attached to the place or even finding love and starting a new family overseas.
As extension of 2 years turned to 5 and 7 some expat packages turned to ‘local plus’, offering only part of the original benefits with slightly less lucrative cushioning. Others were turning fully local, encompassing in them the previously paid benefits, and yet other packages just kept renewing under the full expatriate conditions. People who came for 2-3 years were now seeing their kids going through school, and the host country which once looked new and threatening was slowly becoming an alternative to home.
This newly created group of Translocals may now have completed their tenth year in the same host location. They became attached to their place of living and going back is not planned in the near future. To fulfill their desire to stay put in what now became second home, they may have switched jobs to other companies which could maintain their packages (or similar ones) and allow them to continue their stay at the same host location.
Still not all eternal expats fell in love with the place. Some were tempted by the move. And instead of going back home at the end of their assignment they were recruited by a new company, possibly of a different nationality, sending them to a whole new and different host location.
But as these Transpats continued their expat lifestyle at their new location, questions were starting to emerge. Employment by a foreign company now meant that going home for vacations was no longer a touch base with the company’s headquarters. Similarly, taking a high level corporate management role at the company’s headquarters could no longer be a natural closing chord to a repatriating family. Pension too now became more complicated as the employing company could no longer easily maintain home payments, but had to figure out a new Portfolio Retirement at a third country which will satisfy their foreign talent’s end of life plans.
And as time passed globalization became a reality. Borders became easier to cross, travel, more affordable and the international experience turned into an invaluable asset for most global companies. With this growing trend, world knowledge is now a vocational necessity and taking an assignment outside of home is no longer strictly a company requirement but a goal and desire of the employee himself.
Roamers* are the new independent expats. No longer considered under hardship conditions, roamers do not enjoy the same lucrative packages previously offered to expats. With Local plus or fully localized packages, they open themselves to the local market and look for more affordable housing. Leaving behind the detaching and often costly expat clubs, roamers seem to be more open to their host culture. And yet, unlike translocals and more like transpats, for roamers the move is the goal, and after finishing their assignment term the need to move urges them to find another means for realizing their next adventure. A new relocating company, a consultancy gig, freelance work, or a few years of study are all valid options to maintain this group’s goal of independent, long term globetrotting.
* The term Roamers is borrowed from CM Patha’s book: ‘Roaming: Living and Working Abroad in the 21st Century’
Growing up in the light of the new roaming experience are the Flexpats. For them, the benefits of international experience are already clear and inherent, and moving around the world has become the symbol of freedom. Whether maintaining a remote career or taking long leaves from work, Flexpats would often not stay for a full-term assignment at one location. For them, the accumulation of multiple global experiences is the goal.
Flexpats currently look like the younger, wilder, unsettled brother of roamers. Raising a family while trotting every few months from one location to the next may be challenging. Therefore, it seems that for most Flexpats this lifestyle is a phase. Going forward, this flex-spirited group may mature into the more planned and organized roamers or decide to settle back to their home lives, still having the great memories and vocational experiences they accumulated along the way.
Another group that can’t be taken out of the equation when looking at Global Mobility is that of the ever-existing Immigrants. Often pictured by the media as a plank of escaping refugees, this category should in fact be expanded to include all the above described group members who at some point along the way found haven in their host location.
These, may have spent a few years living as expats, roamers, transpats or translocals, before deciding to fully assimilate into their new host country and turn it into their new home. Having made this final decision at the dear cost of parting from their own national identity this group may have solved many of the challenges faced by the rest of the above described groups. However, even they are not fully free from the questions and dilemmas which concern most if not all Postpats. But more about that in the next chapter.
By Dr Taly Goren, a long time traveler between nations and continents,
relocation specialist, parents groups facilitator, mother of two adolescent TCKs,
and the wife of a Hi-Tech Expat frequent flyer.