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Expats- the bigger picture

With origins in the Latin term expatriare and derived from patria ('native country'), the whole idea of being an expatriate (or more familiarly, an expat) isnít a modern construction, but one that resonates with an entirely new development of community in the digital age.

For those who have been expats over the decades, it's certainly an interesting process to observe the increased interconnectivity that the internet allows us. Being able to stay in contact, and even in close contact, with family back home or friends that we've met along the way, makes it seem like the distances between us diminish so significantly - even to the extent where they seemingly disappear!

For instance, an expat in Kazakhstan, teaching English whilst her husband works in an international construction company, admits that there has never been a better opportunity to stay social, even in the bitter cold of the long and arduous winters that characterise life in Almaty. Keeping in touch with friends and family in the UK means that she not only has accommodation options other than London hotels on her return home, but much more than that. It diminishes the distance between her two lives, allowing both to simultaneously exist rather than substituting one for the other.

It's interesting to note that while the term 'expatriate' is often used in regards to Westerners living in non-Western countries, its correct usage encompasses practically all foreigners living outside their home country, with a particular emphasis on those doing so for professional reasons. An example would be the sizeable Australian expat community working in bars in London, or the British expat community in the United States, many of whom work in hotels in Las Vegas. Yet the term isn't always used so broadly. In Switzerland, for example, the term 'expat' is reserved for a certain visa category, as opposed to the 'local' visa category issued for foreign workers.

The iconic Cafe de Flore, Paris

Another aspect of expatriate life is the historical precedent of notable expat communities. For any foreigner living in Paris, for instance, there is always the shadow of the great age of American expats of the 1920s. Forming a strong thread in the Paris social fabric following the First World War and up until the Great Depression, these literary and artistic figures included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, T. S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein, just to mention a few. Just try and navigate your way around the Latin Quarter in the Paris of today without seeing traces of the Paris of yesteryear!


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