What IS An Expat, Anyway?

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

You know, it occurs to me that I’ve probably never answered this question. Not in a “gee, aren’t I mysterious” sort of fashion so much as an “I sure never do get around to doing a lot of things” fashion. Expat is short for expatriate. What does that mean? Dictionary.com says the following: ex·pa·tri·ate [v. eks-pey-tree-eyt or, especially Brit., pa-tree-; adj., n. eks-pey-tree-it, -eyt or, especially Brit., pa-tree-] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation verb, -at·ed, -at·ing, adjective, noun verb (used with object)

1. to banish (a person) from his or her native country.
2. to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country.
3. to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.

verb (used without object)

4. to become an expatriate: He expatriated from his homeland.


5. expatriated; exiled.


6. an expatriated person: Many American writers were living as expatriates in Paris.

[Origin: 1760-70; < ML expatri tus (ptp. of expatri re to banish), equiv. to ex- ex-1 + patri(a) native land + – tus -ate1] Ok, so it’s actually got an array of meanings. I was actually surprised to think of some of those, but I guess it makes sense, and in a general sense it’s merely “someone living outside their country”. I think I first heard the word back in high school somewhere, but never looked it up at the time. I gathered it to mean #6 there, specifically in reference to Hemingway. It seemed like disaffected people living abroad spending time down in the dumps in a bar or something. Fast-forward to December 2002: I end up going off to work on foreign bases in support of the US Military. This is where I run into a new meaning and sense of the word expat. I meet lots of people who’ve been doing that for years even. My plan was to do a year and get out of debt. I shortly expanded this idea to 3 years, being debt-free and buying a house. Well, it didn’t exactly work out that way. Somewhere after 2 years I took a break, got married, spent 4 months in Uzbekistan, Thailand, and a smidgen in Cambodia, and decided to get a job again. As of this writing (Dec 2006) I am at 4 years and a few weeks or so. Actually, I think I’m 4 years to the day that I got off a plane in Karshi, Uzbekistan and looked around at my new home. I think about going back to the states but I don’t really know when. We’ve got a pretty good deal here with time off and are reasonably central to Europe, Africa, and Asia. I think of going back home to a job with 2 weeks of vacation a year and it feels like dying. Some day, but not yet. Still places to go. And there you have it. 😉

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