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Expats And Their Privileges

by Daniela Tecu
June 27, 2019

Daniela Țecu is a freelance translator and business communication specialist. She was an expatriate at the European Commission in Brussels and Luxembourg for ten years. 


Globalisation is present almost in every aspect of our lives. Socially, we can have international friends very easily, either because we travel, study, work or browse the internet, or because we simply live in a cosmopolitan city. Politically, there are more and more decisions and agreements to internationally cooperate and support the development of an action in a field of common interest. Economically, a broad range of offers can tempt us to migrate to another country for a certain period or for all our life. Thus we become expatriates (expats), and acquire a unique international experience that could be a real added-value to our professional expertise.

Migration has its impacts on politics. Whether or not migrants consider the national policy frameworks of their new countries, it is the case that they also move into certain places and types of employment where policy issues can be highly specific. For instance, the delivery of key services such as education, health and housing tends to be the concern of local authorities. High numbers of newcomers can put a strain on service provision, for example on language training for their children in schools.

It is also to note that migration can be strongly supported by business, as well as by political parties embracing liberal economic policies. Removing barriers to free movement can help people be more flexible in responding to job opportunities, and thus create more efficient markets. Liberal labour migration policies can ease labour shortages, and allow businesses the advantage to employ at lower costs while disregarding the existing demand for work on their market. Such benefits of free movement have increasingly gained ground in the internationalist and liberalizing agendas of many international organizations. The World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the OECD support entirely the free movement of people between countries.

The terminology referring to international contracts includes several types of employees: emigrant, posted or detached worker, and expatriate. We do not analyse the status of the immigrant, as then the question of illegality in providing services might arise and it would not be of interest for this article. These concepts will be defined to allow us to delimit the status of an expatriate. The following definitions are excerpts from the text of the Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services:

A) a posted or detached worker is temporarily sent by his/her employer to another country to perform the required activities under the terms of the same contract, that is outsourcing personnel. 

B) an emigrant worker goes to another member state to seek work and gets employed there.  

C) an expatriate (expat) may be an employee:

    i. that has not been detached by the parent organisation;

    ii. that has initially been a detached employee, and his/her mission has been prolonged beyond the initial duration;

    iii. that has been employed while living in the country of expatriation itself or has been offered the contract while still in his/her country of origin;

    iv. that benefits of the social security system in force in the welcoming country.

The expatriates represent a different category of migrants, insofar as their status is concerned. They are not trying to escape poor living conditions or unhospitable political regimes, they are not looking for a new El Dorado, and do not fall within the category of people to be assimilated into the national population. Such employees are aware and proud of their status of professionals building up a career in a new environment. The country itself may not mean an objective for the expatriates because of their assumed transitory stay. They understand their life as having a professional and a personal dimension that better develop in an enclave arising from their own privileged environment.

Expats are like strangers enjoying their spatially and socially transitory stay in the new country. Such an attitude can entail a relative quiet self-exclusion from the external world while within their own environment the expats can develop very strong social relations. One reason for this exclusion could be the privileged infrastructures the organisations offer them in order to facilitate their settlement and transfer – e.g. kindergartens, schools, sport centres, cultural clubs, etc. The quiet self-exclusion can lead to a certain hostility from the local population, and make the expats confront the new, the strangeness. The locals themselves perceive the transitory status of these migrants, and do not feel encouraged to socialise with them. Their reserve reinforces the feeling of quiet self-exclusion making the expatriates create their own network among their peers. However, studies have demonstrated that, step by step, the expatriates will open themselves towards other horizons and will include the locals, too.

Taking possession of the city/country where they establish themselves would mean for the expatriates to invent the geographical space according to their interests and their daily mobility: work place, hobbies, social networking, home address. That city/country can then be different for each person due to his/her favourite corners or secret routes to avoid traffic jams.