When you look in the dictionary, you will find that the word “expat” is short for “expatriate”. The noun “expatriate” is defined as “a person who lives in a foreign country”.

In the 19th century, Americans were drawn to Europe, especially Munich and Paris to study the art of painting. Since then, the number of Expats has steadily increased and spread globally. It is estimated that there are more than 55 million expats worldwide.

Expatriation used to refer to employees being sent to overseas offices and subsidiaries by their employer. In recent decades, demand created a global market for highly skilled employees who are willing to move around the World for the right job.

Expatriates make up more than 80% of the total population of the United Arab Emirates, in Kuwait that number is more than 70%. In Europe, the country with the highest ratio of expatriates is Luxembourg (with expats making up more than 30% of the total population), followed by Switzerland (with more than 20%).

When it comes to total numbers, the U.S. is ranked first in the world with more than 38 million expatriates living there. In Europe, the ranking is led by Germany with more than 10 million foreigners, followed by France.

Why do companies post employees in other countries?

The main goal of expat postings is to transfer knowledge and expertise across the regions. However, international assignments are also widely implemented for the employee's professional development.

Most companies think sending employees abroad will help expat employees understand the cultural differences between various offices of the company.

Having employees live in some of the key locations the company is active in, is expected to improve the performance of the person within the company. Having an expat presence helps locally hired staff understand the view of “headquarters” and adopt the culture and policies of the other offices.

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An expat assignment is often regarded as a reward for loyalty and performance. The posting will further increase the sense of loyalty of the employee. Sending people to other countries and giving them “expat packages” which often includes housing and educational allowances costs the company a significant amount of money.

Why do people want to become expats?

Expat assignments tend to open new doors when it comes to their career paths. Often these assignments come with an attractive financial package and the prospect of your children attending an international school and acquiring new languages is another appealing factor. The package that comes with an expat assignment normally pays for the move, housing, schooling and other items that are not included in a local package. The cultural experience of an expat assignment is often a very appealing element. The prospect of living in another country for a few years with your family is very attractive to many families.

Not all expat assignments are successful, some will fail and end in an early return home.Thorough preparation and an open mindset significantly increase the chance of a successful and unforgettable expat posting.