Patriot abroad or global nomad?

WHICH ARE YOU?: Two types of expats, ones who pin after home or embrace all communities.

NEWS that hordes of expatriates have packed their bags to return to whence they once came may spark intense discussions in expat households on whether to stay or to go.

The latest figures show that residents in Spain have fallen by 206,000 – largely consisting of non-Spaniards – due to the economic crisis and the lack of work opportunities.

So, with the aim of helping you make up your mind, here is my tuppence worth on the matter. 

Ultimately, there are two types of expats. The Patriot Abroad, leaves his country in search of a specific benefit or purpose, but remains emotionally and intrinsically linked to his birth country. If there were a test of allegiance, this group would probably outperform most of their countrymen who never left.

The majority of their friends are of the same nationality; languages have never been their strong suit, but living in an expat area this has never been much of an issue. They create Little Britains, Germanys or Swedens in their host country and with a satellite link they don’t even need to miss out on the TV from back home.

Asked where home is, the answer is unequivocally their birth country. Home, after all, is where the heart is even if the sun doeth shine rather more over here. Often people in this category sooner or later feel the need to return.  The comfort of your own nation is a great persuader, especially in times of trouble and uncertainty. 

The second category is the Global Nomad.  Each country the nomad has lived in has been a wonderful experience, but none particularly wins over another.

The world is an adventure to explore and why go back when they can move forward? Chances are that they have two or more languages under their belt and they thrive on cultural differences and the local fare.

Asked where home is, the global nomad is often confused for a moment, then launches into a long-winded explanation of places and people, never really answering the question.

They miss elements of their birth country, but in the same way they do other places they have visited. Circumstances may bring about a return home but, all things being equal, this category of expats would rather stay abroad or even try pastures new. 

Whichever group you feel you belong to, it may, in the end, be technicalities that fuel your decision.

Inheritance or other taxes being calculated differently may mean that you choose to return to avoid losing almost everything to the respective tax authorities.

Work opportunities here for foreigners are far lower than for the Spaniards if you are not completely bilingual, which may also be a deciding factor; as is the dwindling social security should you require health care.

Many also choose to return to their home countries for the children’s secondary or higher education.

Or is the prospect of a return to the cold, wet and dark too much of a deterrent? And while economists are practically falling over one another in lamenting the problems of Spain, the rest of Europe is hardly unscathed.

In fact, an analyst at Morgan Stanley has tipped Spain to become the ‘next Germany’ thanks to competitive exports, although I am currently checking if this research note happened to be published on April 1.

Whatever you decide, take heed from author David Sedaris, who said: “Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once.”  

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