What is an Expat?

If you’ve heard the term expat and don’t know what it is, we’re here to tell you all about it. An expatriate, known as an expat for short, is a person who chooses to temporarily or permanently move from their home from one country to another. There are several reasons why people try this. Some want a lower cost of living, others have no choice due to job relocation, and still others are bitten by the travel bug and want to see the world. Lastly, students may choose to live abroad while going to school to help with their foreign studies. Many may even end up staying where they are post-graduation.

Quick history lesson: the word expatriate comes from the Latin word expatriatus. The first mention of “expatriatus” appeared in medieval times.

Regardless of the reason for moving, expats are in for some very exciting opportunities. This can be an overwhelming and sometimes scary prospect because many people don’t know anyone in their destination country. As a result, they experience everything on their own or within a small student or work group.

From food, to culture, to language, things are just different. They have to learn what insurance to use, how to get a driver’s license, how to take the public transit system, how the banking system operates and even how to buy groceries at the local store. All of these things we take for granted living in America can suddenly seem frightening on foreign soil.

However, support systems are out there: online forums, social media, new employers, the local consulate or embassy. BRIC Language Systems is yet another resource for expats, as we offer helpful expatriate services and information for Mexico, China, and Brazil.

Advantages of Being an American Expat

As an American living abroad, you retain many rights as a U.S. citizen. There are several advantages of retaining your rights as an American citizen while also being an expat. Expats:

  • Aren’t stripped of their basic rights
  • Can still vote in American elections
  • Are still eligible for social security benefits, but must have lived and worked in the U.S. for a certain time period
  • Can receive disability benefits, yet with periodic disability reviews
  • Can retain their Medicare insurance if and when they return but can’t receive Medicare coverage while outside America.


Check out these additional helpful resources to aid in the expatriate transition: Expat Exchange, Taxes for Expats, and Transitions Abroad. Of course, one big way in which you can feel more confident living abroad is by learning the local language and becoming fluent. BRIC Language Systems offers an innovative way to learn Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese by connecting you virtually with native speaking instructors. We also offer Expatriate Services that may help as well.