A couple of months ago I was working at the port and it was towards the end of the day, and I was standing there watching the tourists come back to the port in their taxis, and an older gentlemen came up and stood beside me. He asked if I was an American, and I told him, yes I was from the USA. He then said, “So you are one of them expats, right?” I thought for a moment, and I said, I guess I am. He told me he had heard of people like me. He then asked me if I was hiding out, or running from something in the USA. I laughed and told him I get that question everyday from tourists, especially folks from the deep south. He asked me about living in Mexico and the Caribbean, and we talked for a while. As he was leaving he told me he had always wanted to try the expat life, but he had kids and grandkids, and could not leave his life in the USA.
I have come to realize that there is some confusion and different opinions of what an expat is. A lot of people think expats are people kicked out of their country of origin, or hiding out from their home country, that is not true. So today I will do my best to define what an expat is, and how Mahahual is a great place for expats from around the world.
An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).
In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals or skilled workers sent abroad by their companies, rather than for all ‘immigrants’ or ‘migrant workers’. The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labourer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an ‘immigrant’ or ‘migrant worker’.
There is no set definition and usage varies with context, for example the same person may be seen as an “expatriate” by their home country and a “migrant worker” where they work. Retirement abroad, in contrast, usually makes one an “expatriate”.
In the 19th century and early 20th century, many Americans, numbering perhaps in the thousands, were drawn to European cultural centers, especially Munich and Paris. The author Henry James, for instance, adopted England as his home while Ernest Hemingway lived in Paris.
The term ‘expatriate’ in some countries also has a legal context used for tax purposes. An expatriate living in a country can receive a favourable tax treatment. In this context a person can only be an expatriate if they move to a country other than their own to work with the intent of returning to their home country within a certain period. The number of years can vary per tax jurisdiction, but 5 years is the most commonly used maximum period. If you are not affected by taxes 3 years is normally the maximum time spent in one country.[clarification needed]
“Expatriation” may sometimes be used to mean exile or denaturalization or renunciation of allegiance. The U.S. Expatriation Act of 1868 said in its preamble, ‘the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people, indispensable to the enjoyment of the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Early Nazi Germany deprived many opponents of their citizenship, such as Albert Einstein, Oskar Maria Graf, Willy Brandt and Thomas Mann, often expatriating entire families.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the trend in expatriation was highlighted by the level of professionals being sent abroad to foreign subsidiaries and headquarters. The onset of globalisation in the latter part of the 20th century increased the need for skilled professionals overseas. If employers were not able to find the required personnel, they could turn to recruiting from abroad as intercontinental travel was now much cheaper and quicker than ever before.
Over the last decade the levels of expatriates moving abroad has increased. The level of English-speaking expatriates – with many of these coming from North American countries (including the U.S. and Canada), Middle Eastern countries, the two main Oceanic countries, Asian countries (such as Pakistan) and African countries (including South Africa) – is extremely high, with the potential to be even higher. The main factors facilitating these moves abroad are:
Work – lured by new opportunities and better financial packages
Lifestyle – a better quality of life for individuals and families; climate, value for money and experiences.
Family – moving abroad to be with family or partners
Adventure – moving abroad to experience a new lifestyle and potentially gain a new set of skills
Although the economic downturn of 2009 has increased the pressure on expats living abroad, many still are taking the opportunity of moving to a new country or region.
It is expected that new, emerging economies will increase the level of demand for skilled overseas professionals and that English-speakers will form the majority.
There are numerous expats in Mahahual. They come from many different countries including Germany, USA, Canada, Italy, Spain, Argentina, France, England, Holland, and others. Some of the expats own businesses, and a lot are retirees. There are also a bunch of “Snow Birds” (people from North America and Europe) who spend the winters in Mahahual while their respective countries have cold weather.
A lot of the businesses in Mahahual are owned by expats. Papi Pizza, Tropicante, 40 Cannons, Mayan Beach Gardens, Under Toe Mexico, and many others. There is also several expat groups like the Las Mahahualenas ( a woman’s group of expats and locals who do charity work in Mahahual). There is also a lot of socializing amongst the expats in Mahahual, with dinners, events, and parties.
The expatriation phenomenon in Mexico is predominantly composed of baby-boomers who are rapidly finding out retirement in the U.S. is going to be all but impossible unless you are in Bill Gates’ will. A smaller segment of the American expats in Mexico are those who work here or who have mobile enough jobs and can have a great adventure in another land while making a living via the Internet
Mexico is extremely diverse. Great weather generally, good food, low property costs, and an expanding health care industry are more reasons to retire there. A reasonably friendly populace, more readily available international products and an increasing infrastructure are other reasons.
So I hope I have informed some of you to what an expat is, and not everyone living outside the USA is a fugitive or on the lam, but are where they are by choice.
Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina