What is an expatriate? Although "expats" have been largely viewed as parent-country nationals (PCNs) - typically senior Western males in their late 40s or early 50s with an accompanying wife and children – over the past decade the profile of the traditional expatriate has changed and different types have emerged: more executive women, married couples without children, female breadwinners, single and unaccompanied men and women, same-sex partnerships, single-parent and split families, and millennials. There are also increasing numbers of non-Western (particularly Asian) expatriates and expat-preneurs.
Today, new meanings of "expatriate" are emerging with third-country nationals (TCNs) and local foreign hires (LFHs) constituting an increasing proportion of available talent. There are also foreign executives in local organizations (FELOs), permanent transferees (PTs), inpatriates and returnees (expatriates of host-country origin or EHCOs).
There is also a growing phenomenon of self-initiated expatriates (SIEs), a little like migrants but more temporary, qualified people who move to new countries of their own volition, without company sponsorship. SIEs act more like entrepreneurial "free agents" pursuing boundaryless careers than traditional company-assigned expatriates (CAEs) whose moves are directed and controlled by a corporation.
So what exactly is any given expatriate? A PCN or a TCN? An assignee on a project or a long-term careerist? A company-assigned loyal organizational servant or a global nomad disguised as an SIE? How do these different types of expatriates merge into one another, and what would it mean to an organization if they started out as one type and became another?
What is especially important, particularly within the context of globalization today and in the future, is to debunk the myth of one type of assignee: the "there-and-back" expatriate. Awareness is needed that the term "expatriate" covers an ever-widening and ever-diversifying set of individuals, including those that repatriate multiple times as part of a continuing and evolving "dynamic" global career.