Understanding “Expat Language”: What Do You Call Yourself?

Expat, third culture kid, trailing spouse, international… what language do you use to describe yourself or your situation? Do you identify with any of these terms? Do you choose not to? Or perhaps you’ve struggled to find a term that describes your situation with all its nuances?


When it comes to discussing issues faced by “expats”, finding language that is accurate – and shared and understood by us all – is something of a challenge; a challenge that is impossible to ignore with the growing phenomenon of globally mobile individuals and families.

For example, the term “international” can refer to any of the terms in the table below. The different “labels” also carry different emotions and may affect how we see our identity (e.g. positively or negatively).

So where do we begin?

How can we make sure that we start our conversations on the same page?

A possible first step is to define the terms, meanings and references we use – find some helpful definitions below, as discussed at the FIGT (Families in Global Transition) Conference 2016 in Amsterdam. There are many more, of course, but we tried to make a small, comprehensive list with some of the most important definitions.

By creating mutual understanding of common (and not so common) terms, there’s less chance of the words getting in the way ofreal communication.


Term Definition
Expat /Expatriate Person who left his/her native country to live elsewhere.
Third Culture Kid (TCK)Third Culture Adult (TCA) Person who has lived in – or meaningfully interacted with – two or more countries for a significant period of time during developmental years, often coupled with High Mobility Patterns.Person (adult) who is not living in his/her home country.
Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) Person who has lived in – or meaningfully interacted with – two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years.
Trailing spouse / Accompanying Spouse or Partner Person following his/her spouse on assignment abroad.
Lovepat / Romantic Expat Made-up word to designate a person who followed a person of romantic interest abroad.
Repat / Repatriate A person who returned to his/her native country after living elsewhere.
Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) Person (adult) who grew up as a TCK.
Global Nomad Other name designating an Expat or TCK.
Orphan Spouse Person is in a relationship but his/her job(s) dictates separate lives to partner/spouse.
Immigrant Person who comes to a country to settle.


Regardless of what term best describes your situation, here are some valuable questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need a label?
  • What does it mean for me/my identity/who I am?
  • How does the label feel to me?

I believe having answers to these questions is equally, or more, important, than identifying one term that describes your full experience as an international or expat or repat or… ????

At the end of the day, you are YOU blessed in your DIVERSITY!

What do you call yourself? Join the conversation below – we’re curious to hear your thoughts!

If you found this article helpful, subscribe to our newsletter or share the article with a friend or family member who has been asking similar questions!

© Vivian Chiona, Expat Nest

Living in Ethiopia as an Expat

If you are planning on moving to Ethiopia, we may be able to assist. Feel free to contact us via or on 2721 763 4240, or visit our website here for more information.

There are many expats working in Ethiopia, the pay is quite good, the standard of living is high and it is a relatively safe country. Most expats live and work in the capital, Addis Ababa, and while they say that the cost of living is relatively low and you can save as an expat, the healthcare leaves much to be desired.

Interesting Facts About Ethiopia

Are you new in or moving to Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is a country that sits landlocked in East Africa. According to many scientists this is the birth place of Humanity and the modern man. The oldest human fossil, ‘Lucy’, is believed to have existed over three million years ago and was found in Ethiopia.

The country of Ethiopia is a bright and vibrant country decorated in rich traditions of various tribes and cultural.  There are so many interesting things about this gem of Africa!

You become 7 years younger in Ethiopia
This is because it is currently around 2008 in Ethiopia. They are about 7.5 years behind the western calendar.  Ethiopia is the only country in the world to have 13 months in a year. The 13th month has only five days, or six in a leap year Ethiopians also celebrate New Year in September, meaning that they are currently only a couple of weeks into the year 2008, whilst we near the end of 2015.

English and Arabic are spoken widely here
This is great for any expats thinking of moving their as there are also over 80 different languages spoken here.  Amongst all the different tribes many languages have developed but the most widely spoken of these are Oromo and Amharic. Ethiopia’s national language is Amharic.

International Schools in Ethiopia

International Community School of Addis Ababa 
The International Community School of Addis Ababa (ICS) is an independent, non-profit, coeducational school, which offers an educational program form pre-kindergarten through to grade 12 for students of all nationalities. The school was founded in 1966 and serves approximately 430 students from over 55 countries. The Middle States Association of Colleges and School accredit the school.
Curriculum: US
Address: Mauritania Road, Addis Ababa
Tel: +251-11 3 711544
Fax: +251-11 3 710722

Bingham Academy
Bingham Academy is an international Christian school located in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Our vision is to provide quality Christian education within a multicultural community, developing students of integrity who can change the world for God’s glory.
Curriculum: K-12 Cambridge International Curriculum
Address: Kolfe Keranio, Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 2791791

Visa Information

Visas are required for all visitors to Ethiopia with the exception of Kenyan and Djibouti nationals.

Tourist visa
Tourist visa, can be issued valid up to three months on arrival at Bole International Airport for nationals and residents of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Democratic people’s Republic of Korea (northern Korea), Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (south Korea), the Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

NOTE: Eritreans nationals shall not be issued a visa on Arrival. They must obtain an entry visa prior to their departure to Ethiopia.

Work Permit
A work permit can be obtained from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Ethiopia. It is relatively easy to obtain a work permit, and the cost of one is the same regardless of where you are employed. It is also possible to arrive in Ethiopia on a business visa, and to convert it to a work permit once you are in the country.

Angola Upapa Falls



Manage Culture Shock in Three Easy Steps

Margarita Gokun Silver, founder of coaching firm Global Coach Center, lays out three important steps to managing culture shock and getting positive about your experience abroad.

Culture shock and its stages?
The First Step: Perspective power
The Second Step: Feeling good matters
The Third Step: Negativity be gone

These three steps were born when I was asked to make a presentation on ‘How to deal with Culture Shock’ before an expatriate group in St Petersburg, Russia. “What can I say about dealing with Culture Shock that has not been already said over and over,” I thought. “How can I present it in a different manner – so that not only these ideas stay with people but that also they are original enough not to repeat everything else out there?”

I spent the next two weeks browsing the web, doing my research and pouring over my coaching books. As far as I could see, there was not much done with coaching and culture shock. And so, one very wintry morning, as I was watching large snowflakes cover the street outside my window, an idea occurred to me. Actually three ideas – the ideas that became the ‘steps’ in the ‘Three Steps to Managing Culture Shock’ program that I am about to share with you.

But first things first, let’s start with a little bit of background on culture shock.

What is culture shock?
At one time or another most of us have probably experienced the phenomenon that’s widely known as ‘culture shock’. People describe culture shock in different ways but most often it’s defined as a rollercoaster of emotions we go through when we move and have to adjust to a culture or an environment that’s different from our own. Research suggests that there are five stages to culture shock:

Stage I: Also known as the ‘honeymoon stage’. During this stage everything in the new place seems fascinating, interesting and exciting.

Stage II: During this stage we begin to encounter daily struggles of living in the new environment and realise the great differences between the life we’ve known and the life we live now. That’s the stage where most negative feelings surface because that’s when we begin to set up our household, start grocery shopping for the first time, have a plumbing problem, etc. Daily struggles, difficulty communicating and, in general, differences between our home life and our new life is what often produces deep dissatisfaction, hostility, anger, sadness, and feelings of incompetence.

Stage III: During this stage we begin to feel better because things are looking up. We are learning the ways to live our new life, we begin gaining some understanding of this new place, we somewhat know how to ask for what we need, and problems no longer appear grandiose.

Stage IV: During this stage the new place starts feeling a little like home, we succeed in making local friends, we no longer fret a lot about bad things, and we enjoy the good things.

Stage V: Also known as the ‘re-entry stage’, the stage when we have to return back to our home country. Many things we encounter on our return might be new to us since we’ve been absent for a number of years. Our friends have moved on and we still miss the ‘old’ friends and connections we’ve made in the country we left. This stage is typical for ‘perpetual’ expats in particular.

And now that we got the background out of the way, it’s time for the Three Steps to Managing Culture Shock.

The first step: Perspective power
Let’s look at the stages described above again. Definitions may call them stages yet they are nothing but perspectives — points of view – that we hold about something, in this case foreign to our culture. And, if that’s the case, can we change these perspectives at will rather than wait around for the worst times to end?

Let’s give it a try. First let’s take these five stages and give them names – names that signify the ‘feeling’ of each stage. This way we can see that they are merely examples of how we look at our relationship with another culture. We can say that our relationship with the new place is:

  • Fascinating (Stage I).
  • Frustrating/painful (Stage II).
  • Doable (Stage III).
  • Enjoyable (Stage IV).
  • A longing (Stage V).

These definitions are by no means the most perfect ones, but they illustrate at least five different points of view we can take on our relationship with another culture. We begin to see that ‘stages’ – or perspectives – are really the expressions of a ‘being’ condition, a state we are in. And, as we already know, while we cannot often change things around us, we can change the way we feel about those things. Changing our own emotional response to something is within our control.

Perspectives we hold colour the lens through which we look at the world. And, as such, they either empower or disempower us. If you find yourself locked inside a disempowering perspective, why not recognise that and move yourself out of it into another perspective – the one that will give you more power? Disempowering perspectives don’t serve us at all – in fact, they make victims out of us.

If we open our vision and discover that there are other states of ‘being’ – other perspectives or ways to look at our relationship with another culture – we will have a power of choice. We can now choose which perspective suits us best at the moment – which will make us happier and more fulfilled. Because remember – living in another culture will remain essentially the same no matter how we look at it, but our looking at the situation will have an enormous impact on us, our emotions, and our opportunities.

So the first step to managing culture shock – and your relationship with another culture – is to notice what state of being you are in. What perspective do you hold now? What other perspectives are out there that also ring true for you? Step out of your present perspective and step into another one – the one that is more inspiring and holds more creative power.

The second step: Feeling good matters
The second step (and the third step) comes from the research on marriages conducted by Dr. John Gottman (I highly recommend his book The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work). What, you may ask, does research on marriages have to do with culture shock? Quite a bit apparently.

As I read Dr. Gottman’s book in my Relationship Coaching study, I realised that some of what he proposes could be successfully integrated into culture shock management strategies. How? By looking at your relationship with another culture just as you would at any other relationship with another human being.

Think about it. Whether you are in a relationship with your spouse, your child, your friends, or your colleagues – you always have the good times and the bad times. And, of course, you try your best to avoid the bad times. It’s the same in your relationship with another culture. Increase positivity in the relationship by increasing the number of positive interactions with the new culture and decreasing the number of negative ones.

To start with, aim for the ratio of about 5:1 – that is try to find five positive interactions for every negative one during any given period of time (weekly works best). For instance, what makes your day in your new place of residence? Is it going to a museum, chatting with a friend, having a coffee, taking photos, going to a theatre, or shopping for souvenirs to send home? Make sure you schedule five of those activities each week. You’ll be surprised how quickly the feelings of culture shock subside when you follow this exercise.

The third step: Negativity be gone
This third step also comes from the research conducted by Dr. John Gottman. When Gottman watched couples argue, he discovered that those relationships that consistently exhibited the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse in their fights were the least likely to last. How does that apply to culture shock?

If you spend the next few fights not only fighting but also closely observing yourself and your partner-in-crime, you’ll discover something. You’ll discover that fights escalate out of control and offer the least possibility of ending peacefully if any of these elements are present: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

These are the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse and all four create a high degree of negativity in any given relationship. And that often proves to be lethal to the relationship in question.

Now let’s look at how this applies to culture shock. Imagine yourself unhappy in a country you are in or imagine yourself having a bad day. As with any relationship, your first inclination might be to resort to these four horsemen. You might:
Engage in criticism: “These people are just so rude!”
Become defensive: “It’s not my fault they don’t understand me.”
Act in contempt: think of all the eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, or hostile humour.
Stonewall: “Well, if that’s how they are going to be, I won’t deal with them at all.”

This kind of response doesn’t do anything to improve your day, but it actually does a great deal in damaging your relationship to the culture. Bitterness and disrespect grow like weeds, and soon you find yourself resenting the very name of the country you live in and of the people that populate it. This, of course, creates more unhappiness that, in turn, brings more of the same. Bad days pile one on top of another and soon you find yourself desperately waiting for that flight that’ll take you out of there. Is that the way to spend two to three years of your life?

So, that’s why Step 3 is based on taming the horsemen and, thereby, decreasing negativity in conflict. So instead of judging, blaming, criticising, and stonewalling, next time try to use humour, or a sense of affection, or a sense of acceptance towards whatever is bothering you. Blaming, criticising, and judging will only escalate your conflict with another culture – the development you don’t want. If on the other hand you use humour, you’ll avoid spiralling out of control in your frustrations and anger.

These three steps work very well together and they also work well on their own. Try them next time you experience culture shock.

The original article can be viewed here.

FG liberalises visa, immigration regime to boost economic revival

The Federal Government has streamlined visa and immigration processes to spur inflow of foreign direct investments in a bid to hasten the recovery of the nation’s economy.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said the measure was part of the action plan for ease of doing business in line with the current administration’s economic diversification agenda.

According to him, other measures that had been taken by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to facilitate tourism alike include harmonisation of airport arrival and departure forms/cards to save foreigners the stress of having to file several documents as well as the decentralisation of services to make state commands undertake some hitherto concentrated tasks.

His words: ‘’Re-issuance of passports for change of names due to marital reason or misplacement has been decentralised to save passport holders the additional costs and inconvenience of travelling to the service headquarters in Abuja. Also, additional 28 offices have been opened for issuance of residence permits in Nigeria, thus bringing the issuance of Combined Expatriate Residence Permit And Aliens Cards (CERPAC) closer to the doorstep of employers of expatriates in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.”

He said the reforms perfectly fit into the 60-day national roadmap approved recently by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

Mohammed went on: “The NIS has reviewed the requirements for Nigerian visas to make them more customer-friendly and details of this review are available on the official website, Types of visas currently reviewed include Visa on Arrival (VoA) processes, business, tourist and transit visas.”


The expat ‘six month slump’

When the euphoria wears thin; the 6 month slump

When you type ‘6-month slump’ into Google, the first thing you find is lots of information about nursing mums. No doubt a very important and emotive issue – but not the one we’re here to discuss.

Dig a little deeper through the hundreds of search results and you’ll start to get closer to our concern; you’ll find that 6 months is the make or break time for new relationships, the point at which more than 50% of people fail their New Year’s resolution, the end of the metaphorical ‘honeymoon period’ for a new job, a new house… and of course a new Country.

So, what’s so special about six months and what goes wrong?

Human nature

We use optimism to generate excitement, enthusiasm and energy.

As an intelligent and rational species, we distract ourselves from things that might cause us concern by keeping busy. Avoidance comes naturally; rather than analyse our feelings and consider what might go wrong right from the beginning of a project, most of us will choose to throw ourselves into it head first and determine that optimism will win the day. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have achieved half as much as we have as a species, so this is actually a good thing!

We use optimism to generate excitement, enthusiasm and energy… all great attributes that help us to sail through the planning and execution of new endeavours. The trouble starts when the ‘honeymoon period’ ends and the excitement and initial enthusiasm give way to routine. New relationships give way to noticing flaws in the object of our affection; new jobs become just jobs; new years’ resolutions become somewhat boring and we lose sight of our objectives and new homes just aren’t new and exciting anymore.

Expat euphoria

After the initial dizzy heights of infatuation, it tapers off to a more comfortable, satisfying emotion.

Is exactly what it says on the tin… the euphoria (elation, joy) that is felt by expats immediately after their adrenaline-soaked relocation. All the planning and worrying paid off and YOU. MADE. IT! You have a fabulous new home, a new environment to explore and so much unpacking and organising to do that it can keep you busy and fulfilled for months… about 6 of them to be almost precise.