Goodbye, Generation X (or Gen X). Hello, Gen Xpat (expatriate). A new niche demographic and psychographic is emerging spanning the life-stages. It’s a generation of knowledge nomads, seeking employment overseas and/or seeking to create differentiation through international work/study experiences. Talented Americans are dumbing-down their resumes and heading overseas. Roughly 5 million Americans live abroad today (excluding military), with a +60% increase in US passport applications in 2008. The Gen Xpat segment (the more recent expats) is estimated to be nearly 2 million strong.
But Gen Xpats aren’t driven by exploration. They aren’t living on cushy expat packages nor are they “big fish in small ponds”. Rather, Gen Xpats are joining the middle-management of local companies, teaching English and manufacturing. They’re every-man and every-woman over there. They’re accepting local salaries, living in local housing and marrying locals. Historically, expatriates would acculturate (i.e., fit in), but today’s expatriates are assimilating (i.e., replacing their original home culture with their new host culture).
Where foreign talent was once revered abroad, today there’s an unfortunate skepticism; in Asia there’s a new expression called “F.I.L.T.H” which is a loose acronym for “Failed in London Teacher in Honk Kong
Gen Xpats are cultural moles on the “inside” getting a unique perspective on cultures and markets we thought we knew. Their grass-roots impact on foreign business and culture, and their emminent return to the US (not cash-rich, but insight-rich), will have ramifications on society and business. Astute global marketers can access the Gen Xpat community today via websites. Gen Xpats can be tapped for insight, innovation and marketing pragmatism.
Concurrently, with the economic melt down we’re seeing a brain drain in the USA as “O-1 visas” (for the most outstanding, accomplished foreigners) are being denied. Sources tell me that some of NYC’s brightest financiers, entrepreneurs, academics, artists, performers, athletes, etc. are literally being deported as their annual visas are not being renewed.
Anyway, I wonder how long this Gen Xpat group will remain abroad? And, upon returning to the USA will their international experience be appreciated…especially in light of America now hunkering-down, closing its borders and focusing on itself with waning interest in global affairs and markets.