Not all people living and working overseas are sent there by their companies for short terms of duty, complete with hardship pay, shipping containers with their personal belongings, full time staff etc. More and more people are choosing to live overseas longer term and work for local or multi-national companies. Expats tend to see the country from a helicopter’s point of view. They may miss a lot of the local flavor of life and culture. They usually conduct most of their business in English the world’s trade language, or else they rely on interpreters and translators. There is of course, nothing wrong with all that. But I’m intriqued by the term halfpat.
A halfpat is a qualified technical worker or professional with skills to offer but who elects to live long term in a country, learning more of the language and culture and living very intentionally in those cross cultural spaces, embracing the challenge of remaining a foreigner of sorts but pursuing many local friendships, hobbies and living among the host community. Halfpats don’t go native, as it were, but they do work hard at inter-cultural communication; they want their kids to experience friendships and life with local persons; they shop in local markets, eat locally (as opposed to imported) foods. Halfpats can be very valuable employees. They learn to be adept at negotiating at least two different languages, cultures and worldviews. This makes halfpatting a very interesting way to live, and apparently halfpats are very much in demand in some parts of the world.
A new name has been coined for foreigners living (/drifting) in China long term: “halfpat“. “Expat” on the other hand, according to this definition, means temporarily-relocated big-corporation type people… those people who never get into “the real china” and enjoy salary/benefit packages from their firms virtually identical to what they get at home.
… [Halfpats] are more stable and committed to China in the long-term and they have significant cultural, linguistic and market understanding.
… There are more than simply financial benefits to hiring halfpat staff. Perhaps the greatest advantage is their cultural understanding and language skills – which simply cannot be underestimated in a market like China. These two characteristics allow halfpats to hit the ground running and give them a sustainable advantage over traditional expat managers.
Probably the strongest advantage of halfpats is their weird ability to live in China and not get sick of it…
The overall stability and long-term commitment of halfpat staff is also superior to that of the average expat. In fact, many remain in China for a 5-10 year period which makes them less of a risk in terms of failing to complete their assignment. Its estimated that 60% of expats are unable to complete the duration of their assignments.
from Shenzhen News & Commentary