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Are Expatriates Unpatriotic?

July 4, 2012

By and large the answer to that question is a resounding, “No.”

In the encounters I’ve had with American expatriates in person, and on-line, I’d argue that many portray some of the most profound qualities of patriotism. It’s exactly why they’ve become expatriates, and so it’s a formidable paradox.

Yesterday’s comments by Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz may shed a bit of light on this trend. Shultz has drafted a “Letter To America” as part of a social media platform campaign in an effort to bring attention to the plight of America.

“I love America, but we all know something is wrong,” Shultz said. “The American dream is at risk … and we’re drifting toward mediocrity.” Americans are frustrated, he said, because they truly believe they can’t change the self-destructive course we’re on.

See the full draft of his “Letter to America” here:

Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz says America is flirting with mediocrity.

I think Shultz has captured a permeating American sentiment. Things aren’t working, and we’re frustrated and scared.

Today, with some five million Americans expatriating to other countries, it seems proof positive that we are looking for extreme alternatives. Many have given up on the American dream, and so now, are looking elsewhere.

Before going further, heed the warning not to believe everything you read.

Many internet sites will tell you daily that you can “live like a king” on $600 in a given country. I don’t see that. What I do see is that most expats aren’t making the move to live like a king. Many are being forced into choices they never believed they’d have to make.

Can you live like a king in a foreign country? Sure. If Julian Assange is, in fact, granted political asylum in Ecuador, I suspect he will live like a king. Most millionaires can. But I’m talking about average folk here.

I see American expatriates in four distinct categories:

1. “New West” expatriates.

2. “No Other Choice” expatriates.

3. “Burned” expatriates.

4. “I Want It All” expatriates.


So many entrepreneurs were burned in the 2008 recession. They lost their dreams and everything they had. Forced to look for new alternatives, most were found outside the U.S.

There are a few remaining places in the world where American entrepreneurship is welcomed, as long as it’s respective of the local culture. We’ve found Ecuador to be such a place.

A group of friends we have on the Ecuadorian Pacific coast have started a new life there. They are blazing trails, boosting the local economy and making a difference for the greater good with their entrepreneurial expertise.

And no, they are not necessarily living like kings. They are living well and peacefully and have found a place where opportunities abound.


A number of retirement-age Americans have fallen into this category. They never dreamed of living outside the U.S.

Destroyed pension funds, insurance calamities and a broken health care system have forced them to look for other alternatives.

I do know a family in one South American country that relocated only because they could not afford the cost of their required health care, and could not live on their monthly pension. Outside the U.S. now, they are living comfortably, and getting the health care they need. It’s a sad statement on the state of affairs in the U.S.


Yes, some are entirely pissed off with America.

One particular expat I know had a 30-year career with what is perhaps the most prominent insurance company in the U.S. Toward the end of her career, stricken with cancer, she was denied her benefits, and fought endless bureaucratic red tape to secure the pension funds she had amassed over her career.

She and her husband, left the U.S., and yes, are angry enough that they likely will renounce their citizenship.


Some people just have a sense of adventure and want new opportunities and experiences.

I remember the first time I drove the Ecuadorian coast, and after a 9-hour drive, got my first view of Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. Within 10 minutes I told my wife I’d never seen a place with such huge economic potential.

The home we are building there now is for a place of escape, adventure and service. But if the opportunities I believe will happen, do, in fact, happen over the next three years, all bets are off. Sometimes you have to strike while the iron’s hot. You must capture the moment, because moments slip away quietly and quickly.

Are American expatriates unpatriotic?

Quite the contrary, I submit.

Patriotic posts on my other sites may be viewed here and here

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