Global apartheid: Are you expat or immigrant? (updated)
What comes into your mind, when you’re reading the following lines?
“We tend to gather in certain locales (cities, sometimes specific neighbourhoods); we frequent particular businesses - some of the services being unique to our community; we have dedicated media, strong social networks and political tendencies; we even have certain etiquette, social rules and beliefs we would likely agree on (a topic for another day), all the result of shared experiences distinct to our clique.”
Why doesn’t she call them migrants? Well, it’s a question of class and “race": The people she writes about aren’t from Somalia or Iraq. They’re white people and wealthy. By using a different term, a distance to “the other” is established.
In its broadest sense, an expatriate is any person living in a different country from where he or she is a citizen. In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals sent abroad by their companies, as opposed to locally hired staff (who can also be foreigners).
The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labourer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an ‘immigrant’. There is no set definition and usage does vary depending on context and individual preferences and prejudices.
I always found the usage of the word expat interesting. Personally, I never use it, and call everybody for migrants regardless their class or “race". Inspired by Steegar’s text I googled around and found that the usage of the terms expat and migrant is contested.
“If you picked up, moved to Paris, and landed a job, what would you call yourself? Chances are, if you’re an American, you’d soon find yourself part of a colorful community of ‘expats.’ If, while there, you hired an Algerian nanny– a woman who had picked up, moved abroad, and landed a job– how would you refer to him or her? Expat probably isn’t the first word that springs to mind. Yet almost no one refers to herself as a ‘migrant worker.’”
Yes, that’s because, as Laura María Agustín says in the interview with Howley, ” ‘migrants’ travel because they are poor and desperate, ‘expatriates’ travel because they are curious, self-actualizing cosmopolites.”
Westerners don’t like referring to themselves as immigrants because the word “immigrant” has such nasty connotations. (…) An immigrant is an unwanted job-stealer, while an expat is a foreigner who could be leaving any day now. An immigrant is on a desperate search for a better life. An expat is on an adventure. (…) Our usage of these words reveals a certain double standard. Whether you’re an expat or an immigrant depends not on your residency plans, but on the relative wealth of your native country.
UPDATE 1: (via richmondbrige) Great commentary in the Guardian by sociologist Peter Matanle, British migrant in Japan, published today. He feels uncomfortable when British people overseas, or the Guardian, use the term “expat” with reference to Britons abroad, then use words such as “immigrant” when describing people from other countries who are in the UK:
So, my proposal is for the Guardian to amend its style guide to discourage the use of the word “expat” in its pages. The word is too redolent of the days of empire and sipping gin and tonic in the shade while the locals toil beyond the fence. It is too easily used as a cultural marker to distinguish people from one another, making it easy for some Britons to feel both superior to and separated from the local people in their host cultures. I suggest that words such as resident, visitor, settler, immigrant and tourist be used instead in order to equalise the way we describe ourselves with the ways in which we describe others. It is only fair and just to do so.
UPDATE 2: Brendan Rigby has written an excellent post: Are you a Greek or a Barbarian?
UPDATE 3: Great post by Julie Sheridan, “native Scot” in Spain: Double acts & double standards. She asks: What makes me an expat but my neighbour an immigrant? She also draws attention to the etymology of “expat” (excluded, absent from one’s “fatherland") and ends her post with these sentences:
No idea how long I’ll be here, but while I am, I want to feel settled, and ideally integrated. And try to remember that being here is an experience, rather than an identity.
Feel like leaving my two cents. Back when I was studying «expatriates», was looking for a serious definition for my master thesis about the role of paper in the expatriation cycle.
After careful search and plenty of reading, the label «expat(riate)» should be used for all people being sent abroad by an organization with activity abroad, a pre-defined length of stay abroad, and returning to the same organization.
So this means that if a person from UK or Portugal goes abroad by herself, it is considered an «immigrant». If that same person from UK or Portugal is sent by an organization, to work for 3 years in an operation from that same organization, that person is considered an «expat».
Of course they are all «labels» but they become to be used by people who often do not have the time to go deeper than the immediacy of news
PS - I do acknowledge that the word «expat» is to many times used for «stereotyping» nationals from different countries.
Ola Monica! Interesting, you studied expats. What topic? Sounds like a useful definition. But as you write, the term is often used in a totally different way. And that’s what I think is interesting.
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
I agree with Monica and this also alerted to
Me that the definitions of immigrant and expat are very different. Immigrants being people who permanently leave and expats just being people who have left, and may return.
Yes, in theory, but the words are used not that way. Check the links above (especially wiki-pedia-talk page) and you’ll see that the distinction between permanent and temporary cannot be made that way. Life doesn’t fit in these narrowly defined categories
Yes, i guess i understood your point. People use what was once a «category» to study people sent abroad to expand business into other markets. In time, people lost track of what it meant and gave it other uses that seem to fit what they think of themselves.
I would also insist on the argument of people not having the needed time to understand the nuances of words. I was fortunate to have been given 2 full years for that one, since I was doing my master’s research work
The work is open although it’s in Portuguese: http://hdl.handle.net/10400.9/510
Maybe it’s a way of showing that science does not remain in the ivory tower
Thanks for the link, long live Google Translate! No surprise that your work is open, the Portuguese speaking worlds seem to be leading in open access matters
I’m not sure if people don’t understand the nuances, they might not know the original meaning but they are aware of the different connotations of the two terms, as implied above. Or take for example a look at this post:
So really, given those definitions if I do intend really to stay, then I should term myself an immigrant. Or at least an emigrant if I decide to not move back to the US. The problem here is connotations. As much as I dislike the idea that I am affected by media and I don’t really believe what the TV says, the word immigrant does indeed have bad connotations in my head from being around the news in the US.
I still think I will use the word Expat for myself. I like the sound and taste of it. I like how saying “I am an Expat” makes me feel. Anyway, all of the cool kids are doing it.
I just thought a immigrant is someone who migrates to a new country. An expat is someone who is happy to return to his home country one day. So an expat can become an immigrant.
anthropologists may be considered expats? I think that they are in a way Western privileged citizens too…
Comment from: Rob [Visitor]
@Roy and @Joe: Before reading the article I thought about the terms this way too. But I know several Guatemalans and Mexicans working in the US who intend to stay just a few years, then return to their families. I suspect the same is true for most or all “immigrants” who come without their families. But I never thought to call Mexicans in the US “expats” or “visitors". The article is great - it makes me, and all of us, examine the power of the words we use without thinking.
If an expat is someone moving abroad because the company requires it, then an expat is the same thing as an ICT (International Corporate Transfer/Intra-Corporate Transfer: http://www.globalimmigrationcounsel.com/2011/02/articles/international-migration-1/united-kingdom/european-union-efforts-to-standardize-rules-for-intracorporate-transfers/ ).
If an expat is someone moving abroad because of economic reasons, but wanting to go back home, then it is very similar to economic refugee ( http://www.economicrefugee.net/what-does-economic-refugee-mean/ ).
And if the economic refugee is not alone, then it could be a diaspora (following Brubaker’s broad definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora#Expanding_definition )
As for immigrants, they are people moving into another country. An emigrant, on the other hand, is someone moving out of the country. Since it depends on perspective, the term migrant replaces both these terms in most research.
In short, saying expat is just another way of saying “we are allowed to move freely, you are not". As if migrants are bacteria while expats are white blood cells. They are both moving, but one is good and the other is bad.
Morals, gotta love em.
I think there is another aspect to being an expat and that is the political *choice* to live abroad—and I use “choice” here quite intentionally. Perhaps this speaks to privilege as well, but when I meet other Americans abroad, I most strongly associate the ones who have left the U.S. behind—emotionally, culturally and politically—with the term “expat.”
As someone who would be referred to as an “immigrant” if I left the Global South and moved to the North – maybe even on a fellowship with the full intention to return or to move somewhere else – I appreciate the unique position you’re in. I’m in a relatively privileged position (in some ways – in others – horribly unprivileged) as an urban woman with a college education in India. I’d like to point out, though, that your choice does absolutely speak to privilege. I wish that kind of mobility was afforded to everyone, but unfortunately its not.
Comment from: s steegar [Visitor]
Isn’t it great how you can take almost anything out of context and assign some dark meaning to it?
I’m glad some people here have specified that there is conceptual difference between “immigrant” and “expat” besides that of “bad” from “good” or “desirable” from “undesirable". Words have multiple connotations; they can describe more than one facet of something, and not all of those facets are insidious. Unless you’re also offended that my quote doesn’t refer to “blondes", “women", “linguists", “Mets fans” or “Anglos", then your accusation is contrived.
Comment from: Expats are the reason for poverty in poor countries, they raise the standard of living for themself [Visitor]
Robin Oberg made the most sense.
No one wants to say it but it’s all racism and caste system. When you talk to white Americans about immigration and say” your ancestors were immigrants ,” they would always answer its not the same. The get so defensive. They created the negative meanings towards immigrant. Don’t even mention the land belongs to native Americans. The lack of emotional intelligence to feel others pain creates this constant need to never compare themselves to non-white.
Then you have to ask yourself why do people more ?For a better life, better experience. I call everyone who travel immigrants especially if they are living in the country that’s not their own. They moved because their home country cant offer them the same resources or experience. 6mths extended vacation, 1-5yrs your living there, using that countries resources and paying taxes. hypocritical to say south Americans, carribean natives, Asian and Africa people are immigrants when they are doing the very same thing white Americans,Europeans etc..are doing. Some have more money than others, but so what. The topic is not about wealth of immigrants or emigrants. It’s about people leaving their home country to set up residency in another whether it be permanent or temporary. The goal and the plan is to live there. A vacation have a arrival date and set departure date. How many of those white immigrants can live in a beach house, have land and enjoy paradise in their home country with that same money? Are these people buying these houses with cash or loan. If a loan how wealthy can they be. Now if your there for work most expenses are already paid.
I plan to move within 2yrs, to another country. Reason tired of the city living, bigotry , Godlessness, lack of morals, greed and pollution. I don’t want work to live, want to grow my own food. I would never want to be an expat. Instead I choose to be an immigrant, because the last time I checked immigrants have always brought beneficial resources to countries. Most countries was develop by immigrants who saw their new land as their home , respected it and want to improve it. If I became an expat I would have to live among the very same people I had to move from, add nothing valuable to the citizens, only take their money with the new business I set up. Hire locals only as house workers never eat with me, for I am an expat and I do not mix with locals.
Immigrants have always integrated into the new lands rules and regulations, they know and respect the new country, it’s people and environment. Expats expect to receive the same treatment they get in their home land. The expat sees the profit first, before the people, they hide behind gated communities, high walls, atop mountains to ignore the poverty, to never have to question why their created communities have water, Internet, othe utilities and locals don’t. Yes they have privilege, something the created, would never question in fear they might have to share or go without. Yes I’ll gladly be an immigrant any day,can’t wait to meet new people and experience the country as a local not a tourist.
Call yourself whatever helps you sleep night. The same type of people who would steal your baby sell it go home at night and sleep like a baby. History repeats itself the hearts of men haven’t changed much. if they have no problem wear clothing made in sweatshops what type of character can you truly expect. Keep your titles .
Comment from: Andy Martin [Visitor]
For those who might be interested I’ve written a blog similar to this here:
Comment from: Nimrod [Visitor]
I am an Iraqi and I am an expat in south america, being a white Iraqi of Caucasian descent I will say that we have this distinction of race in Iraq itself, I remember during the 1990’s when we had the No Fly Zone in Iraq, we were compelled to travel using GMC vehicles to the Trebeel border with Jordan, I would go through the passport authorities within minutes whilst a coloured Iraq would be detained or 7 hours, so racism exists everywhere, as far as social class and elitists are concerned, in Iraq most of the wealthy, well educated families with power and money were of Non Arab descent, we were all from Dagestan, Georgia( which is where my ancestors came from), Azerbaijan, etc…
Thanks! Good comments!
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