Author Topic: Expat or Immigrant?  (Read 1156 times)

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Offline MarsBar

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2017, 08:32:43 PM »
Expat and Immigrant are defined by their context and do not mean the same thing - they are two sides of the same coin. People are both Expats and Immigrants at the same time, the terms apply equally to immigrants irrespective of their race and ethnicity, where they now live, and where they originated.

The term Expat has an 'origin' context: Expats are people who have left their origin country and settled themselves abroad - they have emigrated / expatriated. Expat is a descriptor that differentiates people of the same nationality who have lived abroad from those who have not; so typically, you would be described as an expat amongst other people from your origin country, or sometimes within a more generalized group of immigrants. When looking for information online, you might use the term 'US Expat' to connect with other Americans who have moved abroad, whereas 'US Immigrant' would connect you with people from elsewhere coming to the US. In this case, it's not where you're going that matters, it's where you're from.

The term Immigrant has a 'destination' context: Immigrants are people who are coming to a country they did not originate from (and are not citizens of) - they are immigrating. Immigrant is a descriptor that differentiates people who are citizens of a country from people who are coming to live in that country from abroad; so typically, you would be described as an immigrant amongst the citizens of a country to which you have emigrated. Immigrant is also an official status as opposed to expat which is purely social. When looking for information online, you might use the term 'UK Immigrant' or 'UK immigration' to connect with other people who have moved to the UK, whereas 'UK Expat' would connect you with UK citizens living outside of the UK. In this case, your origin nationality isn't what matters - it's where you're going.

In my online profiles I often refer to myself as both a former US Expat (to indicate that I once lived abroad but no longer do) and former UK immigrant (to indicate that I once lived in the UK). Even though I am now a UK Citizen and 'technically' no longer an immigrant for entry purposes, I'll always retain my immigrant persona and share the immigrant experience with other people who have emigrated to other countries, especially to the UK and regardless of their origin nationality.

My dual-national daughter on the other hand, who was born in the US and has never lived in the UK, will never be a UK immigrant. That said, if we moved back to the UK she would absolutely share aspects of my immigrant experience in that she would be living in a country she had not lived in before, though she would never technically be an UK immigrant. However, she would still be a US Expat despite her dual citizenship.

It really is all about context. The two terms are equal. Every immigrant is an expat somewhere; and most expats are or have been an immigrant too. Unfortunately, both terms have been severely misunderstood and misused, now carrying loaded innuendo about social status. Amongst white westerners, the term 'immigrant' became synonymous with 'poor black / brown people' and they co-opted 'expat' to purge any negative connotations from their identities. There is nothing inherently wrong with using or identifying with either or both terms, so long as emigrated westerners (especially white westerners) begin to understand that their identities as 'expats' comes packed with privilege and elevated social status; and that they are equally immigrants - it's not either / or. We can help recover the genuine meaning of these words and dispel negative connotations just by learning and sharing amongst our expat and immigrant communities, and by helping non-expats and non-immigrants understand what the terms really mean.

The same is true for the terms migrant and refugee, which are very specific. Migrant is defined as someone who moves for work, typically understood as work that is seasonal or otherwise necessitates a frequent change of residence. Migrating is the act of always being on the move. Frequently, migrants live temporarily in another country, are domiciled elsewhere, and their families stay 'at home' while they are working. In some cases, migrants may be or become immigrants. The experience of a migrant is wholly unique and it is incredibly unjust for western immigrants who move for education, family, and non-seasonal work to call themselves "migrants", just as they should not call themselves (and legally cannot be defined as) "refugees". Terms like migrant, immigrant, refugee, and expat are simply not interchangeable.

In the same way that many people reject the 'I don't see color' and 'all lives matter' arguments to racism, we need to reject the idea that labels don't apply to us as expats and immigrants. I personally think it's important to know that these labels come highly loaded by society and that they are applied to us irrespective of the desire not to be defined by them. The sooner we come to terms with the idea that we aren't just 'living abroad' and that we are made up of and share our mutually exclusive immigrant and expat experiences, the sooner we can articulate those experiences to others, and hopefully begin to right some of the wrongs that have occurred over the course of history.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 08:38:46 PM by MarsBar »
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Offline sonofasailor

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2017, 06:47:47 AM »
Very interesting Mars. Read some Chomsky the other day and realised how weak my understanding of linguistics is.
Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across - Sun Tzu

Offline jimbocz

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2017, 10:24:04 AM »
Agreed, that was a good post.

Offline Joy

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2017, 04:00:48 PM »
Perhaps those of a fair and unbigotted nature might start to describe themselves as immigrants to stand in solidarity - try it on for size - how comfortable does it feel to be called or designated an immigrant rather than an expat?

I completely agree with your above comment.  I am a white woman. Being an American in England I am often asked WHY I would move here.

I went to a protest against racism and FOR the allowance of refugees in Birmingham where I live. I very proudly state that I am an immigrant.

I post it on Facebook where many of my American friends and family are ignorant and anti-immigration. I'll say, "You do realize that *I* am an immigrant, right? YOU are of immigrants. America was founded by immigrants."

Also, I happened to be in the States when Brexit occurred. I was on a plane back, sitting next to a young white guy on a flight from Amsterdam to Birmingham. The young guy says to me, "Did you hear about Brexit?"

I nodded. He threw his arms in the air and says, "Freedom!!"

I wondered to myself when exactly this well-dressed, 20-something white guy, who can clearly afford to travel internationally, has ever been oppressed that he felt the need to exclaim "Freedom."

He then added, "Now we can send all the foreigners back where they came from."

I looked at him and said, "I'M a foreigner."

He shook his head. "Nah. We don't mean you."

Who, exactly is this WE he spoke of? And why don't they mean ME? Is it because I'm white? Is it because English is my first language?

I don't like this hate and how clearly some people seem to be differentiating between whom they deem worthy and not.

So, yes, I will stand up and use my perceived privilege to make sure others know that it's not okay. We're all people deserving of respect.

Offline x0Kiss0fDeath

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2017, 04:37:17 PM »

I post it on Facebook where many of my American friends and family are ignorant and anti-immigration. I'll say, "You do realize that *I* am an immigrant, right? YOU are of immigrants. America was founded by immigrants."


Not even on Facebook, but just in general over here, I've listened to people say stuff to my face about immigrants and when I say " I a am an immigrant, remember?" they are very quick to be like "oh..yeah!...but you're different!"

Offline jimbocz

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Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2017, 04:52:04 PM »
It's great to read your post Joy and I love to see someone posting some left wing rants. 

I wonder a bit about declaring myself an immigrant.  I don't know if I'm moving here permanently and don't plan to assimilate or become British.  If the British become to annoying,  I am invoking white privilege and moving back to the US.  I'm not sure ""immigrants " can do that.  I'll speak up for them but I think it's a bit disingenuous to claim to be one. 

What do you guys think? 
« Last Edit: March 16, 2017, 04:54:35 PM by jimbocz »

Offline jimbocz

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #21 on: March 16, 2017, 05:00:12 PM »
Actually, what I do when a British person starts dissing immigrants is start talking about how America is a country based on immigrants and how American culture is a melting pot , much to it's benefit.  Like pizza and tacos, which are infinitely better than the horrible food they used to eat here, until the immigrants came along and improved it. 

Offline waud

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2017, 06:16:04 AM »
Completely agree.  People use expat like it's a good thing and immigrant like it's a bad thing.  But the definitions are the same.

I use immigrant.  Proud of it.   ;D
Agreed, my husband defiantly identifies himself as an immigrant when someone is expressing  feelings on the matter and often gets the 'oh I don't mean you'

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Offline x0Kiss0fDeath

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Re: Expat or Immigrant?
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2017, 11:29:36 AM »
Actually, what I do when a British person starts dissing immigrants is start talking about how America is a country based on immigrants and how American culture is a melting pot , much to it's benefit.  Like pizza and tacos, which are infinitely better than the horrible food they used to eat here, until the immigrants came along and improved it.

I find it quite hard to do that nwo adays with all the "build a wall" and "travel ban" talk.