I never really used the word “expat” until our departure to Singapore 4 years ago.
It is really strange because I left France for Belgium then we moved to England and in that period, I always saw myself as a “foreigner”, not an “expatriate”!
Then my daughter came home from school one day and told me she found out we were not only expat, we were “migrant” as well.
So I wondered: what exactly is an expat? Is there a difference between expat and (im)migrant?
If we are to believe the definition from dictionnary.com (and we have few reasons not to believe it! :-)), Expatriation means:
“Voluntary departure from the nation of one’s birth for permanent or prolonged residence in another nation.”
Ok, so technically, I realised it applied to me since the day I left France.
But … and there is always a but … if we continue to read the information from Dictionnary.com:
“If the word expatriation sounds like it has just about the same meaning as the word immigration, that’s because it does !“
Oh well, it would have been too simple, right ?😂😂.
So … technically I’m also an immigrant !!
But (another but!!), actually, if not in a dictionary, in “real” life, there is a difference and thinking about it, I experienced it a few times.
The most obvious moment has been when we were in England, and Brexit happened.
Brexit was and still is a very complicated process/situation/(mess?🤔). I will not pretend to know all about it and I only speak from my perspective.
For a lot of foreigners, the feeling was that the United Kingdom did not want the immigrants anymore. Again, it was much more than that, but that how it felt. And let me tell you, there was a strange ambiance in the country, on the day they announced the results.
One of the doctors I was working with came to me the day after and apologised in the name of his country. His words were: “I hope you know you are still welcome to work here!”
It was good he told me because it didn´t even cross my mind that I was not!!! 🙈 😂. It would have been embarrassing if someone had asked me to leave!! 😄
However, it stayed on my mind the whole day, wondering why he felt the need to tell me that.
I went home and talked to a “friend” about it, telling her I never perceived myself as an immigrant, I was just “living in another country, speaking with an accent”. Her reply was:
“Yeah, but with you, it is different. You are French and you work, you!”
And there it was: the difference between my colleague who perceived me as the same foreigner as the others and my “friend” who put conditions on the “foreigners”.
And there it is, the difference between an expat and an immigrant!
It depends on the country you come from, the country you are going to, the language you speak, the colour of your skin, how much money you have, what job you are doing, how many times you move, the reason behind your move … I could go on and on!
So really, it is not up to you but up to the people around you and the way they decide to perceive you.
No? What do you think ?
Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂
PS: Did you know that the word (Ex)patriate has a lot of neologisms? well, according to Wikipedia!!! (up to you to believe or not). Here are some of them:
- dispatriate, an expatriate who intentionally distances themselves from their nation of origin;
- flexpatriate, an employee who often travels internationally for business.
- Inpatriate, an employee sent from a foreign subsidiary to work in the country where a company has its headquarter;
- Rex-pat, a repeat expatriate, often someone who has chosen to return to a foreign country after completing a work assignment;
- Sexpat, a sex tourist.