Saturday, November 21, 2009

Now heres a thought

We were just having an interesting conversation on language usage ( well what do you do on a saturday afternoon) in particular the terms expat (expatriate) and immigrant. So what are you? A number of years ago when we were queuing for our residencia I had a few sharp words with a lady(?) from London who commented to us as she joined the queue that she had been standing in the wrong place earlier, in the immigrants queue, in fact it was the non EU applicants queue. I felt obliged to point out that we were in fact all immigrants; this did not go down to well. I was correct of course, those of us who have chosen to move here are all immigrants whether we like the term or not, personally I have no objection. An immigrant is after all defined as a newcomer to a country who has settled there. So what’s an expat I hear you ask got big ears me. Well the origin of the term is actually based on economics. They can be a citizen who has left his or her own country to live in another, usually for a prolonged period. In original 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.
In some countries the term "expat" is not used for all foreigners living and working there but refers to those on "expat" contracts. In Switzerland for example expats will be living in housing provided by the employer, with most other expenses such as children's (English) education also paid by the employer. In theory, this is because they are still maintaining a home in their original country. This is in strong contrast with those on "local" contracts who are treated and paid like other locals. The "expats" have a reputation of being flush with money, and raising the prices for others who are not subsidised in this way. Expat contracts are usually time limited, so the expats either move on to another assignment, or are given a local contract without expat subsidies.
So here’s a thought how many of those in our "expat communities" fit the above description, not a lot is my guess .Quite a number I guess where "flush" with money when they got here, given the exchange rate and the lower cost of living, my how times have changed. Question is has there title now changed, I would say there is a good argument for it to do so, in fact for most they never were and never will be an expat in the true sense of the word. No problem for us we always saw ourselves as very lucky immigrants to this country. Oh yes by the way there is another definition of the term expatriate its a citizen who has renounced his or her citizenship or whose citizenship has been repealed.Makes you glad your just a less well healed immigrant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a immigrant to Canada your comments made me smile.. When we first moved here we were known as 'permanent residents'

A few years ago after a trip to the British Virgin Islands we seriously considered moving there... But having our immigrant status categorized as 'non belongers' Well, That one.....we couldn't hack!!