Immigrants or Expats?

This post has been picked as one of Blogadda’s Spicy Saturday Picks. Thank you Blogadda

Pal’s post reminded me of some of the terminology which I get annoyed with.

Have you noticed how people from developing nations, living in other wealthier countries, are automatically termed as ‘immigrants’, while people from wealthier nations living in less privileged nations are mainly called ‘expats‘. The assumption is that if you are from a less privileged nation, you are more than likely to be an immigrant, that you are ready to cast off your original nationality and look to live in a foreign country permanently. I come across these two terms in lots of places, magazine articles, blogs, forums.. and always in the manner that I have mentioned above.

While there are plenty of people who do look to living in wealthier countries, there are several people who are genuinely expatriates, even if they do come from developing nations. Our IT consultants, for instance. We travel to so many countries, on projects, and most do return back to the home country. Going by the definition, most of us are expatriates rather than immigrants. Granted, some of us do choose to stay back in other countries, but most don’t. Most of us complete our work on the projects, and return , or travel somewhere else. Yet, the assumption is that we are all immigrants.

I know that they are just words, but to some extent, I do feel that it indicates how the world perceives people, based on their country of origin. I have heard of second or third generation immigrants asked, where they come from. And people like us asked, ‘Why’, when we talk about our plans to return to our country. I would doubt if the same questions would be raised if expatriates living in countries like India would be subject to that question, even if the quality of life that some expatriates(by their own admission) have there, is much better than in their home countries.

Then again, not every body thinks like this. I had some colleagues who were very conversant with life in different countries. They were well-travelled and well-read, and would not make such assumptions.

While I do understand the reason why such generalizations happen, it still bugs me when people assume that we live abroad because we do not have such a wonderful life back home. Sometimes, you just end up living in a place. People from all over the world, move to different countries, based on different factors, be it careers, spouses, or just looking for a different sort of life. Sometimes, life is too settled to upset, even if you know that there are several other advantages back at home. Sometimes people just go with the flow, and live abroad. Some actively seek the nationality of their current country – making them the real immigrants.

Another word, which annoys me even more,  is the word, ‘natives’. Someone was once telling me that they heard people being addressed as ‘natives’ in a professional setting – where people ought to have known better. For some reason, it is applied only to the developing world. I don’t hear it being applied to people in the western world. Aren’t they just as ‘native’ to their own country? Yet, somehow, the word ‘native’ seems to come into use mainly in the context of less developed countries.

Are these terms just used for convenience, just a leftover of the older order? The colonial times, when everybody else was the ‘natives’ and later became the ‘immigrants’?  I hope so. And I also hope that we reach a point where irrespective of whichever country we come from, we would not be part of a generalization of this sort. After all, that should be what globalization is all about, right?

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “Immigrants or Expats?

  1. FirsT!!

    Btw, Smitha, while I agree with all that you have said, I also think this categorisation depends to a large extent on the social standing and role performed, by the person himself/herself.

    See, for example, a ‘project manager’ in a software company, handling a large scale project and earning a big fat salary, would be deemed an ‘expat’ whereas say, a manual labourer working in construction industry, would be called an ‘immigrant’.

    It has a lot to do with how much the person is capable of/going to contribute to the country he is moving into.

    Similarly, say, if someone from say Bangladesh, for example, moves to Mumbai, and works as a coolie, would we call him an expat or immigrant?

    So yes, while this categorisation depends on which country the person comes from, I think it is also largely based on the potential/contribution of that person.

  2. I agree with you…Here in Singapore, ‘expats’ = whites…Bangladeshi and Indian manual labourers are guest workers and Filipino, Indonesian, Indian maids are, well, maids…It’s not only a race thing but a class one as well…

  3. it still bugs me when people assume that we live abroad because we do not have such a wonderful life back home. Sometimes, you just end up living in a place. People from all over the world, move to different countries, based on different factors, be it careers, spouses, or just looking for a different sort of life. Sometimes, life is too settled to upset, even if you know that there are several other advantages back at home. Sometimes people just go with the flow, and live abroad – Very well said Smithu! I am bugged with these ppl thinking that u either did nt get a good job in Amreeka or that u r nt as well-settled as ppl there, if u r living in India! Downright Ridiculous!!!!!!

  4. yeah!!people who live abroad are victims of these so called generalizations.

    Even my latest blog says that we have a similar life back home. Only thing we do not realise it..

    Here in Dubai racism is so open..,even if you step into the gym first and an arab comes later, she would hange the music and ask you to step out of her fav machine..

    • Really is it that bad.. here in UK its not like this well I have lived for over a decade now and i have not ever been a victim of racism so far ..

      have been a victim of RACISM to fellow Indians being called a sardar etc .. but once whoever said wont say it to anyone else all his life 🙂

  5. Pingback: Immigrants or Expats? (via Any Excuse to Write…) « Callous Caffeinated Conversations

  6. What astute observations. Yes the condescension is really annoying.

    I remember in one US library where I was volunteering, a teacher who came to give me a message spoke from across the room, and I didn’t hear her clearly. I said, “I didn’t get you”, and she repeated what she had said very slowly and clearly…assuming that a) I must not understand English or b) I must be dumb. 🙄

  7. Good one. I’m going to start calling expats immigrants to see what’s the reaction! 😀

    As for natives, what you say is mostly true, though the colonizers call the original inhabitants of North America ‘native Indians’. Since they are no longer a force to be reckoned, maybe?!

  8. as already commented, in Gulf all are “expats” since no citizenship is offered but those expats from developed nations are treated special, right from the issuance of a visa… (some of them do not need even a visa)!

    But what you pointed out is true.. and we can only hope that it shall all change very soon.. many of the youngsters now prefer to be in India rather than move out and if only our leaders had a better vision on India rather than themselves, India would have shed the tag of a ‘developing nation’ much before.

  9. ‘We live abroad because we do not have such a wonderful life back home..’ that really is the general opinion. When my cousin decided to come back to India after some years in the US few could appreciate his decision. Of course you must be getting more of this that us in India… but prejudices of any kind are painful.

  10. Hello Smitha,
    Sorry to digress but I just got myself an IPAD2!
    I thought you might be interested in knowing, as you reacently got yourself a Kindle.
    I am loving it.
    It took me two weeks to find a shop which had stocks that lasted the few minutes from my phone call to them to the time I could reach the shop to buy it!
    It’s selling like hot cakes here in Bangalore.
    I have just begun to use it and am still not very confident.
    I have nephew who has borrrowed it for some time and I hoping learn how to use it well, after he gets comfortable using it.
    These youngsters (He is just 18) learn much faster.
    I already downloaded a free e book (Sayings of Confucious) and have begun reading it on the IPad.

    Regards
    GV

    • Oops!

      Instead of
      I have nephew who has borrrowed it for some time and I hoping learn how to use it well, after he gets comfortable using it.

      Read
      I have a nephew …………… and I am hoping to learn ……

      These typos and missing words!
      I am fed up of them and just don’t seem to be able to avoid them.

      Regards
      GV

      • Congratulations! I am sure you must be loving it! Do tell me how you find reading on the iPad. Our Kindle has arrived -but husband has his hands on it as of now. I have a load of library books to complete, so am letting him enjoy it in the meanwhile, But the reading feel is fantastic! It is just great!

        And being able to read in the sunlight, is fantastic too! Will do a post on it sometime.

  11. Pingback: Curated Best Blog Posts this week by Indian bloggers - BlogAdda

  12. You’ve raised a valid and pertinent point and I am forced to think on these lines. Yes why do people imagine that those from developing countries have relocated to foreign shore just for the luxury that life offers. Aren’t our IT profs, doctors, nurses and the like serving in alien conditions too?

So, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s