Monday, 29 June 2015

Terminology of a whatever-it-is-I-am

What's in name, right?


There have been numerous articles published recently again discussing the semantics of the lifestyle we lead - some of them are highlighted in the image I found on google images. This one in particular, in The Guardian and shared on Wall Street Journals Expat Community is a good read,  however I disagree about the expat bubble - how I would LOVE to live that kinda expat gig!!!!!

We live normal every day lives. G goes to work. MissM goes to school. I'm a SAHM who fills in her day how ever best I can without going bonkers. We make friends, have a social life, we spend time exploring our new city/country, we take advantage of travel opportunities.

It's a topic of conversation amongst our tribe too, as we all come with different experiences and expectations of our lifestyle and what we prefer to be called, if anything.

The Diplomatic community have been moving around the world for decades, as have military families. Corporate families have slowly but surely caught up and in many ways surpassed these groups. None of us have immigrated cos we're never anywhere long enough, nor do we choose to leave home permanently.

Immigrants have helped make countries strong and rich. I need only look at Australia to realise the richness immigrants have made there - Greeks and Italians, British and French, people from S E Asia, the sub continent  - all these nationalities and cultures in a fabulous country, blending food and fashion, adding value to business and society. Compare that to the mono-culture of Japan, where there is virtually zero immigration. Most non-Japanese are indeed expats  - they may well be long term, some have lived there 20, 30 years, but they haven't immigrated (legally)

Let'ss  tart with the dictionary definition:

From the Latin word ex (out of) patria (country or fatherland)
A person taking up residency in another country for a set time period
A common term for a person working for their company outside of their home country.
Someone who is living/working in a country that is not their home country, for a specific amount of time, they haven't immigrated but rather are there with some kind of visa requirement.
The time in the country that is not their home country comes to an end.
The legal requirements are unique and more often than not, are tied directly to the employee/employer.

To immigrate means to decide to leave your home country to live somewhere else as permanent resident or future citizens.
There is a long term, permanency to the decision to leave the home country.
One does not necessarily have a job when initial immigrating.
The legal requirements are unique.

A term not heard of before 2000.
Describes employees who live a global and international lifestyle, seldom settling in one place for long.
The reason for regular movement is linked directly to the length of time one is employed.
Most global nomads (aka expats) remain with the same employer and simply move around the world, sharing their skills and experience with employer.

A term used to describe the spouse/partner of who follows their spouse/partner to another city/country for a work assignment.
The first use of the phrase was in 1981 (it's no longer popular for many reasons which I think are obvious to you guys)

As we've chatted about before, the expat life tends to be very patriachial, that is, the majority of the time it's the man who has the contract, and the woman resigns from her job and together they (and kids) go on their adventures.

Some women enjoy the break from work and adjust well, other's don't; some are able to keep working remotely thanks to technology, while others start their own businesses, or blog. It all depends on your visa and what you choose to do with your time.

It's interesting when chatting about these terms how people feel.

I am an expat. We are global nomads. We integrate as much as possible for the time we call the place we are in home.

We left home because the industry G is involved with is small there, and he had career goals that would only be achieved overseas. I was already a SAHM (stay at home mum), as MissM was a toddler, so the move for me wasn't bad. If I was still working full time in advertising, it would have been a huge change and I'm not so sure how I would have coped.

My heart breaks when I meet women who struggle with their new life. It's very hard to 'give up' something for someone else, no matter how much you love them. When you are lonely, or fighting with school applications, or trying to navigate the medical system, or learning to drive the car on the opposite side of the road, sometimes in a different language you can't understand, it's very easy to lay blame at the other person for taking you away (hence, trailing spouse). Frustrations rise. Tempers flare and that's a whole other chat.

Expats tend to make a home somewhere for 2-3 -5 - ? years, then pack up and move on. They live as locals, but at some point in time they know they will leave.

Expats tend to be linked directly to a contract which has a start and finish date. In our situation, we arrive knowing our expiration date! Of course, it can be extended, but until that time comes, we know when we are expected to leave.

Please don't call me, or any of my friends a trailing spouse. I don't think I've met one of those - every woman I've met has been independent thinker, and made the decision in consultation with their husband/partner. We stand beside them, in fact, more often than not, we're out in front, blazing the way.

Remember Who's an Exptat? chat a few months ago? Friends who have lived in Ireland for 20+ years. They have residency, or have married an Irish man, and have raised their kids here, but they don't feel Irish. Their accents are thick from their mother tongue which they speak as often as they can (usually daily) and they crave for food-from-home but they are not expats, and will tell you so loud'n'proud. They have immigrated, chosen Ireland over their home country for permanent residency - they won't be leaving any time soon.

What you 'feel' is very personal.

How you choose to live, where you live is personal too.

It's more important to live well, with respect of the country you are in, adapting to the culture to the best of your ability, for the time you are there - be it as a tourist, expat or immigrant.

The funny thing is all the online forums, all the Facebook groups have the word expat in them, not immigrant, so maybe there is a difference after all.

What are you?
Do labels bother you?

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