Expat vs Immigrants

Image result for melting pot in New york

I once had someone ask my thoughts on the difference between expats and immigrants. When I was searching in the internet for blogs of people who had moved to Egypt so that I could get a glimpse of their experiences to prepare me my move, I came across the word “expat” a lot. Once in a blue moon no matter how many years you have lived in an English spoken country, you will learn common words that you have no idea how you have missed it before. Expat was one of those words that I have never heard or learned throughout the 16 years of living in the US.

Growing up in USA I was always revered to as an immigrant or a green card holder. Every time I would hear that word “immigrant” or “green card holder”, I would grouch my teeth, as it always made me feel inferior or marginalized. I faced a lot of discrimination and verbal bullying for simply being an immigrant. So when she asked me what my thoughts on expat vs immigrants were, I immediately went back to that bad feeling I had with the word “immigrant”.

She had told me something interesting which got me thinking. “Expats are always revered to white people and immigrant are for the people of color”. Although to some extend she is right, she had never lived in America and didn’t know that even white people that are not born there are revered to as immigrants. Off course, class status, country and your purpose to moving to the United States can have an affect on how people precede towards your migration. A Saudi Arabian, Angolan, Chinese, German student who is privileged enough to study in the United States is revered to as international student. This student is not here to stay and take away the jobs of hard working Americans, in fact, these students are very good for the American economy because they come here, their government or rich parents pay for the schools and they often spend a lot of money.

Now a white Romanian who has migrated to the United States in the hopes of catching the “American dream” will face a lot of obstacles and discrimination as  a Latino would, holding the same purpose for migration.

However, when moving to Egypt, I faced something very different. Expats are those who have a special passport from either “USA, Canada, UK, German, European Union and some others”. Are also the diplomats, international lawyers, petroleum employees and international companies that hold employees from overseas.

Every other immigrant are either refugees from Middle East, East Asia, Sub-Saharian Africans and what we like to consider as “others” for the very minority groups.

With this I felt very uncomfortable as well, when all the sudden I was given privileges and priorities for simply being an American passport holder. Throughout my life in United States, I had to fight harder, had to over come many obstacles because I didn’t have the same privileges as someone who simply was born in the US. You can imagine how strange it is to all the sudden have the roles switched on me.

I like to tell people that I am a Cape Verdean American Muslim revert, living in Egypt who’s lives very much like an Egyptian woman. In other words, I am a little bit of both, not quite American and not entirely Egyptian. You can expect this to be very difficult for me, as I don’t hold the same privileges that any other Americans or expats would, living in fancy places and putting their children in expensive international schools nor do I share some of the same values or perspective in life as many Egyptian woman do.

So, there you have it, these are some of my thoughts on “expats vs. immigrants”. What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you feel the same or different? What are your experiences and feelings with theses two words? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Expat vs Immigrants

  1. This is a fascinating and very enlightening blog post, Andrea! Living in the USA, I have rarely heard the term “expat.” Interestingly, though, I have a friend who was born in England, married an American, and is now a US citizen. She uses the term “expats” often — referring to herself and other English-born friends here. I realized while reading your blog post today that I’d never really known the actual meaning of the word or thought about what the difference was/is between “expat” and “immigrant.” You’ve given me much to think about. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts!

    I have another book to recommend to you: Small Great Things, a novel by Jodi Picoult. It’s about race relations in America. Jodi Picoult is an excellent writer, and her novels tackle many difficult and heart-wrenching issues. Small Great Things is about a white supremacist couple who don’t want an African-American nurse touching their newborn baby. I highly recommend it, if you can find a copy.

    Like

    • It is very interesting that a British American would call herself an Expat and never an immigrant. I was brought up in the USA to refer my status as an immigrant and it never felt good until I moved to Egypt all the sudden my migration status was a good one. I really have to go out and look for the books you recommended. I need a good read now more than ever. In fact, I will try to make the time to look for the books this week. I will let you know if I found any of your recommendations. This in particular sounds really interesting.

      Like

Leave a Reply

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