Americans living abroad tend to call themselves “ExPats” or Ex Patriots, and for a while now, I have been uncomfortable with the term.The term almost exclusively is reserved just for Americans, and further, I only hear white people calling themselves the term.
Right now, “Immigrant” is a dirty word in many places in the world. It has become this all encompassing catch-all for the blame of society, or people who are causing chaos and dissent in the country they live in. To be an immigrant is to be suspect, but I find being an ExPat doesn’t have that reaction.
Of course, this is not a new thing. Immigrants “threatening the fabric of America.” has been around for a long time. The ire against Immigrants has progressed from the Irish and Italians, to the Chinese, the Japanese, peoples from Eastern Europe, people from Latin America, and India as well. We see anti-immigrant feelings all throughout history, and not just the US. Australia had a “White Australia” policy for a long time and limited immigration from Asian Countries, we are seeing anti-immigration take Europe by storm, and is wrapped up in Refugee movements as well.
But being an “ExPat” is almost like not being an Immigrant. For some reason we have created this word that sidesteps it. It is as though we are only “temporarily there” or we identify as American first, something that we accuse other immigrants of doing themselves. We ignore the rules applied to Immigrants, because of …. why exactly? American Exceptionalism? No one would ever really leave the US? I find the reasons to be quite thin, and not very well thought out.
So it has been sitting with me for a while, and I have decided to stop using the term in every day conversation. Of course, this blog is called “WanderingExPat” which makes this a bit more difficult, but I hope to try and distance myself from the term as much as possible. I am an Immigrant, plain and simple. In arguments, I have called myself an Immigrant before for effect, to throw people off. Because being a White, English-speaking person isn’t “really” considered an Immigrant to most people (which I find rather racist and xenophobic), but I am. I have my American customs that I like to hold on to. There are things that I still cherish about America, but I have left, and I am living in a new country, with a different culture, and different morals and a different perspective.
I am an Immigrant, and in the end, when the conversations of Immigrants come up, you are speaking about those who can blend in pretty well as well as those who stand out. I won’t hide behind ExPat as a way to avoid the conversation.