Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are you an Immigrant or an Ex-Pat?

I find it interesting that many S.Affers I know that have travelled the seas do not see themselves, or term themselves as “immigrants”. They tend to prefer the term “ex-pat”.

So what’s the difference?

Is it a case of race and/or economics?

An immigrant is the person who snuck in to do low-level work, while an ex-pat is a global traveller, settled in a new land by social choice not economic choice?

Perhaps it is that an immigrant is someone who resembles the Irish & Italians fresh off a boat on a New York harbour over a century ago? Or the Indian & East Asian folk keeping their heads down as they pass through First World customs.

While an ex-pat flew business-class and had booked accommodation to his new home. S/he is equal with the local middle- and upper-class & can ooze right into the way of living of that country.

And, I have noted from sugary-sweet hypocritical conversations, it is the person that reckons they are more “ex-pat” than “immigrant” who is quite capable of being condescending towards the “immigrants”, slate the “other groups” entering in droves, criticise the local immigration policies, without an ounce of insight into the irony of their words.

It also interests me that many white folk in the Americas & Australasia & even Africa do not realise that their stance on immigration is in complete opposition to and would have resulted in the barring of their grandparents’ parents and other ancestors from the opportunities that their ancestors chose to take so many years back. Choices that gave you life and the quality of living you have always known.

Why was it good enough for your family but not good enough for someone else’s family?

Why was immigration that changed the face of countries acceptable then and it is not acceptable now?

What do you not like about this immigration’s face?


Caz said...

you are so right. shoh.. never thought of that but it's absolutely true. I am a 4th generation immigrant!

Thanks for the visit/comment on my blog x

po said...

The word expat makes me want to hurl chunks. I have no opionions over the word immigrant.

To me expat has all the negative association Saffas have painted it with. People who don't have the guts to "stick it out and dodge bullets", people on permanent vacation, ug I dunno.

Immigration is a complicated thing, I think it is normal for people to feel threatened by it, but actually places like the UK could not function without it. But it makes perfect sennse, especially in a place like SA, where people suffered huge injustice for years, and after all the crap and the fighting they did, for newcomers to benefit while they still sit in poverty must be a huge slap in the face.

I guess the same applies to a lesser extent the world over, but trust good old SA to provide the extreme case!

Champagne Heathen said...

Caz - Yup yup, good to know I am making sense!

Pleasure about the visit. And thanks for visiting. Hope you keep it up!

Po - Except that the guys who are migrating into SA are likely coming from kakker/ as kak situations. Immigration gets the economy going, people motivated (fighting for their place?), mixing of cultures & ideas & life lessons so that we move forward.

But I might just be being too idylic here. I'll keep reading & reflecting & let you know!

MidniteGem said...

Nicely observed. It just reminds me of a little anicdote that I tell about how my bf got a political flyer posted to him here in the UK by the British National Party. It was anti immigration and had imagery of muslim and black immigrants. WE just had to laugh because WE are immigrants! but to them we dont count because we are white and are in well paying jobs! Still makes me laugh a year later and is a story we haul out often when British people (friends/workmates) start bashing immigration. It always seems to surprise them when we go "well we are IMMIGRANTS!!"

Champagne Heathen said...

Exactly MidniteGem!

I just can't figure out yet which ranks higher in the acceptance of "expats" vs "immigrants"... your skin colour, your home language, or your skill set.

But does it even matter which ranks higher.