Although in face of recent developments an angry, political piece would be suitable, I have had this topic in my head for some months now and will try to divert your attention a little bit from tragic, inhumane events in Europe and around the world with a hopefully lively discussion thread.
The definitions of a 'migrant' and an 'expat' are very similar often referring to persons living and working in a country other than that of their citizenship. However, the practical usage of the terms is different and controversial. While an author for the blog of the Wall Street Journal referring to the situation in Hong Kong sees the reason for being labelled an 'expat', immigrant or migrant in social class, country of origin and economic status, a contributor to The Guardian identifies mainly racist dynamics behind the terminology. According to the latter author this racist system also hinders a highly qualified African 'migrant' in Europe to belong to the group of 'expats'. This discussion has also come up in the Wrocław Expat group on Facebook following The Guardian article and a survey done by a student of the MA programme in Intercultural Mediation, lead by Adam Mrozowicki. Some of the Wrocław Expats understand their group name as referring to a qualified worker who is sent by his company to another country for a specific time. This is actually the official definition of an 'Expatriate' in German, but not in English however. In Wrocław the racialised aspect of the terminology is also different to the one The Guardian author referred to, since for example Ukrainian workers would rather belong to the group of 'migrants', whereas the 'expat' group here consists mainly of employees of multinational companies from all over the world with different racial and ethnic backgrounds. In this context the economic status seems to be more decisive than racist dynamics.
As Marie Skłodowska Curie fellows we all move in a rather privileged fashion around Europe, from one EU member state to another, in the terminology of the EU commission we would not be called 'migrants' but mobile EU citizens. We also had the experience of a fellow with a non-EU passport, for whom it was not that easy to travel from one to the other project partner country. In my case the Wrocław Expat group was helpful at the beginning of my stay in Poland and I even found some interviewees through the group and later in Brussels because of where I lived and worked I also rather met people who would commonly be referred to as 'expats', although not necessarily very well off financially on their own terms (for example interns at EU institutions). In order to get into contact with 'migrants' and 'migrant' groups or organizations on the other hand I had to actively seek out these interactions and put some effort into it. Socially engaged people in Brussels and elsewhere however do not like to associate themselves with the term 'expat' and would argue that for solidarity reasons, they understand themselves as 'migrants' too and see no differences. However, this might also mask specific problems facing 'migrants', when the (through citizenship, class or race) privileged ‘expats’ are also considered 'migrants'.
A Bank's advertisement directed at 'expats' in the Brussels underground station Trône
I am very interested in how you experience your European mobile lives and would therefore like to start a discussion thread with you all about this. Maybe this could help our young MA colleague from the University of Wrocław to figure out the difference between a 'migrant' and an 'expat'.
Please contribute to the discussion and let us know:
- Do you consider yourself a 'migrant', an 'expat' or a mobile EU citizen or maybe none of the above?
- What factors in your understanding determine if a person is a 'migrant' or an 'expat' or should the term 'expat' be abolished anyways?
- Is Radek still a 'migrant' or only in the past he used to be a 'migrant' himself?
P.S.: For anyone who doesn’t get the last question, please watch our very first Theme 2 film production: http://www.changingemployment.eu/Blog/ViewPost/tabid/3428/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/2508/Multimedia-training-at-the-London-Metropolitan-University.aspx
The Guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/13/white-people-expats-immigrants-migration
Blog entry of the Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2014/12/29/in-hong-kong-just-who-is-an-expat-anyway/