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to hate the term 'ex-pat'?

(116 Posts)
manicinsomniac Mon 01-Aug-16 22:18:36

I know this is a trivial first world gripe. I'm just making it anyway grin

I cannot stand the word. Why do (generally) white, (usually) affluent Brits get to be ex-pats while other people looking for a (presumably) better life elsewhere get stuck with the (now seen negatively) word 'immigrant'.

To me it just seems like British people who move abroad somehow think they're better or more worthy of their move than other people who do it.

I realise the word has historical context but that no longer applies.

AIBU to think that ex-pats should just be called immigrants like everyone else? Immigration isn't a bad thing. Requiring a different word sort of makes it seem like it is.

FourEyesGood Mon 01-Aug-16 22:20:59


WorraLiberty Mon 01-Aug-16 22:21:27

Ex pats are generally called immigrants by the people in the country they live in.

For example, Spanish locals don't call Brits ex pats because that would make no sense.

sooperdooper Mon 01-Aug-16 22:21:43

Totally agree, it's a ridiculous term

OuchLegoHurts Mon 01-Aug-16 22:21:49

You are definitely not being unreasonable. Double standards.

nennyrainbow Mon 01-Aug-16 22:22:20

Or emigrants instead of ex-pats? I've wondered that too.

ABloodyDifficultWoman Mon 01-Aug-16 22:22:48

Worra is right. Ex-pats refer to each other thus, and they are immigrants to the locals.

OuchLegoHurts Mon 01-Aug-16 22:23:22

Irish people who live abroad call themselves emigrants. Lots of my friends do. I've only heard English older people using that phrase. I think it's a throwback from other times.

stealthbanana Mon 01-Aug-16 22:24:16

I always think of expats as people living abroad for a finite period of time whereas immigrants have moved with the intention of settling permanently. That may be wrong, of course!

manicinsomniac Mon 01-Aug-16 22:25:34

That's a good point worra

I should have said emigrants not immigrants, shouldn't I.

PacificDogwod Mon 01-Aug-16 22:26:09


It's a tribal thing IME; expats call themselves/each other expats. I was v puzzled when I first came across the term.
They* are not just immigrants/emigrants, they are immigrants/emigrants who do NOT integrate very much, stay within their own communities, socialised with each other etc. Just what we don't like about 'our' immigrants grin.
Huge double standards.

*gross generalisation warning

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 01-Aug-16 22:26:16

I call myself an immigrant. But depending where you live you get called mzungu, roast beef or falang or whatever. I personally like newcomer.

Or just not having bad connotations to 'immigrant' would be favorite.

KP86 Mon 01-Aug-16 22:35:06

I think StealthBanana and PacificDogwood have summed it up nicely.

To me, an expat lives somewhere temporarily and has little intention to integrate and tends to hang out in communities with other expats. I also consider an expat moving for work, rather than because they want to be in the other country.

Eg. Expats in Singapore/UAE who live in gated condos and send their children to international English schools rather than local schools with all the other children.

And yes, there is a double standard. It's awesome to be rich and go live abroad in retirement but no way in hell are any of those people allowed here to drain the NHS or state pension pots.

I am an immigrant, and although we don't intend on living in the UK forever, I have certainly integrated (as much as possible) with local culture and lifestyle.

GETTINGLIKEMYMOTHER Mon 01-Aug-16 22:35:37

Surely they are often two different things.

We were 'expats' for 13 years in Abu Dhabi and Oman. We were living/working there for some time, but were never going to stay for ever. We could never have been called immigrants to either country.

To me an immigrant is someone who has emigrated to another country, never intending to return for good. If we had gone to Australia, intending to stay for ever, we would have been emigrants from the UK, and immigrants to Oz.

There is at the moment a large French 'expat' community in London, but I don't suppose any of them would describe themselves as immigrants.

PacificDogwod Mon 01-Aug-16 22:38:14

I call myself a bloody fortier grin - I find it allows me to get away with things like have strong opinions, or eat garlic, or not shave my legs grin

PacificDogwod Mon 01-Aug-16 22:38:38

Wtf is a 'fortier'??

KP86 Mon 01-Aug-16 22:39:18

PS. Have nothing against expats, either. I think it tends to happen where the local culture is significantly different to where you're from and it's a coping mechanism.

I'm from Aus and although our countries are similar, it was still a MASSIVE adjustment coming here - much more than I ever anticipated. I cannot imagine what it would have been like if it had been a country with a different language and completely different foods etc.

bearhug Mon 01-Aug-16 22:40:08

I do think ex-pats and immigrants are different things. Ex-pats don't intend to stay and therefore do not feel the need to integrate. People who call themselves ex-pats, in my experience, feel superior to the local population and feel quite free to be rude about them.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Mon 01-Aug-16 22:41:52

Immigration is not a bad thing. I am an immigrant (to another country, not the UK, so I am an emigrant from the UK - immigrant is not the word for an ex pat if you mean a British ex pat working outside the UK, and you are in Britain, obviously...)

An ex pat is a migrant but not necessarily an immigrant - ex pats are not trying to settle in a new country long term, generally.

There are various types of migrant though as everyone obviously knows - not every migrant is an ex pat, not every migrant is an asylum seeker, not ever migrant is an economic migrant, not every migrant is moving abroad for the same reason etc. Like other expressions, ex pat is short hand for a type of migrant. There are overtones of privilege and they can be distasteful if you view it as ex pat being positive and migrant negative - but that is what is wrong, not the term ex pat in itself. Ex pat is just short hand for somebody on a temporary contract with an international company who has lots of attached privileges and perks usually (along the lines of, but not necessarily, international school fees paid) and crucially who is internationally mobile, moving every few years, rather than making a permanent move.

Whilst I am British living in Germany and don't think of myself as an ex pat, I know people who are ex pats - not using the word would just mean I need to write a whole paragraph to explain that they are here on an international contract for a couple of years, put their kids into international schools because there is no point in subjecting them to the baptism of fire that immersion in schooling in a foreign language can be when they will be moving on again soon enough, and they are likely to go where the company sends them next and move every few years for a while before returning to the UK. Most ex pats do also have higher incomes in return for the inconvenience and some skill set their company must find worth retaining and moving about.

In fact I have stopped bothering much with ex pats because they move on and I'm staying. I haven't stopped bothering with immigrants/ migrants, because I am one, and DD is one, and I have more in common with my Polish friend who is married to a German and has bilingual kids in the local school system and no plans to leave but still sometimes misses things from Poland than with British ex pats these days.

I'm not going to stop using the short hand phrase ex pat just because a few people have chips on their shoulder about it, though I acknowledge there is a history of imperialism that you could choose to focus on in order to argue to "ban" the word.

I read an interesting article ages ago by a Mexican-American ex-pat (immigrant to America as a teen, American ex pat in his 40s) which put it all much better, but damned if I can find it...

redexpat Mon 01-Aug-16 22:44:42

Well in light of this dicussion I'd better change my username!

Am I an immigrant or an emmigrant or both? Brit in Denmark, just applied for citizenship.

Globetrotter100 Mon 01-Aug-16 22:46:24

As per stealthbananas post I believe there's a big difference in the implied /intended timeframe of the stay. Ex patriate focuses on temporary stay away from the motherland IMHO; emigrant implies one who has exited for good. Different meanings, and with that different implications for social integration.

Either way, I have never felt any negativity whatsoever towards the notion of immigrants or expats and I have no idea why anyone would...but perhaps I've lived outside the UK for too long for that smile

JessieMcJessie Mon 01-Aug-16 22:47:03

In Hong Kong, where I lived for 6 years we were called "expats" by the locals when they spoke about us in English. (and I managed neither to be rude about nor feel superior to them bearhug). It was the standard term for people who went there to work and might well return home eventually, though many did stay over 7 years and obtain the right of permanent residency.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Mon 01-Aug-16 22:47:23

You are both of course Red, depending who is talking about you wink

KP86 Mon 01-Aug-16 22:47:53

Schwab, you've just said it so much better than me.


RedHareWithBlondeHair Mon 01-Aug-16 22:50:38

Yanbu, when I first began my career I wrote extensively about this sort of thing.

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