I HATE the word expat. Just say immigrant like, what.
More specifically, I hate white people using the word expat, bcs they're literally going to say "immigrant" for poc and "expat" for white people. Yikes.
I correct people whenever they call me an expat like no sir, that ain't me.
Ofc if poc want to use expat for themselves I understand it's more complex, but in general I would just scrap that word away entirely, make people uncomfortable & just say immigrant all the time & watch them squirm.

Here's a very good article about the subject: "Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’."

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I understand that me making a stand about being called an immigrant instead of an expat comes from white privilege and the fact that I will most likely never get in trouble for coming to this country. And that's not the case for everybody, & poc calling themselves expats might make their lives easier.
So this rant is mostly directed at white people calling themselves expats. Just think - why are you using that specific word, when you're clearly an immigrant?

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@lokenstein Yeah, but we need to differenciate because while immigrants fled their country because of war or persecutions, expats are just coming to another country to steal jobs and money from natives. o<

(I'm–hopefully obviously–ironic here and totally agree with your point)


I call myself an immigrant for the same reason.

Somebody who comes from Mexico to the US is a "Mexican immigrant", but what do we call somebody who moves the US to Mexico? Everything about the terminology reflects the power relationships between the residents of those two countries.

@lokenstein I had no idea expat was used in this way, going to change my bio on here right away.

@lokenstein why not correcting people using immigrant when talking about poc instead? that would push a positive bias onto something they view negatively and could help shift mindset for the better?

@electret That's an idea, but I think immigrant shouldn't be a bad/negative word in the first place, so that's why I would personally focus on using it more rather than using expat more.
But when talking with an anti immigration person I could see myself using expat to talk about poc to shift their mindset indeed.

@lokenstein Selecting word use for better impact when needed sounds good!

@electret @lokenstein
There is a lot of differences in condition between immigrant PoC and second/third generation PoC, but yes sometimes it would be partially switchable

@lokenstein In my brain (not saying it's right or anything by any means)

"immigrants" is all encompassing, where expats are a type of immigrant, but there are others (such as forced migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, etc.) so all expats are immigrants but not all immigrants are expats.

Also, idk if this is correct, but I see expats as people who have no intention of returning as well where some other types of immigrants are only there for study or hope to return home when things are safer etc

@guerrillarain That's very interesting! Because if you look at the words themselves, immigrant and expat mean exactly the same thing (out of birth country, basically).
So what type of immigrant is expat then for you, as you say it's "a type"?
I wonder if it's a European vs US thing, but for me it would be more the opposite, like immigrant is more long term vs expat is more diplomats & their family aka more short term.
This is so messy 😅

@lokenstein Oh my gosh hahahahahaha yeah then it's all messy.

I wouldn't classify diplomats as expats in my brain because it's so short term and it's still very attached to their country of citizenship

whereas I'd classify myself as an expat (whenever I arrive) because I have no intention on moving back, and, other than my family, I keep no ties.

words don't do humans justice

@guerrillarain Ahh that's fascinating tbh!
Idk if it's a European or French thing, but for instance esp when white people go to live in Asian countries there's this whole "expat" culture that they basically only stay in the expat neighbourhood and meet other expats and never really "integrate" or even try to learn much about the local culture.
So at least this adds to my idea that expat is more temporary. But do you have this dimension in the US?
Note: English is not my native language so yeah

@lokenstein Oh there's definitely that stereotype of expats in the US.

In uni I studied globalization, cultural exchange, and movement patterns of people etc and I read this article for this assignment about Belize being an "expat nation" where so much of the population is made of expats that it's fundamentally changed the culture and government and they never return

which is why I have that image I suppose

@lokenstein Also when I lived in Japan, I met so many people like that who stayed in their little pockets and didn't really meet or interact or immerse themselves in the Japanese population, it was weird.

@lokenstein @guerrillarain now I'm wondering if this of a non English thing too, because to my understanding, an immigrant is someone that cuts ties to their home land and leaves for good for a new life integrated into a new country while an expat is someone who left the country because of a job or retirement and may or may not return, but expats are an insular community that don't integrate or try to become locals. It's like small scale colonies

@guerrillarain @popstar @lokenstein Two telling things I've noticed as a [white, British-accented] immigrant in the US:

Everyone calls me an expat until I keep repeating that I am an immigrant. To the point that they'll talk shit about immigrants to my face, forgetting that they mean me. And I think genuinely forgetting because they squirm so much when I call them on it.

No-one ever calls latine seasonal farmworkers in the US expats.

@eldang @guerrillarain @lokenstein yeah, my family has never been called expats, we were just filthy immigrants lol

@eldang @guerrillarain @popstar Extremely relatable right there.
And so we go back to my original argument: whether deep down the words mean the same thing or not, what actually happens in practice is that people use expat for white people and immigrant for poc and that's about it.

@eldang @guerrillarain @popstar (tbh this reminds me of the time my French grandfather asked me where do immigrants come from in Finland & I was like?? Well idk my dude from France apparently, hello? And he didn't seem to get it? Like for some people we're two completely different categories, the immigrant parasites and the nice white people who are just exercising their right to travel freely around the world. The more I think about it the more fucked up it gets)

@lokenstein @eldang @guerrillarain @popstar yeahhh it really feels like the way it's used expats are white people and immigrants aren't. which of course comes with different expectations if you're a white expat you're expected to keep your culture and exoticise "the locals" where immigrants are expected to assimilate as much as possible to whiteness

@popstar @lokenstein @guerrillarain

The way I always understood the terms, is that immigrants leave their country out of economic necessity and expats because of lifestyle choices, intra-company transfers, etc.

But I guess it can be hard to draw that line.

@VoidDrone @popstar @guerrillarain That's very vague, like if you think about it, isn't an intra company transfer an economic necessity in itself?
I left France to live with my fiancée and when I arrived I had to find a job. I'm called an expat too often. The exact same thing happened to my Sri Lankan friend, who came to live here with her Finnish husband, but she's called an immigrant :thonking:

@lokenstein @VoidDrone @popstar I shall report back on my immigration as a very visibly black person...

from the US. I suspect I'll be labeled an expat because of where I was born and raised and English being my first language.

@guerrillarain @lokenstein @VoidDrone yeah, i think outside the US the breakdown becomes even more obscure? English speaking, higher education, economic status, interracial relationships, from the USA, job history, also gets factored in along with complexion 🤔

@popstar @guerrillarain @VoidDrone Yeah. I'm expecting future colleagues might call them an expat but strangers might call them an immigrant? Really hard to know.
We did say this was messy 😂

@lokenstein @popstar @VoidDrone Well, I'm not an EU citizen so I have to do all the shitty immigration hoops so I'm an immigrant now.

(changing my definition based on all that's been said here ✨ )

@guerrillarain @VoidDrone @popstar Yes I'm quite curious which way it will go 🤔
Idk if someone warned you of this before, but one weird thing that might happen to you in Finland is that people will most likely talk to you in English directly because they will assume you can't be black and native Finnish 🙄 Guess it'll be practical for you but I hate that they do that.

@lokenstein @VoidDrone @popstar I actually had a mix when I was there. Even at the airport when we were flying to Stockholm from Helsinki, they started speaking to me in Finnish first. It was really surprising.

@guerrillarain @VoidDrone @popstar ah that's nice to hear! Maybe it's changing a bit too, hopefully ❤
Always feels extremely awkward when I need to ask something from a poc in here & I'm in total cringe knowing they think I speak to them in English because I think they don't speak Finnish, when actually I'm the one who doesn't speak Finnish. Ahhh. Always try to say "kiitos" with my worst accent possible at the end to make it clear 😂

@lokenstein I would argue that an intra-company transfer is actually a privilege and not a economic necessity as workers who are transfered are as far as I know very good compensated for their transfer. Most transfers are also for a limited time.
You are certainly right that I did not think about people leaving for another country because of their partners and that's where I think it is harder to draw that line, but I still think you could draw it somewhere. It would be pretty much arguing semantics though.

I naturally will not argue with you that the common perception of what people think you have to be when you work in another country is pretty much informed by racism and perceived class most of the time.

@popstar @guerrillarain Exactly!! That's the exact definition of what comes to my mind when I hear the term expat. Thanks for writing it this way.

@lokenstein that makes a lot of sense. i think it's worth thinking about the definitions too; "expatriate" puts the emphasis on the place you're leaving, and "immigrant" puts the emphasis on the place you're arriving to. one could say that part of the prejudice in using "immigrant" for BIPOC and "expat" for whites is in thinking that like, the western or european country is held as supreme or more important.

@lokenstein like, using "immigrant" for someone who has come to the USA emphasizes that the important country in the exchange is the USA. "expat" for someone who leaves the USA similarly emphasizes that the USA is supreme, even in a negative context, the USA is the important country in the exchange

@lokenstein I also don't think that *everyone* who uses these terms this way is doing this, but perhaps it's a bit subconscious.

@nutt Very good points!!! I had noticed the difference between the "directions" of the words, but didn't link it to a hierarchy in the countries, but now that you pointed it out... Completely !! 💯

@lokenstein I thought expats referred to folks that live in a foreign country for a long period of time because of work/study but don't plan on living there permanently, while immigrants are folks who are planning on staying permanently?

@lokenstein wow I'm an immigrant and I've never heard the word "expat", maybe it's a regional thing. We have a lot of immigrants in Australia though. Maybe it's only for people who are from a "cool" European country and not from Eastern Europe? I've noticed people from like, Sweden or something get treated differently than some other types of immigrants, maybe fluent English has something to do with it.

@CatEntity I think it's definitely a class thing, like people from Western Europe & Scandinavia are seen as rich & "good immigrants" but people from Eastern Europe are seen as poor and less "desirable" - such bullshit. You still have white privilege (I assume) so you're better seen than immigrants of color but still. So much hierarchies in all of those convos, oof.

@lokenstein yeah I didn't get treated as bad as my immigrant friends who aren't white but I still experienced a bunch of xenophobia. It's messed up that some people are treated even worse that I got treated.

@CatEntity Yeah. It's messed up in general that there's so much classification around who's a good vs bad immigrant.
Like damn immigrants are fucking strong, we abandon our whole lives to travel the world and settle in places where we know nobody and have no connections. I don't understand how anybody can look at this & think immigrants are lazy or a bad thing idk.

@lokenstein yeah, I especially get annoyed when people think that if someone speaks English with an accent they're "dumb"... Like it is so hard to learn a language and most of the people who are being xenophobic to people with accents can only speak one! It's especially impressive if they had to flee their country and learn English on the go. That's not lazy or bad at all.

@CatEntity Uuuuh I know!! There are actual studies about how people who don't speak fluently are perceived as dumb and I hate that!! And indeed most people doing the judging only speak one language... Crazy.

@lokenstein i usually keep saying expat (with a subtly disdainful tone) , when talking about specific conditions of immigration and neocolonialistic dominations linked with the notion.

@lokenstein Precisely!

And for me the word expatriate also has the hidden meaning of a ”fatherland”, which I refuse to have. Cursed word no matter how you look at it.

@Stoori Good point!! I usually say "birth country" when I need to point out where I was born & grew up but yeah

@lokenstein this is like one of those things that's considered bad if you're poor and good if you're rich. Immigrating to another country.

@interneteh Yup! There were more discussions about that in the other replies, but that quite sums it up. With the addition that skin color does play an important role too, as white people are most often assumed rich and poc are most often assumed poor.

@lokenstein Immigrant is for others coming in your country. Expat is for your community that goes away. Is the same of emigrant. In my opinion.

@kep Yes, technically "immigrant" is coming in, whereas "expat" and "emigrant" is coming out. But in practice it's used a lot to put people in good (white, rich) vs bad (poor, poc) immigrant cases. Also, see this toot on how using these different words emphases the importance of countries differently:

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Une instance se voulant accueillante pour les personnes queers, féministes et anarchistes ainsi que pour leurs sympathisant·e·s. Nous sommes principalement francophones, mais vous êtes les bienvenu·e·s quelle que soit votre langue.

A welcoming instance for queer, feminist and anarchist people as well as their sympathizers. We are mainly French-speaking people, but you are welcome whatever your language might be.