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Expats vs immigrants

Moving from one region/country to another or migration is from all times. The reason behind migration is mostly a quest in finding work for a better living. Interestingly enough, those who migrate are divided in a bunch of terms; expats, immigrants and refugees. Refugees are people who flee their homecountry because of possible prosecution based on belief, race, political view and any other reasons. I won’t explain this any further. This post is about expats vs immigrants.

Expats (from expatriates): are persons who live outside their native country temporarily or for a longer period.

Immigrants: are persons who live outside their native country permanently.

IMG_8718Image is courtesy of weeklyvoice.

The definition of both terms seems similar but yet they are different. To start with: expats are high skilled with management level occupation and higher while immigrants are low skilled with marginal jobs in the factories or in public services. People who migrate to their partner’s home country are called immigrant too.

And now it gets more interesting as according to how the term expats is used; it refers to white people only. According to this expats not immigrants piece, no matter how high skilled an IT expert from India who lives in Canada is, people won’t see him as an expat. On a contrary a Frenchman who teaches French in Jakarta, is automatically seen there as an expat.

I am not aware whether there is a socio linguistic research done on this or not. If you know one or more, do enlighten me.

Dutch immigration service (IND) categorizes migrants in several groups: highly skilled migrant (kennismigrant), employe (werknemer), seasonal worker (seizoenarbeider), self employment (ondernemer), scientific researcher (wetenschappelijk onderzoeker). Following these categories there are nuances between expats (highly skilled migrants) and immigrants (seasonal workers and employe).

I am married to a Dutch citizen and I live here in The Netherlands. According to Dutch immigration service people like me are migrants by marriage (family reunification by marriage/gezinshereniger). Unmarried partners of Dutch citizens fall under the same conditions although the name is a bit different; migrants by partnership.

However this migrant connotation is apparently unappealing to some people. I refer here by to Indonesian ladies who are married to Dutch men. They live here in The Netherlands with their Dutch spouses but yet they call themselves expats. Do they find themselves too good to use the term migrants by marriage? Are they ignorant pretentious snobs? Or is it me ranting about the context of the terms?

I’d rather cut the ‘expats vs immigrants’ crap. Despite my management level occupation I am not an expat, I prefer to call myself a love migrant.


66 thoughts on “Expats vs immigrants

  1. There are tons of “expat snobbity” as we call it here in Denmark. Lots of people don’t want to label themselves as immigrants. Personally, I don’t care with labels and terms. I live here.

    • Is that the term, expat snobbity? Ironicly those Indonesian ladies seem not aware of the fact that no matter how they are convinced they are expats, they would not be perceived as one by the Dutchies πŸ™‚

  2. A love migrant sounds sweet ❀ hehe Well, this enlights me. I thought that everyone from foreign countries who work outside their homeland is called expat. I didn't know that the classification depens on the job.

      • Well, I thought from the explanation above, besides the staying permit, it’s also said that expats have a more skillfull job than the immigrants. Like she said the Frenchmen who work as a French teacher is not considered as an expat. Do I miss something? ^^’

        • I am sure Yoyen will reply to explain but from what I have seen here, she was trying to say that the word “expat” is mostly used by white foreigners.

          I am working as an engineer here, I don’t call myself expat, because I live here permanently (well at least I don’t have a time limit when I am supposed to move out of the country)

  3. Ah, After I read this more thouroughly, now I get it. About the frenchmen thing is just an assumption, isn’t it? While the actual difference among both is the staying permit. Thank you, Mbak Eva πŸ™‚

    • Yes Nadia, Eva is right. Not the permit but the intention of staying. There are expats who reside for a long time in a host country, just like the immigrants but they would rather be called expats. I understand your confusion.It is caused by how the term expat is deviantly interpreted like I wrote above. Although expats could be people from all races from its official definition but the usage in colloquial term is that expats are white, high skilled people living in a foreign country.

  4. Do you know that among Indonesian people here, there’s one city that we called “a city where cocky Indonesian expats live” ?? Just because they stay here as expats, that don’t make their job any better than immigrants. We have experienced this few years ago. Someone from ‘that city’, a ‘proud’ expat, mocked my husband’s job, an engineer, as an illegal immigrant’s job.. Oh my…..

    • Oh Pat, is it Den Haag? And good lord, how dare that person calling your engineer husband as an illegal immigrant. So ignorant and rude!

      • No it’s not Lorr.. It’s Eindh***n..
        I really hate to hate people but they really crossed the line.. Just because they are expats, doesn’t justify their action to belittle other’s job.. From that experience one thing I realized; amongst immigrants, being able to exclude one self using the title ‘expat’ is something worth being proud of. I think this is the reason why, in almost 10 yrs of my staying here, I never met a cocky immigrant, but instead I stumbled upon many cocky expats… Or was it just me being unlucky?? Hehe πŸ˜€

  5. This post is timely! The other day, my colleagues and I had a discussion about the word expat and immigrant. We also discussed about how racist Indonesians can be when it comes to the term of expat. Chinese expats, for example, wouldn’t be called expat here.

    We concluded that expats usually temporary, not permanent like migrants. Based on that, you could kick that snob Ibu-ibu expat home.

    • Here you are Tje πŸ™‚ You could send this link to your colleagues. Not only in Indonesia, in most countries expats = white people only. This is sadly a deviation in the term’s definition which is hard to correct.

      Expats could live for a longer period of time in his adopted country. Then comes that income level character towards the immigrants. Furthermore long residing expats tend to be around expats too while immigrants seem forcedly to integrate in the daily life of their adopted country. These info are available on the links provided above.

  6. Last week, I was sneaking in to a sociology lecture with a friend… Terus kebetulan topiknya mengenai migration. Cuma aku lupa aja what types of migration (sudah di Google, none of the result is closed to what we studied in the class). Pokoknya ada something like illegal immigrant (think about human trafficking), and immigrant yg bermasalah karna dokumennya expired. But what got me interested me most was about the feminisation of migration… Karena since few decades ago the statistics of female domestic workers (and they’re immigrants!) are rising up ’til today.

      • Yes kak, not just in the middle east, but in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei… Next to Indonesia, we looked at the Philippines yang juga memiliki jumlah terbanyak tenaga kerjanya di luar negeri.

      • Hahaha..πŸ˜„iya ya.., aku ngerasain semuanya..: expats, migrant, dan visitor..πŸ˜„
        Kategorinya secara umum (kalo gak salah nih..): migrasi utk bekerja, migrasi utk mengungsi, dan migrasi utk gabung dengan keluarga.. Tapi migrasi utk mengungsi kayaknya sedang ditinjau ulang karena dianggap banyak menimbulkan masalah belakangan ini..

        • Untuk pengungsi atau pencari suaka politik lagi rame banget di Eropa Em. Sekarang karena IS, banyak pencari suaka politik masuk EU lewat Italia. Ribet. Nanti aku cerita deh kalo ada waktu untuk baca semua berita dan dirangkum disini.

        • Sebelum ada isu IS, di Oz udah rame soal pencari suaka ini karena dianggap semakin menghabiskan anggaran negara. Salah satu alasan utama Tony Abbott terpilih jadi PM karena dia janji menghentikan pemberian suaka.. Secara umum, permasalahan migran yg bikin pusing adalah sebagian dari mereka berperilaku seolah-olah masih tinggal di negara asal. Idealnya kan di mana bumi di pijak di situ langit dijunjung. Ini terjadi terutama di kota besar seperti Sydney dan Brisbane. Kota tempatku, Townsville, termasuk kota sedang, selain itu juga tempat pangkalan Angkatan Udara Australia. Di sini migrant ada tapi tak banyak, umumnya dari Somalia, Pakistan, dan China; gak pernah nemu orang Indonesia. Meskipun pernah sekali lihat tulisan grafitti yg lumayan pedas (terkait agama) dan gede ukurannya, tapi selebihnya suasana adem ayem aja.. Aku juga jadi pengen cerita lebih banyak soal ini, semoga sempat nulisnya..πŸ˜„ *saling tunggu postingan sejenis*

        • Waktu aku pindah ke Belanda tahun 1995 banyak pencari suaka politik dari Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Zaire, Mozambique, Pantai Gading dan daerah konflik lainnya di Afrika. Awal 2000an EU sepakat untuk menjaga perbatasan dengan lebih ketat karena migrasi besar-besaran dari pencari suaka politik ini menyebabkan banyak problem sosial (kesenjangan sosial, minim integrasi karena bahasa lokal ngga bisa, problem akomodasi & pengangguran).

          Setelah borderless EU pertengahan 2000an, makin ketat peraturan untuk bisa tinggal disini. Cuma ya gitu deh Em, economy based refugees as they are mostly called, masuk ke EU lewat Melilla, teritory Spanyol di Maroko. Sekali masuk situ pemerintah Spanyol on humanity ground sulit untuk membendung mereka dan deportasi ngga boleh. Akibatnya masuk lah para imigran illegal ini ke mainland dari sana mereka bebas ke wilayah EU lainnya (kecuali UK). Ini jadi masalah dan debat seru dari pertengahan 2000an.

          Sekarang dengan IS, ada significant rise masuknya refugee ke EU region lewat… Italia Selatan. Ini masalah kemanusian memang but linking this with this post, migration is human’s quest for a better living, be it living standard, situation, safety and financial independence.

          I just want to inform you that EU has been dealing with similar situation concerning asylum seekers since a long time.

          Panjang ya komennya πŸ™‚ I think I should write a post about this.

        • Persis itu yg aku bilang ke teman orang Oz kalo komentarnya udah “kelewatan” tentang immigran ini: bahwa manusia pada dasarnya akan selalu bermigrasi utk mendapatkan penghidupan yg lebih baik. Entah itu sekedar pindah ke kota sebelah atau ke benua di seberang lautan.. Apa bedanya dengan orang kaukasia yg ratusan tahun lalu datang ke Oz (meski awalnya sekedar cari tempat utk dijadikan penjara di alam terbuka), dan pada akhirnya immigran dari Eropa terus berdatangan ke Oz. Untung aja gak diusir sama orang Aborigin..πŸ˜„
          Walah komentarku juga panjang, Lor..😝 Kalo kita kopdar kayaknya bisa seharian ngomongin ini doang: soal expats, migrant, dan printilannya..πŸ˜„ Nice postπŸ‘

  7. I am with you all the way. I met some ladies from other European Union and North American countries who moved to the Netherlands because of their partnership or marriage to Dutch nationals but they kept calling themselves as expats despite the fact that they live permanently in the Netherlands, having kids, jobs and house etc – which means they fall into category as immigrants not expats anymore.

    I have a permanent resident (PR) card in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that my current employment, taxes and health insurance do not fall under the Dutch laws and regulation – I consider myself as an immigrant – due to my PR status…

    I am not sure if I am right but I don’t think the expats should only aimed for high-skilled persons. I think the temporary residency and the reason the persons move to other countries due to employment/job offers are the differences of the expats to the immigrants. Therefore the TKI and TKW can be considered as expats as well πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ hahaha..awesome hah!

    • That’s the term’s deviation Indah. Even those ladies you mention fail to recognize and acknowledge that they are in fact, immigrants. Partly this comes from the negative connotation of the word immigrants = marginal workers, low wages and poorly educated. Those ladies clearly don’t want to be associated with such terms as they are not like that. This is how languages intrigue me. Some words and terms could be loaded with so many different definitions. Sometimes they are confusing too. That’s why I wrote this post.

  8. Mba yo…my fav subject back in my college before was Sociolinguistic. I think it is a good idea if we have research about this. Dulu blom pernah bahas ini sih…*hmm tapi maleslah inget njilemetnya bikin research*

  9. Yoyen, it is not you who is ranting but those people are snobs who think that they are expats πŸ™‚

    An expat is one who is a professional or skilled worker sent abroad by their companies for a certain period of time. Thus, a Frenchman who is teaching French in Jakarta not necessarily an expat, s/he could be an expat before and then decided to stay in Jakarta and looked for another job after his/ her contract (previous job) has expired in Jakarta and found another job as a French teacher in a French institution. In this case s/he is no longer an expat because the French institution had to give the Frenchman a work permit.

    The same with an IT expert from India who lives in Canada, s/he would be a skilled foreign worker (a professional), because of the limited skills available, the company is allowed to hire a skilled worker from abroad to work in Canada and later on the skilled worker can apply to stay in Canada as an immigrant. So at the end of the day the skilled worker is a migrant. (I know this because it is actually true for Canada)

    Depending on the country, a low-skilled laborer can also apply to immigrate to a country as well I supposed.

    There is so many criteria for one to become a migrant to a developed country and the requirements are pretty high in standards in terms of education/ skills, personal wealth etc.

    So I am not sure how knowledgeable are the women, in the Netherland who are married to the Dutchman, to know about the differences between an expat and a migrant, but I love the Love Migrant category the most πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ Sounds very romantic and especially it is still around Valentine’s Day!!

    • Garile,

      Thank you for your extensive comment. Perhaps I should have phrased some sentences differently. Obviously I wasn’t clear enough πŸ™‚ I know and am aware of what you wrote above. Sadly no matter how the original definition is, some words and terms could be loaded with so many different definitions. Sometimes they are confusing too. That’s why I, as a self proclaimed fan of languages, wrote this post, to share this to my readers.

      Please read my other comments above as addition this comment.

      • Memang kayanya kalo ngaku expat mungkin kedengerannya lebih keren ya, mungkin elo mesti Tanya oh ya expat kerja di company apa biar merekanya baru engeh gitu :):)
        Kita sama jatuh dalem category Love Migrant!! πŸ™‚

    • Ha…ha…sepertinya antara lari dari kenyataan, gengsi atau memang ngga tahu arti sebenernya. Lucunya ngaku-ngaku expat padahal tinggal dinegara asal suaminya.

  10. Sepertinya memang kata2 expat sangat diagungkan. Dan memang Mba, gak cuma di Indonesia, pembedaan expat dari asal negara juga berasa. Perlakuan, benefit dan lainnya.

    • Istilah expat sudah menyimpang dari definisi aslinya Ryan. Dan menarik seperti yang aku bahas diatas; umumnya yang dianggap/dilihat sebagai expat itu orang dari bule dari negara maju (UK, Australia, USA, Canada etc). Padahal semua orang dari negara manapun yang berpendidikan tinggi dan tinggal SEMENTARA di negara asing itu expat.

  11. Pingback: Test TOEFL Versi Bahasa Indonesia | Joeyz14

  12. I never thought that being an expat is something prestigious and can be proud of. Haha. I always think that if I move to stay in a country then we will surely be an immigrant.

  13. expats are highly skilled foreign worker, reason why they are hired as an expat. the majority of their working pemits are employment based non immigrant visa. they are working under a contract, and there is penalty for breach of contract. they also have the ability to negotiate the best expat package and they can asses the offer to make sure it comes with benefits such as accommodation allowance, relocation costs, healthcare cover, an annual trip home and an education allowance for children and off course big salary premiums.

    I’m indonesian working in the US ive been working a corporate job, management level, 6 figure salary, huge employee stock bonus(40% of my annual salary), employer matching retirement plan and stock purchase contribution, etc. but does it make me an expat? helll nooo…well I wish πŸ™‚ but nope not even close. my immigrant visa is marriage based. I was seeking for a job and luckily was hired in-country.

    those cocky indonesian ladies need to be educated in order to b able to tell the diff between expat and immigrant.

    • Thanks for the addition about expats. Yang dibahas disini selain beda ijin tinggal juga penggunaan kata expat. Mayoritas yang memakai dan dilihat sebagai expats are Caucasians.

      Saya bekerja di management level tapi karena menikah dengan orang Belanda ya ngga termasuk expat karena ijin tinggalnya istri dari xxx. That makes me a love migrant πŸ™‚

      • yup sy ngerti koq bahasannya, salah kaprah penggunaan kata expat karena pride.dikantor sy byk higly skilled compt engineers dari india tp mereka ga categorized as expat. employer sy lewat legal sponsorin mereka utk dpt green card. mangkanya sy kasih komen tt packagenya expat kr yg bedain balik lagi ke contract dan offernya. employer sy kirim expats dr home office US (dikirim ke brazil, china, japan, uk) berdasarkan equal opportunity dan mewakili diversity ras di US. jadi rata ada white, hispanic, asian, black, dsb. expats udah pasti higly skilled foreign workers tp belum tentu sebaliknya. tiap employer beda2 tp di tempat sy yg bedain adalah package benefitsnya plus pay band.

        we r in the same page itu sy komen dg harapan dibaca sm imi yg ngaku2 expat ngono loh mbak’e πŸ™‚ ga maxud kritik your writing.

        di US ga pernah sih sy dengar imi dr indo ngaku2 expat. kr US memang nation of immigrants, dari sejarah jaman dulu sp skrg. menarik jg baca tt dari sisi belanda. maklum ga pernah rasain menetap di sana. pernah jd turis doank tp ga tau menahu kalau soal menetap.

  14. I’ve been tickles to write this for a long time, but I haven’t got the opportunity to support it with the right argument. I work in Qatar, as an expat, this is if we stick to the your term above, “persons who live outside their native country temporarily or for a longer period”. However, I also agree that the word expat to some people are only applicable to European Race, as some of colleague in the office consider themselves as expat but not his Filipino or Indian or Indonesian work mates and certainly not the Bangladeshi tea boys. To me this is a very racist word, and it’s confirmed in this article: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/13/white-people-expats-immigrants-migration?CMP=share_btn_tw
    In my situation, as I am working in Qatar for a certain period, I am an expat, and as equal as my professional colleague from Europe as well as the Nepali labourers who work on construction sites. Once I follow my husband and reside in the UK, I become an immigrant, yes, they might let me work, but I am still an immigrant.
    Going back to that Racist term “expatriate,” my step children who are British, and now working and married as well as have children to Australians and going to get their Australian passports soon, what would you call them? I would say, they are immigrants. The question is when would the term immigrant ends. Once they’ve got their new passports, or that tittle will stick with them till they die? Or they are not immigrant as they are European?
    By the end of the day, those terms are western terms, it’s all in our heads only. As Indonesian we only know the term BulΓ©, no matter what job they have…. And if we operate like the do, that term is also a revise term. But who cares…? 😎

    • I have been waiting for your comment on this subject Nin knowing you live as an expat abroad. Thank you for your extensive comment. I agree with all you wrote. What triggered me to write this was the remarks of those Indonesian ladies who live here in The Netherlands with their Dutch husbands/partners but yet they call themselves expats. They feel too good to be called immigrant. This irony has made me write this post because expat term is applicable only on Caucasians so it seems. So no matter how hard those women scream out of their lungs, they are expats, they would still be perceived as immigrant :-).

      • When you married to an expat, then you were called ‘expat wife’, who may or may not work. like Emmy, she said she’s the trailing spouse. However, I agree with Lalalupsy explanation, that one is call an expat because they are hired from their home country with a contract package for their new life in a new country where they got the job offer, and that is applicable for the labourer who got the job in a package that include ticket to come and back home, accommodation and transport.
        So those ladies who married to local (Dutchmen)…. In their dream to be called an expat! πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

        • I know. That is how I understand what expat’s definition is, that’s why I wrote this post to express the irony of those Indonesian ladies πŸ˜‰ What makes them think they are any better than immigrants? is it them failing to understand the real definition of it or is it pure ignorance?

        • I know Yen, that’s why I said they are dreaming and stup**. I wonder what the think about you? correctly if i am wrong, you are in the same category with them right?….

        • They think I am the stupid one Nin cause I once discussed this with them and emphasized that we (they and I) were all immigrants. Ah ignorance is here certainly not a bliss ha….ha…

        • An extra information, most of those women I mentioned above are bule hunter. Apparently they look for financial security and social prestige πŸ™‚

        • Ha ha ha… makanya mereka kamse’ (he he he, kayaknya ga ada istilah yang lebih baik dari ini deh…) Ga kebayang kelakuan mereka kalo pulang kampung ke Indonesia, pasti dah kayak tuan putri banget deh…

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