I’ve been giving some thought to what Michael wrote about he and Karen being expats themselves in a way (see his posting, Montana on my Mind), and I think he’s on to something. Perhaps the term expat needs to be broadened….or maybe narrowed. As it stands, an ex-pat is generally defined as a person who lives outside of the country in which they were raised or of which they are a citizen. Wikipedia’s definition goes a step further and says an expat is someone who lives in a country and culture other than that in which they were raised or of which they are a citizen. Maybe that should be changed to a different country OR culture.
But even that broader definition seems to cloud the issue of who is an expat. Is a middle-class Canadian who lives in Florida or Arizona for half the year an expat during the time she is there? While the country may be different, I would suggest that the culture is not hugely different. On the other hand, if an Amish teenager from Pennsylvania moves to New York City, the country would be the same, but the culture would, I think, be vastly different. So is he an expat?
I, who live in Mexico full-time and haven’t returned to the US for two-and-a-half years probably fit almost anyone’s definition of an expat. Karen and Michael, like the Amish teenager in NYC, are living in a culture vastly different than that in which they were raised. But, for that matter, most people in the US over 55 are likely living in a culture vastly different from the one in which they were raised, even if they’re still living in the US. I mean, let’s face it, the US of 2010 is culturally and societally much different than that of the US in 1955. So I guess that just using a different culture as a criteria doesn’t have a whole lot of weight to it. Or, actually, it would have too much weight to it, since lots of people would meet the criterion.
Another issue which Wikipedia raises is that expat is a socio-economic term. I hadn’t ever thought of that, but it’s true. I, a upper-lower class American (you know, poor but working), move to Mexico and I’m probably considered by most Americans to be an expat. However, if I was raised in Mexico and was upper-lower class and moved to Los Angeles (legally) for work, I’d be considered an immigrant; right? And not just me. I mean, when Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anais Nin and T. S. Elliot moved to Paris in the 1920s, they were considered expats. When the Chinese voluntarily came to the United States in the 1920s, they were considered immigrants no matter what their economic status had been in China. So, apparently, if you have money and/or a famous name and/or a white face, you’re an expat. Otherwise, you’re “just” an immigrant.
okay, wait a minute!!! my typing fingers got hijacked by somebody else (you can tell because whoever that other person is uses capital letters and we all know that i DON’T use capital letters — unless, of course, it’s for ALL CAPS). this should never have become a political-anthropological-linguistic diatribe! it should have been a psycho-semantic diatribe, in which the question is “am i an expat?” and the answer is hell, yes! and i love it! i mean, who wouldn’t want to be referred to as an expat (which is NOT the same as an ex-patriot, y’all; it’s short for ex-patriate). so next time you’re on a game show and they ask you to name three famous expats, you can put down hemingway, fitzgerald, and b. hopkins!
and, karen and michael, i guess i say “no, you are not expats. you are something even BETTER: outliers!” (and that’s where the psycho part of the psycho-semantic thing comes in….i’ll bet you thought that i was the psycho part of that, didn’t you?) when i was in college (started as a freshman when i was in my mid-30s), i used to participate in all kinds of “experiments” in the psychology department because they paid actual cash, albeit not much of it. i was, of course, hoping that they would want to test drugs on me, but, alas, no. i was always filling out questionnaires. and when they would post the responses to the questionnaires, they would normally put them in some kind of graph form. so here would be what looked suspiciously like a target, with all the circles within circles. and 99% of the “hits” were in the inner circles. and there, lonely as pluto the ex-planet in a solar system model, would be one little hit. and that, of course, would be me. but instead of calling that one lone thing out there a loser, the psychos would call it an outlier. and that, like an expat, is a fine thing to be!!
today’s quiz: find the outlier and/or expat in this photo: