The epitome of privilege can be summed up with these two words – Immigrant / Expatriate.
When I was younger I often wondered what the difference was. I remember looking it up in my Oxford Dictionary and to be honest, I came away none the wiser. Although I remember that the word “Expatriate” derives from the French word “expatrier” meaning banish – and thus, expatriate in the “olden days” was more about someone in exile.
It wasn’t until I was moving from England to the USA, that it ever came to mind again.
I would always be considered an “expat”, but my friends from other countries were considered immigrants. I felt it was a word only used for English folks that moved abroad. But as the years went on, I began to see through the veil of the difference.
It was a snobbish thing. You know that English mindset of superiority over the rest of the world, the one where they are proud of the now defunct empire. Don’t get me wrong – I am a very proud English woman – born on St Georges Day AND Shakespeare’s birth (and death) day – My DNA also came back as 94.2% ENGLISH – which is weird as my mum is Scottish (but more about that in another blog!).
I began to use the word immigrant to explain myself – and many people here in the US would look puzzled at me – why, you may ask…because I “looked like them”!
Typically an “expat” is someone that leaves (usually England, as I rarely see this word used in other countries, but of course would be applicable) their home country with a view of returning – much like in the 18th century, the connotation was around the word “exile”.
For me, I was emigrating, therefore I was an immigrant. I was moving to become a permanent resident, and eventually a citizen of the USA.
I am proud to consider myself a first generation immigrant. And I am proud to be among a group of so many others like me.
My naturalization process was rather interesting. For those of you that are not aware of the process to become a US citizen, it is both nerve wracking and quite funny.
Nerve wracking, because you have to take a US History test, funny because you also have to take an English written and oral test (Do you speak the Queen’s English!!! ha!).
I remember my immigration officer laughing when I went to do my written and oral test – I did the written test, which was a sentence about the quick brown fox that jumped over the lazy dog. When it came time for the oral test he said “Well I won’t ask you to read the card, as your English is better than mine!”.
The day of our swearing in ceremony was absolutely amazing, emotional and touching.
I was living in Philadelphia at the time, and those of you that know US history, will understand how they love their roots in the American War of Independence.
Our ceremony was held in the Grand Ballroom at the Philadelphia Convention Center, above the famous Reading Terminal Market. On the day of our ceremony (April 5th 2007), 5,000 people would officially become naturalized citizens. 2500 in the morning and 2500 in the afternoon.
It was a big deal! We had the Daughters of the American Revolution in attendance, as well as flag bearers and a marching band and many different speakers.
It was an emotional day. The one thing that stood out the most, was the recognition of those that had joined the US Armed Forces whilst not yet citizens. There were 24 of them, individually recognized during our ceremony – and yes, I shed tears – tears of pride to be part of their day too.
When the main ceremony took place, each country of every person that was being naturalized was mentioned (alphabetically), and people would stand up when their home country was announced. For me, I had to wait for the letter “U”, for United Kingdom. It really was a sight to behold.
After the ceremony I remember handing over my Green Card (which isn’t actually green!). I immediately applied for my US passport.
I am now officially a dual citizen of the USA and the United Kingdom.
I am proud to be English and proud of my roots and culture. I am equally proud to be American!
I am not an expat – I am a first generation immigrant.
In 2007 I decided that to celebrate my new country (although I had been living here for 9 years at this point), I would travel as much as possible.
I will share my travel adventures in other blogs. As of writing this blog, I have lived in 15 different states (for various periods of time), and have traveled and stayed in 47 out of the 50 states (Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii are the three states I have yet to visit). I have traveled through Idaho, but have not spent an amount of time there to actually say I have “been there”.
4 thoughts on “Am I an immigrant or an expat?”
As a fellow Brit in the US, I don’t follow your logic at all. I am an Immigrant to the USA AND an ExPat from the UK. The difference is in the “TO” and “FROM”.
Actually, if you do some research, you will find that your thoughts are not the same as almost all of those that I have read about. This article also provides some interesting information. Typically, in all research I have done, Expat defines a person of a certain status that chooses to move to a different country for a specific period of time. But as I state at the beginning of my blog, I mention that it is more of a privilege kind of “status” – this article concludes much the same.
Interesting! I too was born and raised in England and later came to America. I also have duel citizenship..however I had an American father and was given my papers then…i still prefer England but roots are here now.
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