Immigrant VS Expat
The other day I was running at the gym aka on the elliptical (level 1) while listening to an NPR Food podcast, when to my surprise, one of the presenters started talking about Mexican expats living in The United States. Immediately I thought, “What a nice alternative to immigrant.”
When you think about it, “expat” and “immigrant” are basically synonyms and yet they evoke such different images. One is an ex-diplomat seeking amnesty in Argentina and the other is a bus boy at Chilis Bar and Grill. Yes, I’m talking about stereotypes. However, what I find so interesting is that the word immigrant only conjures negative stereotypes, not only in America but generally the word over.
“It reminds me of a time when I read a story about immigration to my third-grade students in Brooklyn. Immigrant being a vocabulary word, I asked them what it meant. Suddenly, my groggy class woke up, their hands excitedly wiggling in the air. “Mexicans!” they cried in unison. I covered my mouth, half in shock and half to stifle my laughter.”
-a beautiful mess
I guess for that reason, even though I’ve been living in Spain for almost 3 years I still have trouble accepting my immigrant status. It’s a hard sell when you think about what it implies, mainly, struggling. Now I’ve just stopped saying immigrant. Instead I say, foreign or expat, because one of the most important things I’ve learned during my time here it’s that-
Language forms our thinking.
FYI, this is what comes up when you search for expat on Pinterest:
And this is what comes up with you search for immigrant:
I’m an expat, which are you? Tweet me.