Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are you an expat or a foreign worker?


Interestingly, I received an email asking me about what I actually do for a living. Er, I don't actually blog for a living (though I would love to) as my income from ads doesn't warrant me giving up my day job, not yet anyway.

Now, where were we? Oh, the person who sent the email assumed that since I considered myself an expat, I would probably be raking in big bucks. He was probably thinking along the line of serviced apartments with a chauffeur and butler at my beck and call. Trust me, I am working towards that but I hate to break the news to him for I still do my own chores, cram into a sorry excuse for a flat and feel more at ease dining at Leicester Square's Jen Café than Hawksmoor.

He then kindly inform me that the term 'expat' is reserved for foreigners pulling in huge incomes. I panicked. Obviously, I don't qualify to be an expat then. Should I change the title of the blog to London Foreign Worker | London Singaporean? Somehow it doesn't have the same ring to the current title.

In an act of desperation, I turned to Google (I have given up on Oxford dictionary since I discovered the internet). Typed "define:expat" on the Google search field and it showed,

Unless I have been unknowingly been exiled or converted to an XML string, there is a good chance that I can avoid changing my blog's title. Believe me, it's a hassle that I want to avoid. Thank goodness for Google.

Assuming what Google says is the gospel truth, then wouldn't all foreign workers (barring economy refugees) be expats then? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Fëanor said...

Your reader is probably thinking of 'expatriate assignments', which do indeed bring in the big bucks. I guess that's the common interpretation for the shortened form 'expat'. No reason for you to change your blog title, though! The original meaning of expatriate still stands, I think.

Fëanor said...

Or you could change your title to London Gastarbeiter - if, that is, you feel you are a guest here :-)

*lynne* said...

I actually shied away from using the expat label on myself, precisely because from my own experience in Malaysia, an expat is a foreigner who earns the big bucks. But in the end I figured that was as good a label as any, especially since the meaning of expat doesn't mention working/earning big bucks -- it's all about not living in your country of birth.

EastCoastLife said...

Many people think expats earn big bucks. :)
Life of an expat is different now in Singapore.

EastCoastLife said...

Oh, what happened to your EC widget? You took it off? I can't see it.

Emm said...

Well, back in the day when England was colonising the world, expats were indeed the landed gentry who got fancy titles and first dibs to rush off to claim foreign lands in the name of King and country. We called them the "when we's" because they were always on about their life back in England or in Rhodesia before the bush war.

C K said...

I find the need to turn to the infinite wisdom of Google for the meaning of Gastarbeiter. :p

Until I learn how to pronounce that, I'll still to Expat. I love simple words, especially glamouraous ones.

I guess it's the same for Singapore as well. Am wondering whether it's the remnants of the conlonial mentality. Hmm...

Just curious, how is the life of a Singaporean expat now? You mean, they actually shop at wet markets now? lol.

Oh, I've removed the EC widget. Sorry about that but hey, do stop by regardless.

Ah... can always rely on Emm to provide us with some perspective. lol, I can totally imagine the 'when we's" going on and on about "When we...".

Do you now go around saying "Back in South Africa...."? I caught myself saying that (for Singapore that is) when it comes to (oh glorious) food.

Speaking of which, I am a little hungry now...

Emm said...

Ha! Sorry - I just like to share but I think I come off as a know-it-all. Not intentional!

I don't say it like "when we" but I do speak a lot about crime, weather, racism and culture as it compares to back home. (Once again, that sharing / know-it-all thing. I'm just trying to be open!)

C K said...

lol, are you kidding?? In fact, I cannot emphasize how I value visitors' insights, the more the merrier! In fact, I learnt quite a bit from the comments as well. :)

You know what? I was just talking with some colleagues over dinner about the excessive need to be politically correct in the UK is doing more harm than good to the society.

Just curious... what are your thoughts on that? Wait, don't tell me just yet. Will write about it in the next post and we'll talk more about that, yah?

Emm said...

Cool - I really look forward to your next post then!

KW said...

I think ex-colonials are too sensitive about this topic. Seriously, the fact that someone gets huffy about who's an expat and who's not says more about that guy than anything else. Such class sensitivity is truly the mark of a colonial-type mindset. I prefer "international man of mystery" or just "global talent" or maybe just "globetrotter".

C K said...

Viola! Post waiting for your comment. :)

Hey, I like "international man of mystery"... wait, isn't that Austin Powers' tagline?

But seriously, that got me thinking. Singapore hires loads of foreign workers with a large number of them earning barely enough to remit money back home. If we were to stand by the definition of an expat, these foreign workers should all be expats, shouldn't they?

Dutchie said...

I thought SG has clarified the positions of import labour rather well - FW's n FT's ! Foreign Workers r there bec they r cheap labour. Foreign Talents - now, these r there to rack in the big bucks.

I hv come across wealthy individuals residing in another country n calls themselves expats even tho they hv no need to earn a living - that is food for thoughts, isnt it ?

In NL, migrant workers r known as guest workers (or gastarbeiter in german)who came in droves in the 1970's as factory workers. The Turks n Moroccans hv substantial communities to this day. The Italians n Spaniards were smaller by comparison. The new guest workers currently r mainly East Europeans. The immigration dept is cracking down on over-stayers to prevent a repetition of the 1970's when the law was hardly enforced.

E. Thai said...

I always thought expat refers to people who had worked or are working in a foreign country. No connotation of the big bucks at all. Plenty of nurses and teachers work overseas. Are they making the big bucks?

drcrab said...

think it might be a hangover of the colonial days that make singaporeans (and perhaps other 'ex-colonies') make the huge differentiation between expats and foreign workers.

or it might be from academic work on 'expatriates' and 'expatriation'. i sure am not an expat (if it's based on income!)...

C K said...

Curious that migrant workers are known as 'guest workers'. The name implies that they would return home when they aren't needed but that doesn't usually happen, does it?

Then the question is whether these nurses and teachers are consider expats. :)

Hmm, so in your opinion, if it boils down to income, what percentile should one be looking at?

Agreed with the colonial hangover mentality.