Thursday, March 19, 2015

Emigrant or expat?


The main Polish weekly women's magazine "Wysokie Obcasy" started a readers' contest about how is it to be an emigrant, to live abroad or to come back to Poland after living somewhere for a long time. Experiences, feelings, insights. Funny, but I never thought about myself as of an emigrant. I'm just not living in Poland, but... well, an emigrant? I don't think in our modern world, global village, open societies, internet, skype, low cost airlines etc. we can still talking about being emigrants. It still can be true for people coming from non-democratic countries, for those who actually have only a one way ticket, for those who had to leave their home place. But for us in Europe, if we choose to move to another european country or even to the US or Canada or even maybe down under, but still staying within the comfort zone of living in our western democratic and open culture, we are just switching countries. Are we really emigrants? Maybe some of us could think about ourselves this way, maybe it is the very personal feeling. I think I don't. But I could say I am an expat. Yes, this is much more accurate word for my status. And there is a difference in a definition of being an emigrant and an expat. The latter is one who lives outside his own country. The first one leaves his own country in order to settle down somewhere else.
When I count all the years of living outside of Poland, there is quite many. First in 1999 one year in Germany as an au-pair. Later in 2002 six months of a crazy trip to the US. Then only three months in Ireland. Right after that from 2005 six years in the US. And from there we came to Finland and this will be soon four years.
Anyway, I've read some of the stories written by those expat girls or emigrant girls living in different parts of the world and they were really thoughtful. About different lifestyle, culture, about homesick or the contrary of it, about love to the new place, about what's bad and what's good, about how their own point of view has changed by living abroad - how they see Poland, how they see themselves.

Very inspiring series. It makes me think about my own path. How do I feel living abroad? How have I changed? How's my own view about my home country? Where do I belong? Where do belong my children, both born abroad and each one in a different country? 

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