When you travel, you hear this phrase thrown about often: “I’m an ex-pat.” I started wondering, what does that mean? Who is an expatriate? What is the difference between being an ex-pat and being an immigrant?
So I went to trusty wikipedia and received this definition: is often used in the context of professionals sent abroad by their companies. To me, ex-pat sounds negative, but I guess it’s not. And it seems like it shares some similarities with being an immigrant. Both have moved countries by choice. Both are citizens of a certain country residing in a country not their own. Both appreciate their new culture, and both hold onto traditions and ties from their old.
But there are key differences. An ex-pat is a skilled worker, so capable of doing a job that they are sent by their company to empower the work force in another country. The immigrant flees, the ex-pat is sent. The immigrant is attempting to make a new home in a foreign country. If the ex-pat becomes accustomed to the customs of his new culture, it is due to passive acculturation, not any active attempt on his part. He considers himself to be away from home, and he is acutely aware of the fact that one day he will return.
We hear pastors talk about how we are not citizens of this world, rather of heaven. But until I thought of an ex-pat, it did not resonate so strongly with me. I always thought, “oh, we’re not citizens, we’re just visitors.” But we’re not. We are ex-pats. We are skilled workers, sent with a specific purpose to a new country. We have a home, and we are appreciating, not aculturating, in our new surroundings. This is our one time, our one big chance.